Macy’s has quit selling dinner plates that incited controversy online among people who said they advocated a “toxic message” of portion control.
Alie Ward, a science correspondent for the CBS series “Innovation Nation,” tweeted an image of the plates on Sunday with a caption asking how to get the dinnerware banned. Her photo showed a plate featuring smaller and smaller circles labeled, “mom jeans,” “favorite jeans,” and “skinny jeans.”
The plates, made by a brand called Pourtions that were being sold at Macy’s in-store concept shop, called Story, at the retailer’s flagship store in Manhattan’s Herald Square, aimed to provide “helpful — and hilarious — visual cues” that will “spice up your dinner table, and your conversation,” according to the Pourtions website.
Ward said the plates made her think of the “moms to young girls to guys who dismiss centuries of crushing beauty standards and laugh them off” when she saw them.
“I wasn’t being literal at all in terms of a legal ‘ban,’” Ward wrote to HuffPost in an email, explaining her initial tweet. She said she “just wanted to show the world how insidious beauty culture, and in this case one that shames women, can be. But I wanted Macy’s to know that what they carry and display matters, it can hurt people, and they’re accountable for it.”
Many other people on Twitter shared Ward’s outrage. Some argued that the plates may encourage eating disorders. One responder explained that the plates proliferate a “toxic message, promoting even greater women beauty standards and dangerous health habits.”
“These expectations can actually kill someone, and I know someone it has. [Macy’s], remove this from all of your stores and denounce the manufacturer,” reads the tweet.
Another person wrote that the plates aren’t funny “when you spend your entire existence being told how to look so you can catch a man/have value, and shamed for the most natural things like gaining weight from things like pregnancy, or eating whatever you freaking like.”
Ward said she has “friends who have been hospitalized for eating disorders, who cap off a good dinner by purging, know strong intelligent women who’ve starved themselves to be a certain size, and who obsess about calories so they’re not rejected or ridiculed.”
One person on Twitter rewrote the messages on the plates to feature a more empowering message:
Ward’s tweet garnered so much traction that “The Good Place” star and body positivity activist Jameela Jamil tweeted about it with an angry message to Macy’s.
“Fuck these plates,” the actress wrote on Sunday night.
However, hours before Jamil’s tweet, Macy’s took action. The retailer responded to Ward by saying the store had “missed the mark on this product” and appreciated her thoughts.
“It will be removed from all STORY at Macy’s locations,” Macy’s tweeted.
Macy’s told HuffPost it “quickly removed the plates” from the only location where they were on display after reviewing the complaint. “We apologize to our customers,” the retailer added.
Pourtions’ president Mary Cassidy told HuffPost that the brand feels badly if their plates, which were “meant to be a lighthearted take on the important issue of portion control,” were “hurtful to anyone.”
“Pourtions is intended to support healthy eating and drinking. Everyone who has appreciated Pourtions knows that it can be tough sometimes to be as mindful and moderate in our eating and drinking as we’d like, but that a gentle reminder can make a difference,” said Cassidy.
“That was all we ever meant to encourage. We ourselves use our glasses and plates every day to help us take our own advice. We know this is serious business. We also believe a touch of humor can, for some, be just the right touch,” she said.
Though some critics have called Ward “a whiner and a snowflake,” she was holding firm.
“When you take half a population and make them think that their power is in their value as a sexual object, you weaken their voice as a whole and you end up with a system that’s lopsided and out of balance,” she said. “So it’s not about plates, it’s about letting women know it’s okay to say ‘hey, f*ck this.’”
This has been updated with comment from Pourtions’ president Mary Cassidy.
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.