Putzing around the internets the other day I ran across an example of an interesting and very common kind of downplayer. Some context, the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch (see above), a clothing retailer, has claimed he only wants to sell clothes to thin, attractive people:
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong (in our clothes), and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
So he’s a jerk. Now comes the downplayer. Reacting to the story, Shana Lebowitz of Greatist writes:
It’s truly incredible that these news stories have sparked such intense conversations about the way the media helps shape our relationship to our bodies. At the same time, it’s too easy to point fingers at Abercrombie and media outlets that glorify the thin ideal. Sometimes it seems like all we need is a couple of models and mannequins who aren’t stick-thin and everyone’s body image would significantly improve.
But that’s too easy. In reality, skinny models and mannequins don’t cause anyone to feel any way about their bodies. While we can’t always control the size of the T-shirts on Abercrombie’s shelves, we do have the power to walk through the overly cologned aisles without feeling bad about ourselves. So why don’t we arm people with the psychological tools to develop a healthy body image — even in spite of messages that can damage our self-esteem?
Perhaps it is easy to latch onto this guy’s sorry but unsurprising attitude about attractiveness, popularity, and so on. But really, so what? Things that are easy, however, not any the less true or worthwhile on account of their ease.
Further, note how the downplayer turns into a straw man: tweaking one or two things about stores or clothes sizes will not solve every single problem! No kidding! Who says it would?