Sometimes you come across news that makes you question the year you’re living in. Nike dealt with a lot of opinions - some good and some not-so-great - after introducing full-figured mannequins at its flagship store in London, part of a campaign for the sportswear company to broaden its reach to athletes of all sizes. Except, some people think that only thin people can be athletes and that Nike’s promoting obesity. To rewind a little, we have years of campaigning for greater representation in fashion with retailers appealing to more full-figured women and a corresponding boom in plus-size modeling. People are being represented on billboards, commercials and magazine covers but recent reactions to Nike’s move last week have no place in 2019.
Nike had actually launched its first plus-size collections two years ago but this was the first move to feature the apparel in its flagship store. Some celebrated and welcomed the diversity that this brought to an otherwise traditionally exclusive sportswear industry. However, writing for the The Telegraph, Tanya Gold emerged as one of the most vocal and fervent critics of the decision, slamming the marketing move in an op-ed. “The new mannequin is obese, and she is not readying herself for a run in her shiny Nike gear. She cannot run. She is, more likely, pre-diabetic and on her way to a hip replacement. What terrible cynicism is this on the part of #Nike?”
There are a number of problems with Gold’s divisive and misinformed views. Firstly, she is inaccurately identifying the mannequin in the display as obese, using the term obese too loosely. Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat can have an adverse effect on health but the mannequin in question could be called fat, a mere size 16 rather than being obese; ‘grossly overweight’.
The writer also writes with the assumption that being thin equals being fit whereas they’re not the same and it’s more important to be healthy than thin. Positive body image comes from being healthy vs being thin, feeling represented in stores through mannequins and finding clothes your size. This also contributes to positive mental health which is equally important because by ignoring representation through mannequins, one is ignoring the psychological damage that can come from only seeing thin mannequins. They often set an unattainable standard that women of an impressionable age spend their better years trying to match up to.
A curvy mannequin reinforces the idea that weight loss and being thin is not everyone’s only goal. People workout for different reasons; some to get toned, some to burn off some steam and some to even gain weight. What do all of them have in common? They all need workout wear to get it done. There is a glaring hypocrisy in telling overweight women to exercise but not affording them the privilege of wearing active wear to do so.
Over time we have been conditioned to believe that fat people can’t do anything but be lazy so people are often genuinely surprised to hear of bigger people who accomplish things but at this point it would be purely stupid to think that all fat people are lazy. Everyone is capable of movement and exercise and everyone deserves appropriate clothes when doing so. These attitudes need to change and publications like The Telegraph are at the forefront of this change. They should realize their responsibility in the kind of content they put out and be more careful with their opinion pieces to ensure they are not completely tone-deaf for the times we live in.