sorta review: companies that truly get inclusivity and diversity

I am known, at least in the books/publishing world that I peripherally live and work in, to be the girl who gives no cookies to people just for saying they give a shit. I particularly mean shits about diversity and equity. Lots of people like to say they care, and then they still do stereotypes. Or they say they care, and they beat you over the head with how much they care by constantly calling out what a good job they’re doing or telling you how they’re doing a “body acceptance” issue of a magazine before going right back to the status quo, or a “black girl magic” book and 100 white girl books right alongside it. You get the idea.

There are, however, some brands out there that seem to just have a natural inclination to be representative and equitable in their work. And they are the ones I try to give my money to. They are women’s magazines whose pages are full of photos of all sizes and colors and sexes of woman. They are clothing companies that fit people with shapes that don’t generally grace runways.

You know you’re a brown person in America when you’re so used to being erased from the media and materials you consume that seeing someone who resembles you or whose story speaks to you is jarring. It’s downright unnatural. Even though I, like anyone else, should be entitled to some representation in the things I buy.

Sigh.

Anyway, if you are also a member of one or a number of marginalized groups, and/or if you just think it’s important to support businesses and publications that care about those people, here are some things I recommend.

Dear Kates

Dear Kates
These are not cheap. But they shouldn’t be. They’re period (or incontinence, or post-partum) undies. They’re also useful for working out when you’re doing really heavy work for a long time and don’t want to offend others if you start to smell. They’re also cute and quite comfy. I love mine. They were worth every penny, and they show no sign of breaking down after numerous washings. AND not only does this company make a wide range of sizes, but they often use real women as models. That’s because women come in all sizes. It’s also because they pick really cool ladies who are engineers and CEOs and stuff, and they tell you a bit about their stories. AND they name the undies after cool ladies – like, for example, the Ada is named after Ada Byron Lovelace, WHO INVENTED COMPUTER PROGRAMMING. Betcha didn’t know that, because patriarchy.

Anyway, I love Dear Kates so much that I ordered cards to be a brand rep, and that means I can give you a discount. They didn’t pay me to write this, but I love them. So if you’re going to go over there and order, use the code XOHannahGomez to get 15% off whatever you buy.

Pole Fitness

Pole dancing

Yes, really. I bought a Groupon to my local pole fitness place, and I bet you have one in your area. I was really afraid because I’m not graceful at all and have no idea how to be sexy or work my angles or anything. I would be TERRIBLE at America’s Next Top Model. Awful. I might be a beast on a fake bicycle, but I lack a lot of physical awareness, tbh.

But I will try literally any type of fitness once, especially if there’s a deal on it. So I went, and I still have five classes to go on my pass, and even though I’ve obviously not been going consistently, I think it’s great. One of the teachers is one of the tiniest people I’ve ever seen. Another was a beast at the pole and also fat. Another was of average height but looked like she didn’t have any fat on her, but somehow also didn’t look like a body builder. Anybody was welcome. The class was full of all types of people, and we were all wearing booty shorts and tight shirts or sports bra. Because who cares. We were all there to feel strong. And I did. Slash I felt weak. You might think you’re strong because you lift weights, but try lifting your entire body off the floor by your arms–held at a weird angle. Try it.

Honestly it was one of the best experiences I’ve had simply because it was so nonchalant and welcoming. I’d compare it to gymnastics or acro yoga if you’re trying to gauge muscle use or calorie burn. Also, I hate dancing, and there was no dancing involved. It was simply a foundations class where you learn moves and learn how to hold yourself up on a pole and hang off of it in various ways. Coordination and strength first, sexiness second. Or, for me, probably never. You should try yours. I have a feeling my experience is actually the standard at such places.

InStyle

Yes, it’s just a fashion magazine. But also it is unique. It’s intelligent like Vogue, but it’s a lot more attainable and affordable inside. I like that it really does teach me style, whereas a lot of other glossies are just about trends and Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar are for incredibly wealthy white women who probably do not have jobs.

InStyle is also great because whenever it’s doing pictures of celebrities or makeup advice or whatever, they have women of all colors. Just because there are celebrities of all colors and because an eyeshadow that looks good on Iman will not necessarily look good on….I dunno. Someone pale that I don’t pay attention to, because her makeup will not look good on me.

They could improve a bit more on size acceptance, because they still call out whenever they’re doing larger sized fashion, but I will still take that in the meantime, because at least they’re doing it. Small steps.

Women’s Running


I’ve told you about this magazine before and why I love it. So get thee to Amazon or their website and order.

Girls of color. Big girls and small. Transwomen. Olympians. Regular people. Affordable items inside. Very little about weight loss and a lot about mental and physical strength and self-satisfaction. What’s not to like?

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review: sweatstyle and fytso

I am a sucker for subscription boxes and I love buying things if I don’t have to go to the mall to do so. Since exercise clothes are pretty much all I wear now, given that teaching fitness is one job and working from home is another, I decided this year that I really needed to try fytso and sweatstyle. Both are subscription-based services that send you a box of “curated” items based on a profile you fill out. Generally it’s clothes, though fytso also does sneakers.

fytso-logo
If you’re on a budget, which I always am, fytso is going to be more your speed, as they do more mainstream brands, like Reebok and Adidas. After you fill out your profile, you get an email with your preview, which has five items in it.

These emails are pretty internet 1.0, with photos of the items pasted in that are not clickable (except to the image itself, not to a site with sizing info or anything like that) or zoomable. You are not given the price of individual items, but your “stylist” lets you know the total for all the items. They also give you vague names for the items, like “blue shirt,” so that even though you know it’s Reebok, you can’t really search for the item through google because you lack the precise name or style number. This is obviously because they didn’t want me to do what I did, which is check for the price individually on the site, since it’s not like it’s difficult to find that brand everywhere. And from my searching, it seemed like it was cheaper to buy some of the stuff elsewhere.

