Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Belly Blog Carnival Deadline Extended

I've gotten a number of submissions for my Belly Blog Carnival, which is great!  I'm thrilled. 

However, the original due date was tomorrow, and I've decided to extend it a couple more weeks.  I'm prepping right now for a big trip and presentation, and I'm realizing that I don't have the time to give the Belly Blog Carnival the attention it deserves before the trip.  I also want to give folks time to send further submissions.

So therefore I'm extending the deadline till after I get back from my trip, at which point I'll take time to collate all the submissions and write my own entry.

Let's make the new deadline April 15th.  Keep those submissions coming!

p.s. Don't you just love the picture above?  It's one of my all-time favorites.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Know Your Demographics, Stores!

While running errands this week, I decided to do a little clothes shopping and get some grown-up clothes for a trip I'll be making soon.  But I was so frustrated by the experience that I didn't buy as much as I would liked to have bought. 

So I need to air a pet peeve about plus-sized clothing stores.  I've been ticked off about this for many years now; I know a lot of others out there have had the same frustration.  Time to air it.

Now, I'm not one to blog about fatshion topics much; anyone who knows me knows I'm incredibly casual most of the time. I'm all about feeling comfortable and could care less if I look fashionable.  I like to look decent but it has to be comfortable above all else.  I'm about one step above slacker most days. I do have a some dress-up items and business clothes when more formality is needed, but most of the time I'm just looking for casual, comfortable, decent everyday clothes.  Shouldn't be that hard to find.....but it is.

I don't shop much because I don't have time to get out to the stores very often.  Also, I'm not an easy body type to fit; a lot of what's out there doesn't suit me.  So when I find something, I tend to buy it in 15 colors, just in case, and I tend to buy a lot of things at once so I don't have to come back often. I'm not a frequent or prolific shopper compared to some, but the stores can make some pretty decent money off of me if they have something nice-looking in my size.  And that's the problem, right there.  In my size.

So I'm at Catherine's this week, looking around. It's not my favorite store (seriously, do we need sequins on everything?  I like a little bling now and again, but this is overkill!), but it does have my size (26/28), which a lot of regular plus-sized stores don't have (they usually stop at 24).  Plus-sized choices in my size are fairly limited in my area without some serious driving, so when I do shop, it's often there.

What pissed me off was that the chain continues to ignore the demographics of its customers, overstocking the smaller sizes and seriously stinting on the larger sizes. 

They continue to order 50 zillion items in size 0x-1x (sizes 16-18 or so), and far fewer items in a size 3x or 4x (26/28 or 30/32).  Yes, they do have 3x, 4x, and even 5x items, but as a percentage of their offerings and in relation to their customer base, the bigger sizes are under-represented compared to the smaller stuff.

The customer base I consistently see in the store (me included) is usually 3x-4x.  I rarely see a 1x-sized woman in the store.  Sometimes, but not nearly as often as 3x-4x women.

So thus when you get to the sales racks, there is an abundance of 1x stuff that's NOT selling, and hardly any 3x-4x stuff, which is what most of the customers are looking for.  And even in its first-run items, the 3x and 4x sell out really quickly and it's hard to find items in those sizes unless you are there the week an item arrives.

I mean, really, retailers ─ get a #$%*ing clue!  People who wear a size 16 are usually able to shop in regular, "straight"-size stores.  Do you think most of them are going to Catherine's to shop?  I mean, I'm sure some do, but most do not.

Catherine's is a specialty store, and it's going to serve primarily the plus-sized woman who cannot shop at regular stores but doesn't want to take a chance ordering something blindly off the internet that may or may not fit.

These women are going to primarily be 2x-4x, with an especially high concentration of 4x (since 2x-3x is the size at which many plus-sized departments usually stop).  I mean, if I can buy a 2x shirt at K-Mart or Wal-Mart, why am I going to drive further and pay more to buy a similar shirt at Catherine's? 

The women who spend a lot of money at Catherine's are going to primarily be women on the larger side of the plus sizes. You would think that Catherine's would know and honor this, but apparently it doesn't.

To their credit, Catherine's does carry 5x, which is far more than many plus-size stores carry.  So kudos to them on that at least.

But come on, Catherine's, know your clientele!  Most of your customers are going to be women in the 3x-4x sizing, so you should be sending far more of those sizes to the stores, and fewer of the 0x and 1x items. Instead, it's the other way around, and the end result is too many small sizes extra afterwards and unsatisfied customers among the larger sizes.  Another example of size snobbery even among stores that cater to plus-sized women.

And it leaves me pissed off like crazy when I go there, see something really cute that I'd be interested in buying.....only to find out that they only have it in 0x and 1x anymore.  They really lose my goodwill when this happens.  Makes me not want to shop at their store very often, honestly. 

It's not just Catherine's, of course.  Lane Bryant has similar issues, as does Avenue and several others.  However, the demographics of those stores skew younger, so they are going to have a somewhat more substantial base in the 1x-3x size.  But it's not like younger women never wear size 4x!  They want cute clothes in their size, not granny stuff.  And even as middle-aged as I am, I'd shop those places more too if they'd just stock more 4x items (that are true to size).  They're neglecting part of their clientele too.

I have complained about this to store managers for years.  The managers always say, yes we KNOW, we've been telling corporate headquarters that for ages, but they don't listen.


Don't base your purchases on the demographics of how many fat women wear what size in the U.S., base it on the distribution of sizes of your clientele, the people who actually come and shop there.

You are cheating yourself out of a lot of sales when you skew too much to the smaller sizes. And you are pissing off the larger-sized clientele, often the ones with more money to spend. 

Stop the size snobbery, and stop alienating the very customers who are the heart of your business model. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Are You Ready?

All the recent earthquakes in the world have made me want to post another reminder about the importance of having an emergency kit ready in your household, especially if you have children. 

Do you have at least enough supplies for 3 days?  That's the bare minimum you need for an emergency kit.  Do you have:
  • Clean drinking water ─ 2 liters to 1 gallon per person per day ─ for 3 days? 
  • Bleach or a good hiker's filter in case you need to sanitize more water for yourself? 
  • Easily-fixed, non-perishable emergency food?  With a can-opener?
  • A first-aid kit?  A first-aid instruction manual?
  • A battery or wind-up radio and flashlight/lanterns?  Extra batteries? 
  • Tarps and/or plastic sheeting, to help keep dry if you must take shelter outside? Duct tape and/or bungee cords to help secure it as needed?
  • Blankets or sleeping bags or other ways to keep warm? 
  • Rain ponchos, extra garbage bags, and plastic baggies to help stay dry?
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation?
  • A whistle to call for help if needed?
  • Heavy-duty gloves, sturdy shoes, and other clothing to protect you from debris? 
  • Matches in a waterproof container?
  • A wrench or pliers to turn off utilities?
Other things that might be useful include dust masks, a map of your area, some cash or traveler's checks, a cell-phone charger, fire-starting tinder in a sealed plastic bag, some mess kit items (for eating/drinking), a fire extinguisher, folding shovel and/or small axe, Swiss army knife, paper and pencil, copies of your important financial information and ID, copy of contact information for out-of-state family, feminine hygiene supplies, and infant or pet supplies if needed.

A grab-and-go bag of the most portable of all these supplies (in a backpack, with a change of clothing) is always a good idea, should you have to evacuate your home quickly.  Also, you should have an emergency plan about where to meet if your family gets separated, how you'll get in touch with family outside of town, who gets the kids from school, etc.

Because many of us are special sizes that would be extremely difficult to obtain in an emergency if our own clothes were to get wet, dirty, or bloodied, I also think it's important that people of size keep an emergency bag with a full change of clothes readily available.

Keep a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, extra underclothes, and wool socks in there, plus an easily-rolled up coat or wool sweater etc. for warmth. Even the warmest areas of the country can get cold at night and staying warm is very important in an emergency. Pack wool or synthetic fabrics instead of cotton; if you get wet, wool or synthetics will keep you warmer even when wet.  Pack your clothing in a waterproof bag, so you are sure to have a clean and dry change if needed.

Why Make a Readiness Kit?

Some of you are saying, "Yeah, I've seen the news, but I don't live in an earthquake zone." Sure, not everywhere is located in an earthquake-prone area....but there's nowhere on earth that doesn't have at least some emergency hazard potential.  Your area may not be prone to earthquakes or tsunamis, but how about tornadoes, floods, blizzards, hurricanes, landslides, or wildfires?   There's always an emergency scenario possible, no matter where you are located.  It's best to be prepared no matter where you live.

