"Are You Gluten Free?"
Statistically, you probably don’t have to be. While celiac disease, in which the body’s immune system painfully attacks the small intestine when gluten is ingested, has been on the rise in the U.S., it’s still relatively rare. It’s estimated that less than half a percent of Americans suffer from the genetic disorder.
But that wasn’t the question, was it? Despite being a key ingredient in a large percentage of delicious things, gluten’s reputation has been on the decline of late, blamed for everything from weight gain, bloating to mood issues such as depression.
Today, around 1.5 million Americans follow a gluten-free diet despite not having celiac disease. Millions more report trying to reduce their gluten intake. All of which to say is that going gluten-free is a veritable diet trend that, while not supported by many researchers — unless you actually have celiac disease! — is nonetheless endorsed by a host of nutritionists, bloggers and celebrities.
Related: This Forever 21 T-Shirt Sparked a Backlash. We Want to Know What You Think.
Perhaps an indication that gluten-free has reached peak cultural saturation, late last year Zara tried to capitalize on the trend. Via black capital letters on a white-crop top, the retailer inquired: “Are You Gluten Free?”
New York is my kinda place ?? @ZARA game is strong #glutenfree #coeliacgirls #glutenfreeshirt pic.twitter.com/RqO2ngUH7W
— Lauren Murtagh (@Loz_Murtagh) January 31, 2016
The T-shirt, as many a T-shirt has done before, drew polarizing reactions. While some shoppers, a few of whom said they had celiac disease, embraced the shirt, others felt Zara was making light of a serious disorder.
Really? It's called awareness. I'm gluten free & not offended. In fact, I would rock that shirt @ZARA https://t.co/KY5DU4hVNI
— Katherine Francois (@kfranco877) March 19, 2016
saw a crop top in zara that had "are you gluten free?" written on it and i was so confused bc why joke about an actual food intolerance??
— brit (@murelimoos) February 6, 2016
One consumer was upset enough to start a change.org petition, which received 53,000 signatures. "The truth is that I just wanted Zara to reflect on the message, I was trying to explain that perhaps it wasn't the best way to make people aware of the illness," she told The Local. She got her wish. Zara’s parent company said the crop top would no longer be sold online or in stores. (This follows Forever 21 pulling a T-shirt just last week.) "We sincerely regret that this case might be interpreted as a trivialization of celiac disease, the absolute opposite of our intentions,” the company said in a statement. Judging from the petition, many people will be happy with this decision.
Related: Doing Good One T-Shirt at a Time
finally, @ZARA pulled their stupid tshirt. https://t.co/KGdzPprnai
next shirt planned: "Are you on chemo or dialysis?"
— Amy Levy PR (@amylevypr) March 19, 2016
But not everyone.
@ZARA I have celiac disease and ? the Are You Gluten Free shirts! I want one! Is there any way to get them even though they've been pulled?
— Mollie Sheppard (@ScatteredMollie) March 19, 2016
Tell us: Do you think the crop top is mostly harmless, a la the weird proliferation of “Kale” T-shirts, or offensive, in that it belittles a serious disorder? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook.