After a tweet by Isabel Oakeshott showing a plus-size mannequin went viral, the social media platform witnessed rage over the issue and a lot of hate was spewed. Women’s bodies were discussed and a debate on ‘mannequins promoting obesity vs body positivity’ ensued. However, none of these occurrings are a new phenomenon.
On January 6, Oakeshott, a political journalist going by her Twitter bio, tweeted out a photo with the caption “This, in a Regent St fitness store, is what obesity looks like. Flabby curves highlighted in hideous lime green velour. The so-called “body positivity” movement is not “inclusive”, it’s dangerous.”
Since then, the post has been retweeted over 15,000 times. Some said these encourage women to be “fat” while others defended that these portray a real version of what bodies look like.
What’s interesting is that this is the same old debate that crops up every single time a brand aims for inclusivity.
When Nike introduced plus-sized mannequins alongside their plus-size activewear collection, we saw the same debate erupt. The Telegraph carried opinion pieces on both sides of the debate, one that argues that exercise isn’t only for the thin and the other that says that these mannequins are dangerous.
The move for Nike, wasn’t a bad idea, as the debate led to searches of “Nike” and “plus-size” increasing exponentially, leading to more publicity for the brand and its collection.
The point to note is that there seems to be an overall consensus about having clothes of all shapes and sizes, because really, bodies exist in all shapes and forms. Yet, it takes on the shape of a debate the moment it is a mannequin?
Even if the argument is about the effects of representation, the role of a mannequin is literally to display and showcase clothes. If garments are made of a particular shape and size, then mannequins to display those should be equally popular.
The other thing is the idea of “thin” being correlated with health. The usual mannequins are nowhere close to promoting a healthy body, as they all look the same, and healthy bodies themselves are very diverse. Thin or skinny bodies being equated to healthy bodies propagate a more dangerous mentality than having a plus-size mannequin on display. Fat doesn’t necessarily have to mean unfit at all.
Even if the argument is about obesity, is invalidating its existence or shaming people for being obese really going to fix everything? In all likelihood, it’s only going to manifest itself into more toxic feelings of body image issues, than ever encouraging a person to adopt healthier habits.
Lastly, the hate and the language used online to describe fat bodies is nasty, to say the least. Nobody wants to see a mannequin, think it looks like their real body, and then read comments like “hideous” or “ugly”.
We’re in 2022, in the middle of a virus wreaking havoc and causing more health troubles than we’ve ever seen before. It’s amusing to see people still get offended by the display of normal body size and shape in an apparel store.