And of course, there's the non-natural disasters, situations that could still result in long-term power outtages, food shortages, etc.  Or what about a major flu pandemic?  Or a sudden major downturn in the economy?  What if you could shelter in place but were without power and heat and a resupply of food for a long time?  What if the fresh water system in your area broke down?  How would you manage?

It always surprises me how many people don't have at least 3 days of food and fresh water they could live on if an emergency happened.  3 days, people.  That's not very long.  You really should have supplies for a lot longer than that.  And yet, so many people don't have even that.

So, if you don't already have an emergency kit, get one organized.  NOW.  Here's a website with some basic information on how to do so.

Take It In Baby Steps If Needed

There's lots we can do to prepare for an emergency. It can seem overwhelming to do all the things on the lists you see online, so begin with baby steps. Something is better than nothing, even if you don't have everything on the "should-have" lists. 

Start with whatever you can and slowly add to it as time and finances allow. Try dollar stores, drug stores, military surplus stores, thrift shops, and Ebay to help keep costs down. Use camping and hiking gear stores only for the most critical equipiment (for those, the best is worth the cost). Build your own kit in order to save money and to customize it for your family's unique needs.

Start with the 3-day supply of clean water, since water is one of the most critical of survival supplies, yet many people don't have this. Then move on a way to purify water, like bleach, a good filter or water purification tablets. Then move on to food, then first aid, then ways to keep dry and warm, then sanitary supplies. Then continue on from there, maybe devoting one evening a month or a season so you can spread out the time and the cost.

If you already have an emergency kit, good for you!  Take time to review it.  Has your food been rotated recently? Are the clothes in it the right size for the people in the house? Is the water fresh? 

If your kit is in good shape, can you add to your stash so you'd have more back-up supplies if needed? Make it for a longer period of time? Improve on what's in it? 

Ask yourself ─ is it stored where it's easily accessible in an emergency?  Do you have a smaller version already in your car or at work, in case you are not at home when an emergency hits?  Have you recertified in first-aid and CPR and emergency management courses recently?

It's okay not to have the "perfect" kit; just have something.  Think of building your kit as a process.  You'll learn more and improve things as you get more experienced.


Of course, no matter how much you prepare, sometimes it's not enough, you can't get access to your kit, or the disaster is so overwhelming that even the best emergency kit is not going to help.  An emergency is an emergency; sometimes a kit won't be enough, and some emergencies just aren't survivable.  We have to be realistic; a kit is not a magical talisman that guarantees our survival or protects us from disaster in the first place.

But in every disaster, there are always those who need emergency supplies like this afterwards.  If you are not one of the ones killed in the immediate aftermath of the event, chances are it's going to be a while before help is going to get to you, and chances are you may have to survive on your own for quite a while. 

Give yourself and your family the best possible chance for doing so.  Make sure you have an emergency kit stocked and ready, create a bug-out bag for yourself, have a disaster plan for reuniting/communicating, and have some emergency supplies in your car or at work as well. 

Hopefully you'll never need them ─ but if you do, having them may make all the difference in the world for you and your loved ones.  Recent events have given us a stark reminder of this.  Listen to the lesson and heed it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Belly Blog Carnival!

The beauty of my body isn't measured by the size of the clothes it can fit into, but by the stories it tells. I have a belly and hips that say, 'we grew a child in here' and breasts that say, 'we nourished life.'

- Sarah from I Am Beautiful: A Story of Women in Their Own Words
In January and February, I wrote two posts called Belly Thoughts and Further Belly Thoughts.  They were about belly ambivalance, specifically about how my generally good body acceptance was challenged by pregnancy and birth, and how I sometimes still struggle with that.

However, even as I explored topics of body ambivalence, I tried to end on a positive note with an acknowledgement and honoring of the work our pregnant bellies had done.  I wrote about honoring my belly, I posted some pictures of how my older children painted my belly in the last weeks of my last pregnancy, and I discussed how much those pictures meant to me.

