The Curious Offense of the Fat Mannequin

The Curious Offense of the Fat Mannequin June 10, 2019

People will make a mountain out of any molehill, particularly if the molehill is fat and wearing leggings.

Yesterday, the Telegraph published a curious op ed by a real sourpuss named Tanya Gold, entitled “Obese Mannequins are Selling Women a Dangerous Lie.” The op ed concerns Nike’s line of plus-sized workout clothing, with a plus-sized mannequin to promote it– the offending mannequin is depicted in the article, wearing black leggings and a sports bra to match, stretching as if it’s about to go for a jog.

It was pointed out in the comments that this mannequin is the exact size of a female Olympic shot put champion or lady weight lifter; with her column-like thighs, she might also be the type of plus size marathon runner that other runners call a “Clydesdale,” admiringly, for their strong legs and back.

Tanya doesn’t like that mannequin. She published a rant about what a bad example it is for fat women, to see a mannequin their size wearing workout clothes and doing some kind of stretch; she said it was selling overweight women a “dangerous lie.” She was deeply offended that it might make fat people feel normalized and included in fitness culture. She insisted, as if we didn’t all know it,  that the mannequin wasn’t actually going to run after it finished its stretches– also that the statue made entirely of plastic and lacking bones and a pancreas was “pre-diabetic” and going to need hip replacement. I don’t think Tanya understands that she’s not talking about a real person.

As for real people, it doesn’t sound like she likes them very much either. At least not if they’re overweight. She doesn’t want us to have workout clothes or a representation of ourselves at the clothing store, because then we might not remember at all times what grotesque failures we are.

“Yet the new Nike mannequin is not size 12, which is healthy, ” writes Tanya, “or even 16 – a hefty weight, yes, but not one to kill a woman. She is immense, gargantuan, vast. She heaves with fat.”  She goes on like that for the whole article.

Actually, the mannequin looks like a straight up and down size sixteen to me. I’m pretty good at identifying sixteens. I myself usually take a sixteen, or a fourteen wide. I used to wear an eighteen or larger. I have fibromyalgia, which slows the metabolism a bit and causes severe fatigue as well as sometimes random swelling, and it’s extremely difficult to keep the bulge under control. But with a careful diet and exercise I’ve gotten down to my current “hefty” size– which, as Tanya is gracious enough to inform me, “heaves with fat.”

I am not a better person now that I heave with about twenty pounds less fat. I am not more worthy, healthier, more disciplined or more beautiful than people who heave with more. That’s just the size my body happens to be, partly through my agency and partly out of my control. Most everyone looks the way that they do through some factors they can change, and mostly out of their control. That’s life.

If it weren’t apparent to me that I was fat by looking in the mirror, I would know it because of all the people who like to tell me so. Being a professional blogger who is female, I can’t really get away from that kind of thing.  Traddy men who love G. K. Chesterton are especially offended at the idea of a woman with a Chestertonian physique. I’ve never quite understood that.

I don’t think Chesterton did yoga, however. I do. I don’t wear Nike to do it because new clothes are pretty expensive; I buy thrift store LueLaRoe when I can get them, and sports bras from Wal Mart. I practice yoga in my sports bra and garish patterned leggings, with my surgery-scarred muffin top spilling out of the top.

Oh yes, I’ve had surgeries. My appendix ruptured one night a little over ten years ago; a few months later, I almost died of a cecal volvulus that was left undiagnosed for days– by the time they caught it, it was so distended that the incision went from my ribcage all the way down to my pelvis. The recovery was not easy. Then I lost my gall bladder– due to all the adhesions from the vovulus, they had to take it out the old-fashioned way, with a big long incision, instead of a laproscopy. And then I gave birth to Rose, via emergency Cesarean, a vertical incision along the scar left by the volvulus surgery. “I just followed the dotted line,” the doctor said.

I was a “healthy size twelve” before all that started, but I don’t think I’ll see that size again.

Somewhere in all of that, the struggle with fibromyalgia began. The last I checked, no one was sure what caused fibromyalgia, but it can begin after a medical emergency or two. The body can only take so much stress before the nervous system gets angry, perhaps. At any rate, here I am.  I’m lucky to have a belly in the first place. I’m rather proud when I move it aside to do lunges.

I used to jog. I jogged in leggings and a big t-shirt. But this is not a kind town for runners; I got harassed from cars and porches for the size of my rear end. So now I stay home and practice yoga with the blinds drawn.

I wonder what Tanya expects me to do. She clearly doesn’t like fat people; she’s desperate to tell us we’re killing ourselves. She wants us to not be fat anymore. If there is any way for a fat person to become something else, and I’m not saying there is, the way surely lies through regular exercise. But we’re not supposed to have exercise clothes, because they sell us “A dangerous lie.” What do we do? Exercise in a ballroom gown? Exercise naked? Wear a sackcloth as penance for our shame? What would please her?

The photo of Tanya that accompanies the article shows a frowsy woman who is no cream puff herself. And her Twitter profile picture apparently portrays  her sassily smoking a cigarette. But she’s only concerned for our health.

Perhaps we should begin by telling her that mannequins don’t run.

(image via Pixabay) 


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