A Steveston gift shop is rippling the waters with its in-store signage for plus-sized clothing.
Local resident Sharon Arnold says a section of Lulu Island Designs features a hand-written sign, denoting XXL and XL sized clothing as the Whale section is not appropriate and should be removed.
I felt that it doesnt belong here, because its sending the wrong message. Its ostracizing large women, said Arnold, adding there is also a shrimp sign for smaller sized clothing in the store.
Arnold, 58, who has lived in Steveston for the past two years, explains the signage hit a personal note with her since she has been a plus size for many years. And two years ago, she underwent gastric bypass surgery that limits how much she can ingest to deal with her weight.
Arnold, who was at one time about 455 pounds, says she has managed to lose about 100 pounds since the surgery, and is committed to losing more.
Its that ongoing challenge to slim down, for her and others in a similar situation, she feels is being undermined by signage poking fun at overweight people, referring to them as whale-sized.
I found it offensive, and Im not the only one, Arnold says, adding she has learned others have decided to boycott the store.
If a person is trying hard (to lose weight) and are brought down, they have low self-esteem to begin with, and thats not right.
While a boycott might be what it takes for the signage to be removed, Arnold says that would be detrimental to the rest of the businesses in the historic fishing village.
We dont want to send that kind of message out. Steveston is a great place to be. And thats one store that is sending that rotten message, and people are getting upset.
The Richmond News called and visited Lulu Island Designs on Monday, but was unable to make contact with the stores owner to comment on the situation. The controversy spilled over to social media last weekend after Arnold posted a photo she took of the stores sign.
On the You grew up in Richmond, BC if you remember... Facebook group, it sparked a stream of comments that were divided on the matter.
Pretty insensitive, eh? I guess they are trying to be funny and marine-themed, wrote Joanne Nicholson.
How about an anorexic section? suggested Brian Peterman. Why do people feel so comfortable pickin on people with weight issues?
Trying to be marine-themed and amusing is no excuse, added Sandi Bezanson-Chan. What if Sears or The Bay called their plus-sized area something like Elephant Department or Hippo Section?
Anita Upadhyaya wrote, I am overweight and I find that we, as a group, are among the most discriminated against (in) society. We dont need to encourage this kind of behaviour.
People need to lighten up, countered Pete Jansen. Im XXXL, and I take no offence at the poster. Its funny how outraged we become in a public forum yet sit and laugh with the rest in the comfort and privacy of our living rooms as (Jay) Leno and (David) Letterman say far worse about celebrities and politicians or other people in the news.
City of Richmond spokesperson, Kim Decker, said the situation does not fall under the jurisdiction of the city, adding that For cases like this we would say that the market will speak for itself.
The city is limited to issuing a business licence and its involvement stops short of regulating how a business markets its merchandise.
Robyn Durling, spokesperson for the BC Human Rights Coalition said the situation does not fall into the category of a human rights violation.
While human rights does protect certain characteristics such as race, ancestry and gender, it does not cover weight and size of an individual.
If someone is very large, theres no protection under the human rights code, unless their size is related to a disability, Durling said.
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