Lululemon Founder (Unwittingly) Proves Weight Bias Hurts

Lululemon founder Chip Wilson unwittingly proved this week that weight bias hurts. Responding to criticisms of his trademark pants, he put the blame squarely on customers, saying “some women’s bodies just don’t work” for them. Now Lululemon’s stock is down almost 10%. Ouch.

Wilson didn’t help the situation when he issued a non-apology. He said he is sorry that his comments caused so much trouble. We bet he is. But company insiders have confirmed that larger women don’t fit into their marketing strategy. So an online petition addressed to Wilson demands that he “stop shaming women’s bodies and make clothes for women of all sizes.”

Piling on to Lululemon’s misfortune, Stephen Colbert devoted five minutes to a hilarious send-up of the many missteps of the company and its founder. It seems Wilson has a solid history of offensive statements that range from mocking Asian diction to blaming women for divorce rates.

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Wilson has made a couple of useful points for us here. He’s inadvertently pointed out that fitness fashion might have more to do with appearance than actual health. He’s provided an example of how fluffy fitness promotions might alienate many people. But most of all, he provides a milestone of weight bias that’s no longer acceptable.

Weight bias hurts indeed. It just took hundreds of millions of dollars off the value of Lululemon’s stock.

Click here and here to read about Lululemon’s debacle in the Washington Post and the Motley Fool. Click here for more about Lululemon’s strategy of shunning large women and click here for the petition asking Wilson to stop shaming women’s bodies.

Salutation Nation, photograph © lululemon athletica / flickr

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