Bustice for all

British retailer Marks & Spencer responds to negative outcry over surcharges on larger bras: "We boobed."

Published May 8, 2009 5:17PM (EDT)

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that British department store chain Marks & Spencer has long been under fire from a group called (awesomely) "Busts 4 Justice," because of the retailer's policy of charging extra for bras with cups sized DD or bigger. M&S representatives argued, fairly enough, that larger bras cost more money to produce, while Busts 4 Justice quite reasonably pointed out that the company sells a wide variety of clothing that comes in various sizes at the same price point. M&S stood firm. Said the AP, "The issue has simmered for nearly 10 months, but erupted several days ago when M&S officials publicly rebuffed calls to change policy, prompting several female columnists to complain."

Since I haven't worn a cup size smaller than DD since the 7th grade (including when I wore a size 4 dress, so you can stow the advice to lose weight), this is an issue dear to my Cross Your Heart. (Not that I actually own one of those, because they don't come in my size, but I couldn't resist the pun. And oh wait, I've got more!) I'm not insensitive to the argument that larger bras require not only more but stronger fabric and more complex engineering to do their job. But the stone-hearted capitalists who would side with M&S on those grounds do not appreciate the following: A) The selection of bras in sizes above DD is ridiculously limited to begin with. B) The selection of affordable bras in those sizes is practically nonexistent. C) For the most part, women who are large of boob did not choose to be that way. D) Unlike women who are smaller of boob, we cannot choose to go without bras or rely on cheap, flimsy ones -- that way lies chronic back pain, let alone stares, catcalls and difficulty finding a job where you're welcome to show up with your nipples swinging somewhere around your belly button.

Fortunately, owing to the media attention -- and the savvy response of competing retailers like ASDA, which began pushing its "one price for all" policy -- Marks & Spencer has announced today that it will be doing away with the big breast tax, in an advertisement with the headline "We boobed." "It's true that our fantastic quality larger bras cost more money to make, and we felt it was right to reflect this in the prices we charged," says the ad. "Well, we were wrong." Additionally, the chain will be offering a 25 percent discount on bras throughout the month of May. Bustice is served!

Kudos, M&S, for doing the right thing -- though you get points off for placing that ad copy over a headless woman in her undies -- and making a great P.R. move. Even if it took you a while to realize that alienating an entire market -- especially one with an active Facebook group -- is a great way for a company to go tits-up, I'm impressed by your speedy response to the negative media attention. Perhaps you are not the boobs I took you for. May bras start flying off racks in all your stores! Um, wait...

By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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