‘Obese’ Mannequins Cause a Stir in Sweden

That’s right. Mannequins caused a stir in Sweden earlier this year after pictures of size 12 and size 16 mannequins were posted online. Now, although a lot of the backlash was positive, the mannequins have also been under attack, being accused of promoting obesity. Part of me wants to hang my head in shame at this and say ‘People! Stop! Don’t be so mean!’ but, with this case, I find that I can’t. I am never going to be a pioneer of the size zero trend, but neither can I bring myself to advocate being overweight, and one of these mannequins is.

Now, before all you feminists threaten to burn me at the stake, hear me out. I am well aware that a size 16 is the UK average dress size for women. I am also aware that being a size 16 does not make you ugly. You can be very attractive and be a size 16, as I firmly believe that confidence is the key to attractiveness, not a 24″ waist. However, there is refusing to condemn a woman for being a size 16, and then there is promoting that size as something to aspire to, and it is this that I cannot do, as a size 16 is simply not healthy. It may be the average size of the UK’s women, but let’s not forget that the UK is the second fattest country in Europe, with 26.1% of people being obese (only 2.4% behind the fattest, Hungary), and while I don’t like the fact that a size zero is currently in fashion, I don’t want the ideal body shape to turn on it’s head to another extreme.

I don’t want to offend anybody here, as my body isn’t perfect by a long way, and I absolutely hate women who sit behind computers calling other women fat or ugly, but I do think that there is a fine line between embracing the ‘love the skin you’re in!’ philosophy and actively promoting an unhealthy body type. Ladies, we can’t have it both ways. We can’t hate on the size 0 brigade for being unhealthy and unnatural, before getting excited at the revolutionary size 16 mannequins because, let’s face it, we’d love it if society allowed us to eat chocolate until we pop.

Having said that though, I do think that these mannequins are a step in the right direction. I appreciate what the shop is trying to do, and salute it for abandoning it’s skinny mannequins, as, for most women, a figure like that is not just unhealthy, but downright unattainable. Modern-day mannequins have often been critiqued for promoting unhealthy body shapes: In 2007, shops on London’s High Street were banned from using stick-thin models; in 2010, Club Monaco was in the firing line for using mannequins with protruding spines; and in 2011, Gap was criticised by bloggers for painfully thin mannequins modelling the ‘Always Skinny’ jeans range.

Most fashion houses or shops, when trying to lash out at the size zero trend, fall prey to what I like to call the ‘controversy curse’ and end up promoting gross obesity instead. Remember the stir caused when Alexander Mcqueen sent a plus size model down the catwalk? Or the FullBeauty campaign by Italian visual artist Yossi Loloi? These campaigns, while they can never be accused of promoting anorexia in the way that a lot of fashion houses could be said to, instead aim for ‘shock value’. I don’t for one second believe that these men really wanted to promote a healthier physique. They just wanted column inches, and this Swedish size 16 mannequin is dangerously close to falling under that umbrella.

However, the size 12 mannequin, on the other hand, genuinely shows a healthy, normal physique. It isn’t dangerously underweight, but is not on the verge of having a heart attack either. It is real. It has a soft stomach but not a pot belly, flesh on it’s bones but not chafing thighs, and curves, not rolls. It is, in short, healthy. If society suddenly started embracing, adoring the size 12 figure, I would be over the moon.

If the gossip magazines stopped seeing celebrities such as Tulisa as ‘curvy’ (ie ‘You go girl! You eat those pies! You’re an inspiration, fatty!’) and started seeing her as normal then maybe, just maybe, we ladies wouldn’t be so obsessed with other women’s bodies. I wouldn’t, as a healthy size 10, look in the mirror and see an elephant looking back. My friends wouldn’t be on various diets that don’t even permit them to eat solid foods. The world would be, dare I say it, nice. 

Okay, maybe that’s a step too far. I mean, we’d still have Kim Jong-un on our backs, David Cameron would still be murdering the NHS, and we’d still have to endure the existence of Taylor Swift, but at least we women would be able to sit and moan about it all with a nice big chocolate bar, and not feel like The Fat Police are coming to get us.

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