You are given the chance to “replace” and ask for some things to be changed out, which is very nice, but at that point they still don’t tell you the individual prices. IF you push because all you want is one particular pair of capris, then they’ll tell you, but it’s really like pulling teeth. Then, once you decide what you want, they add it to your cart and then you go in and actually do the purchasing like a regular e-commerce site.

I purchased a pair of capris my first time around, and since then I’ve gotten rid of them because they really didn’t fit around my butt. Not fytso’s fault, but I should have known better because I should have been more aggressive about my reverse image search on Google.

My second preview, I was going to purchase something but then I had the unexpected need for brand new tires, so I emailed and said I wasn’t going to be able to purchase that month. The stylist wrote back and said, “No problem! I’ll email you next month if that’s okay.” I said, “Yep! Thanks.” And then I never got another email from them again, so that’s how fytso works. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

sweatstyle
So then I went to sweatstyle. I completely understand that lots of people cannot afford high-end clothing, and I certainly can’t without hefty discounts. But exercise clothes are my work uniform, so it’s really like shopping at Ann Taylor is for other people. If you are middle class or higher, the best thing you can do for yourself is buy more expensive, higher quality stuff that lasts longer.* So I’ve been buying better brands of clothing when I see them on sale or when I get points or free items or whatever. (I am really, really good at shopping if I don’t have to do it in person around middle schoolers at the mall. I regularly get about $150 worth of items at Sephora for like $10 because I’m baller at combining coupons and getting samples and shit. I’ll help you anytime you want.) Anyway.

So I was happy to try sweatstyle. They get major points because they actually send you items and let you try them on and just keep what you want. This also means that, like stitchfix**, they charge you a styling fee that is applied towards your purchase. Or you just eat the $20 if you don’t like anything.

Sweatstyle has a very extensive profile, which is great. They also include a letter from your stylist about why things were chosen, which is cute, and it shows that they actually read your profile. But, as I learned, it doesn’t mean they actually understand how bodies that differ from supermodels’ actually look or fit into clothes. I got a backless shirt, which is ridiculous, because people who have to wear bras cannot wear backless shirts. I said this when I returned it (your return sheet asks you to give reasons), and then I got literally the EXACT same shirt in a different color in my next box. I also got a lot of sleeveless items, which do not work when you have large breasts, because it means half of your bra is exposed, not just your pits. Also, even for my consideration of quality (always think COST PER WEAR, not COST PER ITEM–again, if you’re middle or upper class and can afford to spend wisely), a lot of the items in the box were just unattainably expensive and didn’t seem worth it – $180 for a jacket I’ll wear while jogging two days out of the year? Nah. (Also, shows they don’t look at your address when they choose your items. Arizonans are not in need of a ton of cold weather items. One lasts us years.) In the end, I chose one item each from my first two boxes, not because I was IN LOVE, but because I liked them enough and did not want to lose $20. I wear them, but I was not exactly ecstatic, and they’re not my favorite items in my dresser, just fine ones.

My third box I just had to return without picking anything, because even the stuff that was cute did not fit quite right, and I just could not validate how wildly expensive they were in my current unstable financial situation, so I thought it was better to lose $20 than buy an ill-fitting item I would end up hating and lose $75. I will be canceling my membership and sending them a link to this review.

messy desk
Here’s the thing. You can run your business any way you like. You can do whatever you want. You can give as many or as few fucks as you choose. BUT–

It would be nice if you didn’t claim to be something you’re not. Subscription boxes like these are constantly talking about how new and different and innovative they are, how they’re doing something that women really need, and the implication is that they’re targeting someone who has been missed by normal commerce. That’s a lie. Fytso, Sweatstyle, Stitch Fix, etc – they’re all targeting upper-middle-class women with disposable income and the measurement ratios of the so-called “average” woman (which is a lie, but that’s not the point). They might be smaller, fancy brands that you can’t find in the mall (at least in the case of Sweatstyle), but that doesn’t mean they’re brands that do anything that brands more easily found online, on Rue La La, or at shmancier malls, don’t do. They all cater to the same type of person, and they all leave out fat women, curvy women***, trans women, and short women. Again, run your business any way you want, but don’t call yourself cool or innovative when you’re the status quo.

Always, but especially in the days of social media, any group that is marginalized or underserved sticks together. We talk. Gluten-free people, for example, spread the word about places that cater to us and actually know what gluten is. A lot. Don’t want to serve us? Fine. You could be making a lot more money, because you’d be getting a ton more customers.

Those of us with larger breasts who actually know how breasts work, no matter our size, talk. If there are companies that acknowledge that we have bodies, we tell each other. Ergo, if you actually made clothes that are designed for literally anyone who is not totally flat-chested, you would actually make more money because we would tell each other about it and then tell you to shut up and take our money. Companies like fytso and sweatstyle are not only smug when they don’t deserve to be, but they’re also shooting themselves in the foot by not trying to hit an untapped, underserved market that is absolutely desperate to spend our money.

So I’m done with both of these boxes. If anyone has tried other subscription boxes that don’t suck, please do let me know. If you wear a size 10 or higher, my friend Kelly really liked Dia & Co. But as for me, I’m still looking.


*If you are poor, you cannot do this because poverty is expensive and cyclical, and I get that, and vote Bernie Sanders, please, because no other candidates give any shits about you, I promise.
**I do not recommend for the same reason I will not be recommending sweatstyle, so keep reading.
***let’s talk some other time about how “fat” and “curvy” are not the same thing and shouldn’t be used as such.