That was my way of trying to bring the conversation back to a positive place, because even as I am challenged to fully love the changes in my body brought about by age and multiple pregnancies, I also do not regret having had children, not for a single moment.  My children are more than just compensation for the changes that have happened to my body.

As I've written before, I think it's a crime that there are not more images of women of size pregnant, birthing, breastfeeding, and parenting.  I certainly could have used some images like that when I was first pregnant and afterwards, and I know many other women of size feel the same.

Most of the information out there on fatness and pregnancy is very negative, and rarely do you see any pictures at all in the media ─ let alone beautiful pictures ─ of women of size in pregnancy and afterwards.  And we need images like those. 

And many of us, trained to be self-conscious or ashamed about our size, neglect to document our own pregnancies in any significant detail, whether that be with belly pictures, birth pictures, breastfeeding pictures, or parenting pictures.  Far too often we take the pictures, instead of letting ourselves be the subject of pictures, and that just adds to the lack of documentation out there....and the lack of documentation of our own lives.

And we need documentation.  We need to STOP being invisible mothers.  We need ─ and deserve ─ to be seen.  We deserve to take up space in the world as women and as mothers.

A number of you have sent me pictures of yourselves pregnant as a result of my post about the lack of images, and I think this is awesomeThank you to everyone who has sent in or shared their pictures with me.  I have so enjoyed them.

However, I've been a little reticent to use some of them on the blog because of the fear that a troll might take these pictures and abuse them.  Unless you have made it really clear to me that you are okay with your pictures being online forever like this, I usually haven't used them, just to be cautious.

But even as I worry about these things, I've decided it's really important that we declare our independence and post our pictures anyhow.  It's SO important that there be pregnancy and parenting images of women of size out there, showing that we do have babies, we do give birth, we do breastfeed, and we do parent.

We women of size are women, just like other women, and we have families, just like other women.  It's about time we got more documentation of that.  And it's about time we celebrated that more, instead of hiding whenever the cameras come out.  It's time we became visible moms.

So as a positive coda to my series on belly thoughts, I would like to propose a BELLY BLOG CARNIVAL. 

If you have had children, blog about your pregnancy belly and body, and post pictures too.  Document your experience in words and/or in pictures, and share your feelings ─ positive,  negative, challenges and all. 

If needed, please use trigger warnings out of respect for others, but I would ask that everyone try to end with a focus on the positive, if at all possible.  We can document our challenges, but let's also not forget to celebrate our bodies.  I especially welcome entries which celebrate their bodies in creative ways.

When you have posted your entry, send me a link to it (with a brief summary of what it's about). You can send it to kmom  [AT]  plus-size-pregnancy [DOT]  org.  Send it by March 31st, 2011.  Then I'll summarize everyone's posts together (with links) in one place here on my blog sometime in April.

If you don't have a blog and just want to share a picture, you can email that to me as well, along with permission to use the picture and whatever brief information  you want to appear with it. I generally discourage the use of real names, since this will be available online forever, but if you are absolutely positive you want this picture of you, identified with your name, available forever (the logistics are too much if you change your mind and want to delete it later), I will publish that as needed. Depending on how many I receive, I may put it in one big post, spread them out over a number of posts, or open a Tumblr account or something (if I can figure out how...I'm new to that!). 

(If you send me a picture, please remember to give me explicit permission to use your picture or I won't post it.  People often send me a picture but forget to add permission, and I don't have time to do follow-ups to get that.  In addition, if you'd like to include permission for me, kmom, to use your picture in whatever way I need for future posts, articles, presentations, publications, etc., I'd love to have that as well.  I'm always interested in adding to my gallery of plus-sized pregnancy and parenting photos to use as needed in my various projects. I welcome pictures from everyone but am particularly in need of pictures of any stage of pregnancy or parenting from women of color, and pictures from women of size during labor and birth.)

In summary, it's time to cap this belly discussion with a positive finale.  Over the next few months, expect to see periodic pregnant belly pictures on my blog from various women of size. We may even have related posts about belly casts, belly henna, belly painting, and other things we as women of size can do to celebrate our beautiful lush pregnant bodies. 

Bring on the bellies!!

*And isn't that picture from "Lyista" at the top of this post just the MOST gorgeous belly photo ever?  My thanks to her for sharing and for giving me permission to use the photo!