Another day, another unnecessary opinion getting posted on the internet. I can say that, as someone whose unnecessary opinions get posted on the internet all the time. In my case, they tend to trend towards things like the pivotal Best Kiss Award at the 2005 VMAs or why Love Island is the most important show in the history of television. You know, harmless stuff. But in the case of English journalist Tanya Gold, unnecessary opinions tend to include things like campaigning against a sports brand for having the audacity to show some love to a criminally neglected audience: plus-size women.
In an piece for The Telegraph titled “Obese mannequins are selling women a dangerous lie,” Tanya Gold rails against Nike for the inclusion of plus-size mannequins in their flagship London store. Except, according to Gold, these human-shaped crimes against humanity are not just plus-size: “the new Nike mannequin is not size 12, which is healthy, or even 16 – a hefty weight, yes, but not one to kill a woman. She is immense, gargantuan, vast. She heaves with fat.”
“She heaves with fat” is the kind of thing I whisper while I watch my cat try to climb onto the windowsill in my bedroom, but yes it’s also a totally acceptable thing for a grown woman to say about an inanimate object built to showcase clothing.
Before diving into this mess of bigotry masquerading as concern, let’s get something straight really quick. The plus-size mannequin, while an inclusive and realistic representation of many women and a progressive step in the fashion industry, is first and foremost a savvy business decision. Nike launched a plus-size collection in 2017. Since the addition of these mannequins, searches of “Nike” and “plus size” have sky-rocketed. As a brand that is no stranger to using controversial statements to boost sales, a move like this shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Does any of that negate the positive effect these mannequins have had on women who finally feel like they’re being catered to by one of the world’s biggest brands? That’s a conversation for another day. (But the answer is no, it doesn’t.)
After insulting the plastic person that has apparently ruined her life, Gold pivots to her apparent hatred of the advertising industry, complete with a quote from Don Draper. You know an argument is about to be relevant when it’s building its foundation on a TV show that ended four years ago.
“Advertising has always bullied women, but this is something more insidious.” As someone who works in advertising, I find this line of attack equal parts tired and one-dimensional. But we don’t even have time to focus on that argument before Gold starts listing all of the different body-ideals foisted upon women by the media, ranging from “the spindly, starved creature” to “the Kim Kardashian.”
It’s no secret that women are held to an unrealistic beauty standard, one that has a tendency to drastically impact our entire lives. But using that idea as a basis to justify fat-shaming is both hilarious and misguided. This woman got so turned around in her own logic that she stumble onto a trail leading towards actual rational thought.
You see, somehow, on the way to her argument as to why overweight mannequins shouldn’t be allowed in public, Gold has outlined the very reason that they serve as a beacon of hope to so many: because they’ve never been featured there before. That plus-size mannequin is standing proudly (or as proudly as she can being headless and also not alive) next to a size two mannequin in a major location of a global brand. That’s a big deal for a lot of people, which naturally means someone had to try and tear it down.
But Gold is too busy to notice that because she’s out here, leading a crusade against everything from Nike to the advertising industry to porn to video games to Kim Kardashian for unfairly dictating women’s appearances….all while writing an op-ed attempting to unfairly dictate women’s appearances.
“I would never want a woman to hate herself for what she finds in the looking-glass,” says Gold. Unless that woman is overweight and looking for athletic clothes to wear so that she can perhaps change that fact. Or to lounge in around the house because they’re comfortable. Or to wear because she’s a f*cking human and is allowed to buy overpriced athleisure just like the rest of us.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but overweight people need workout clothes, too. Just because someone is large does not mean they are unhealthy. Big women can run marathons and lift weights and do sports and live their lives and perhaps punch women who try to tell them otherwise in the face if they are so inclined. And even if they are unhealthy, it’s not up to some woman with a word processor and access to a short-sighted editor to decide what they get to wear.
Perhaps it never occurred to Gold that these mannequins, this kind of mainstream representation from a fitness brand, could give overweight people the confidence to actually start exercising. The road to wellness is daunting and overwrought with obstacles as is, God forbid Nike try and make it a little smoother for people who are already inclined to avoid it.
Gold’s outrage is built upon the fact that this “fat acceptance” movement will stop overweight people from trying to change their lifestyle, but she also doesn’t want to give them the means to do so. Almost sounds like she cares less about their well-being and more about being an intolerant asshole.
TL;DR: Hate Nike? Then don’t shop at Nike. Hate plus-size people? Then don’t be plus-size. But also maybe try not being a giant piece of sh*t while you’re at it.
Images: Twitter (@tegwentucker, @Fattymustrun)