Thousands of shares, hundreds of emails, a handful of media opportunities, two weeks and one tweet from Rosie later, I find myself right back where I started, trying to decide how to follow up that letter.
Going viral was unexpected to say the least. When I clicked "publish" on the post, I had every intention of turning in for the night and carrying on with my evening (and life) as usual. Needless to say, that's not exactly how things panned out.
Many people have reached out in the wake of the story wanting to know how things turned out. Did Mike Jeffries respond? Was I going to participate in the Abercrombie protest? Had Ellen reached out yet? (A note to the curious: No. No. And no.)
But here is what did happen...
I received a flood of comments and emails from people of all sizes, shapes, ages, races, sexual orientations and walks of life, sharing their personal stories of bullying, body image and personal struggle.
While the vast majority of the comments were positive (a category into which I also lump comments from those who respectfully and constructively expressed their disagreement with my viewpoint in the letter), there will always be that small handful of people who chime in with hateful negativity no matter what the topic. In this instance, I think those responses served as shining examples of why this conversation is so necessary and important. At the core, the letter was never really about Abercrombie or Mike Jeffries. It was about the impact intolerance has on the world and on the individual. There is no hierarchy of hate. No form of hatred is more or less acceptable than another. Intolerance is unacceptable. Plain and simple.
Many people have asked me when I knew this letter was "really something." While hearing from Rosie was surreal, the morning I opened my email to discover this letter from a teacher in Georgia was the moment the magnitude of everything really hit me:
"I would like to request permission to reprint Amy Taylor's article, "An Open Letter from a 'Fat Chick' to Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch" for each student in 6th grade at [XXX] Middle School in [XXX}, Georgia.
The Language Arts Department would like to use this piece in a unit on bullying/fitting in during the 2013-14 school year, and students would need their own copy in order to annotate for understanding as they read. I appreciate your considering this request and look forward to hearing back from you."
As a writer, the greatest reward of all is discovering that your words have resonated with someone, inspiring them to take positive action. It has been remarkably humbling to hear how a single letter has empowered so many parents and teachers to start a dialog with their kids about the things they’re struggling through and dealing with on a daily basis.
Despite what some people perceived, the letter didn’t come from a place of anger. It came from the memory of everyone who has played a part in who and where I am today. Throughout my life I have known so many wonderful people who have been bullied and judged for everything from their sexual orientation to the way they speak, the neighborhood they grew up in to the color of their skin. The message of the letter belongs to all of us, I’m just the one who put it to paper.
As a marketer by trade, I’m acutely aware that every brand has a target demographic and a marketing strategy. Some verbalize it, some don’t. I respect the right of every American to speak their mind, whether I agree with it or not. Mike Jeffries’ alleged comments were simply an opening in the conversation that allowed me to share my story. The message I hope people end up taking away from all of this has nothing to do with t-shirts or jeans. We are all works in progress. We have all overcome something in our lives. We all have a story to tell. Chances are, someone out there needs to hear yours.
As for the future, who can say. In the wise words of my dear friend Josh Cox, "A hundred years from now, I’d rather be lost in the crowd of a revolution that started when everyone banded together as one to take our minds and bodies and lives back. If I do what I believe in the way I want to do it, I’ll be lost in a tidal wave of great people doing great things who never would have done those great things if they didn’t realize how great they were as people."
My sincerest thanks to every person who has reached out, left a comment or shared the post. You've given me a front row seat to the best side of humanity. For that, I will be forever grateful.
Like this? Check out Amy's passion project, Good People of Earth