Take a look at your phone and tell me the truth. Do you have body-altering apps like FaceTune in there? I do, and I use them quite a bit.
I’m a confident woman in my early thirties who uses an app to pinch my waist, make my arms smaller, and my legs a little bit longer.
If you put my photos side by side, an untrained eye probably wouldn’t be able to notice the edits. But I notice—and I do it for almost every photo.
Back in June, when Nike launched their “Women By Nike” floor in NikeTown London, there was a debate on why an athletic company would promote an “unhealthy lifestyle” by displaying plus-size mannequins. Some thought it promoted an unhealthy body weight in contrast to the athletic nature of the clothes that draped those plastic bodies. Or that it sold women a dangerous lie about obesity and health.
For me, as a size-16 queen, I loved having the representation of my thicker-middled torso on display for consumers to see.
In reality, the Nike mannequin matched the average size of American women. According to Racked, the average American woman is 5’3” tall, weighs 168.5 lbs, and wears a size 16 or 18. The fat-acceptance movement, as it’s called, can be seen as implying that people don’t take responsibility for being overweight and that it’s granting permission for having a high BMI without consequence.
While I want to be the person that says, “This is ME! I’m overweight and I’m fine with it!,” I’m really the person who opens FaceTune and slims down a selfie mirror photo before posting it online to my 4,000 followers.
For me, these plus-size mannequins aren’t making an excuse for overweight people to live unhealthy lifestyles. What these mannequins really do is promote the idea that people of all sizes can exist, and they can be athletic. They can throw on a pair of Nike leggings and get to the gym for the first time in months. Despite health conditions that make it hard to lose weight (like my Thyroid removal in 2015 after Papillary Thyroid Cancer), I am a person and a body that deserves representation.
Was Nike’s introduction of plus-size mannequins into their stores the best way to start the conversation about more inclusive fashion spaces? The answer is yes. More brands should do it. All brands should do it.
I am speaking for myself here, but I don’t see those mannequins on a pedestal and think to myself, “Well, if this mannequin exists, that means I can cross getting healthy off my list!” It simply doesn’t work that way.
If making plus-size shoppers feel included wasn’t Nike’s main priority, having their organic Google search grow by 387% and a 200% increase in sales on their plus-size joggers probably were. It’s a brilliant business decision, among others they’ve made. What an idea!
What it comes down to is visibility. Normalizing an average or even above-average body shape. Making those of us with thicker hips and thighs and back rolls feel seen.
Nike’s inclusivity helps me realize that there are plenty of others just like me. Social media can make it hard to feel “normal.” Those mannequins won’t influence me to disregard my diet and health, but they will make me think twice before using that app to make my arms smaller. My arms are just fine the way they are.