My Inner Geek on Why Walmart’s ‘Fat Girl Costumes’ Were (Probably) Google’s Fault

Written by Angela Atkinson

“I found there was only one way to look thin: hang out with fat people.” ~Rodney Dangerfield

You’ve probably heard about the whole “Walmart fat girl costumes” debacle by now, right?

If not, let me give you the skinny (pun totally intended). Basically, for a short time on Monday, there was a section in the Halloween department on Walmart.com that was labeled “fat girl costumes.” It looked a lot like this.

o-FAT-GIRL-COSTUMES-570

 

Of course, everyone and their brother totally wigged out, calling for the head of the one who dared to type such a thing into Walmart’s categories section.

“It’s not clear where the original description was penned by the budding Shakespeares behind Walmart’s website copy or someone else,” wrote Jezabel’s Anna Merlan. “Walmart’s costume section, in other words, is truly the hottest of messes. Let’s start taking bets on how long it’ll be until the Fat Girl section disappears and we’re subjected to a totally sincere apology from a retail giant who really really cares (about taking your money, in return for a shitty costume).”

“Halloween, brought to you by Walmart — the best time of year to make fun of any woman over a size 6,” quipped HuffPo’s Nina Badahur. “If you want some actually clever costume ideas, check out our list here.

While I definitely can’t tell you the name of a person who allowed that label to go public, I can tell you one thing: it is most likely  NOT because someone hates all women, fat women–or any women. I’d like to think that it has nothing to do with any kind of ISM–sexism, fatism, you know–isms– but rather, I’d like to believe that the cause is much more simple: plain old SEO–search engine optimization. 

How SEO Could Make Walmart Call You a “Fat Girl”

See, as an internet professional (aka geek), I know a thing or two about how search engines work. And when companies try to code in automatically generated search terms, they use algorithms that often pull from Google searches (and other search engines). And though it was obviously a mistake that it became an official category, isn’t it possible that the term “fat girl costumes” were searched so often when people ultimately ended up purchasing a plus-sized costume that it became a recognizable term for the search engines? 

And, I don’t know, it’s possible that Walmart’s site is so sophisticated that it could use the top-searched matched term as a label for its categories. Or is it? 

In any case, I’d like to believe that the Walmart web folks don’t hate our plus-sized sisters–rather, maybe they’re just SEO experts and/or crazy hackers who got carried away with their awesome technnology. 

To be fair, WalMart later released a statement that  reiterated that “this never should have been on our site. It is unacceptable, and we apologize. We are working to remove it as soon as possible and ensure this never happens again.”

What do you think? Should we be taking this whole “fat girl costumes” deal very seriously? 

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