But then I realized that I had to take Jeffries’ statements seriously. And I wanted to. They are not merely an instance of Lil' Mr. Hot Mess being out of pocket but are an instance that showcases that business-sanctioned fatphobia is in fact a civil rights issue. His statements unveil the political vulnerability of fat people, especially fat women (who, according to Jeffries, are women over a size 10). It forced me to ruminate on the ways that fat folks are stigmatized and reviled with such reckless self-righteousness and with no protection from the law.
I was also interested in both what Jeffries said explicitly and what he implied through coded language:
"We go after the attractive all-American kid..."
What's particularly noteworthy to me is what his statements say about his ideal (only?) customer, using descriptors like "cool kid" and "all-American." If you've watched Fox News or any neo-conservative media you're probably familiar with the "'Merica for 'Mericans" trope. It is a favored linguistic tool that obscures meaning: conflating Americaness or coolness with specific racial and class markers. Jeffries explicitly talks about his hatred of fat people and of old people, but the phrases "All American" and "cool kids" leave his statements in that murky area of plausible deniability. If A&F images (and price tags) are any indicator, it's clear what "All American" and "cool kid" means: white, middle-class, able-bodied, and cisgendered as well.
One journalist/activist, Janssen McCormick has put out a call on Facebook for an "Abercrombie Fat-In" involving fat presence in stores all over the US on May 25. Jeffries' statement and the belief system that oversees his fatphobic brand are unjust, immoral and bigoted. Finally, the purposeful and explicit exclusion of people of size from an establishment is something I believe should be unlawful.
Watch my recent commentary on this issue on San Francisco's CBS 5 evening news: