Nike’s new plus size mannequin sparks strong reactions

Posted at 9:40 AM, Jun 14, 2019

NikeTown London launched its newly redesigned Women by Nike floor last week, and the flagship London store now features plus size mannequins and para-sport mannequins on the floor.

Good, right? Well, while you might think the inclusion of a plus size mannequin would be cheered, it actually sparked quite an uproar. What you need to know:

Background on the mannequins: A Nike rep explains to ABC News that the Nike Plus Size collection, “crafted to ensure the perfect fit at every size,” was launched in 2017. The next year, “to showcase inclusivity and inspire the female consumer,” plus size mannequins were brought to some North American stores, and then, last week, to NikeTown London. “We continue to listen to the voice of the athlete and know that the female consumer wants to see a diverse and inclusive range of product to serve her sporting needs,” the rep says.

A critic weighs in: The uproar started when Tanya Gold wrote a column for the Telegraph arguing that the mannequins are actually “obese” and are “selling women a dangerous lie.”

More from Gold: The mannequin “is immense, gargantuan, vast. She heaves with fat,” the columnist writes. “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.

Uh, really? Gold’s column did not go over well. Tegwen Tucker posted a side-by-side comparison of her own body next to the mannequin on Twitter, noting, “I look like that @nike mannequin, and I’ve done a 10k, a half, & a marathon this year. And there’s another 10k & a half coming up. If you think obese women can’t run you’ve clearly been living under a rock.

Who’s the bully? Gold lamented the “fat acceptance movement” and accused Nike of “bullying” women by taking part in that. “‘Advertising has always bullied women, but this is something more insidious,'” Twitter user Charity Blanchard quotes from the column—skeptically. “Pot calling the kettle black, b—-,” she concludes.

More backlash: There’s so much more where that came from on Twitter, including a user who points out, “If someone is forced to feel uncomfortable in stores for fitness, there is no progression.” And a body image researcher posted about studies showing that most female mannequins are actually frighteningly underweight, yet no one seems to be concerned about those mannequins promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.

Big names speak out too: Model and activist Jameela Jamil has been railing against critics on Instagram, including posting a meme reading, “It’s just a woman in leggings you ignorant f—-s.” And model Iskra Lawrence, who has been open about her struggle with anorexia, said she’s now closer to the size of the new mannequin than a traditional mannequin—and that’s good. “News flash—I am more healthy NOW than I was when I was thinner—because being skinny does not equal being healthy.”

A competing column: At the Guardian, Nikki Stamp writes, “There is no war on obesity; there is only a war on the people who inhabit bigger bodies.” And the “concern trolls” waging that war are “actually making it harder for anyone who isn’t able-bodied, cis-gendered or thin to achieve health, in mind and body.”

But some agree with Gold: It wasn’t all support for Nike; Yahoo News quoted one Twitter user who was also criticizing Nike and insisting that “obesity lifestyle should be shamed, not encouraged.” That account, however, has since been suspended. Another critic of Nike suggested the company “promote exercise” instead of “fatso clothes.”

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