Today I was minding my own business on twitter when I stumbled upon an article in the Telegraph (from over in the UK) entitled “Obese Mannequins are Selling a Lie” by Tanya Gold. In the article she takes on Nike for not just having a line of plus size athletic wear but having a mannequin to demonstrate said clothing. Not only is her article extremely mean spirited but it completely misses the point of how positive an advancement for the health and potential weight loss of women this display is.
Over the years I’ve had my ups and downs with my weight, but I like to think of myself as a plus size athlete. I have completed 13 open water marathon swims including a 5k swim of Deer Creek Reservoir. In the last 2 years I have been a bit too preoccupied by my podcasting but I am preparing to swim the Deer Creek race in August once again.
One of the frustrating parts of being a plus size athlete is the difficulty in finding appropriate athletic wear. I even wrote about it many years ago on this very blog in an article called I HATE ATHLETIC WEAR.
The main beef of Ms Gold’s article seems to be more about Nike displaying a mannequin more than providing clothes but why should they not be allowed to sell and display their product? For many years I joked that plus size clothes in department stores (not a specialty plus size store like Lane Bryant) were like the X-rated movie section of video rental stores. It was practically behind a curtain. You had to hunt it down and weed through a few usually unflattering options.
On the other hand, with this display of a mannequin literally stretching I know exactly where to go to find what I am looking for. How can that possibly be a bad thing?
Ms Gold certainly thinks it is. She goes on for many paragraphs about how the fashion industry is designed to make women hate themselves so that they are inclined to shop. In her eyes this is a good thing! She says ” It was an ideal designed to induce enough self-hatred that women would shop to be rid of it…and, if you are mad enough to want it, it’s only really achievable by surgery and sleeping in the gym”
She’s actually super wrong on this front. The woman in the mannequin would hardly be qualified for bariatric surgery especially if she is someone purchasing athletic apparel and trying to change her life. I don’t know a doctor on the planet that would say surgery is the best option for this person.
Secondly, ‘sleeping at the gym’ is not an effective solution for weight loss. Any doctor will tell you that diet has way more to do with effective weight loss than exercising. Physical fitness is more about strengthening heart and muscles, which can be done at any weight. Though still obese when I was at my peak conditioning my vitals were all excellent because of the continued exercising.
Next she talks about the ‘fat acceptance’ movement and how it is promoting “delusions” and that the “obese Nike athlete is just another lie”. As an obese athlete I beg to differ on the delusions, but I do agree the fat acceptance movement can go too far. It can worry too much about feelings over scientific facts about healthy living.
However, Ms Gold’s entire idea that hatred, sadness and depression are what motivates self improvement flies in the face of what I know about human nature. Again this mannequin is for people who want to change. They are not a fat acceptance person. THEY ARE BUYING ATHLETIC WEAR!!
In my experience success in almost anything comes from positive motivation and encouragement not the reverse. The only exception may be the military where they are training people to kill others but for most of us positivity is how we accomplish hard things- and losing weight is really hard.
Just the experience of going into a department store and finding athletic clothing you can wear would be an incredibly positive and encouraging experience. This is not telling the female to accept how she looks. It’s the opposite. It’s saying ‘we’re making this experience easier for you because you’re worth it to do this hard thing” It actively helps the very people that Ms Gold speaks so dismissively of to achieve their goals.
Ms Gold would probably look at me and scoff as I am certainly what she would call “gargantuan, vast, heav(ing) with fat”. But I’d like to challenge her to a swim off. Maybe it will be the thing to get me training as intensely as I once was again. You know because that’s what positive reinforcement does. That’s what having options and clothing that fits now, where you are at, does.
Granted Ms Gold lives in the UK but even if she was in Utah she wouldn’t take me up on my challenge because it is easier to spew hateful rhetoric from a keyboard than it is to get up and act- act like those women who now can buy athletic wear at the department store she so harshly criticizes.
But if anyone reading this agrees with Ms Gold…I’ll get ready. Let’s swim.