Because body acceptance is only for their bodies, apparently.

Katy Preen
Jun 11 · 5 min read
Image via Pexels Library

Nike has created a women’s plus-size sportswear range, and it is genuinely plus size: the line goes up to UK size 32, and it looks as good as their straight-size range. The clothing is modeled by women who are larger than what passes for “plus-size” in most fashion campaigns (although they might not be a size 32 — but I can’t say for sure). And in order to display it in their stores, Nike is using a plus-sized mannequin — an actual, plus-sized one. Nike is clearly responding to a gap in the market, and who could criticise the promotion of healthy activities to women of all sizes, eh? As it turns out, the Telegraph:

The article is paywalled, but you can see the first two paragraphs without a subscription, which set the tone for the entire piece. I, regrettably, read the whole thing, and I will never get those three-and-a-half minutes of my life back. It’s… not very nice. It claims to be factual, and to care about us poor ladies being hoodwinked into piling on the pounds by the nefarious fat acceptance movement, but is really just playground bullying for grown-ups. It’s just so… pointless.

I’ll return to my original point. If we are really concerned about the health of overweight women, then we should be applauding Nike for making it easier for them to find sportswear in their size. Or perhaps the author thinks that larger women should exercise out of sight, and that delicate, wispy ladies shouldn’t be offended by the sight of a mannequin with a little more bulk. I’m sure that the mere thought of wobbling flesh will have them fainting in the straight-size aisles. For goodness sake, can we just fucking grow up? It’s a mannequin. Some people are different sizes and shapes to others, and fitness and even athleisure aren’t just for the in-crowd. We’re not in middle school anymore.

But speaking of middle school, that was where so many women developed shame over their bodies. We were scrutinised and judged for every imperfection, for having a female body of whatever size. Exercise was embarrassing because spiteful kids (boys and girls) would make degrading comments about the girls’ bodies, and it wiped out the confidence of many women to exercise in their adult years. Add to this the abuse that women get while out running or even in the gym, and it’s a miracle we don’t all stay indoors underneath a voluminous smock.

As if the fat -shaming wasn’t enough, the author then pits different body types against one another, and imagines an ever-narrowing, yet still nebulous, “medium” as the body we should all strive for.

“It is as cruel as telling women that the child ballet dancer and the porn body are ideal.”

No, no it isn’t. It really isn’t. Body acceptance is about accepting the bodies we have, whereas the extreme body types referenced above are touted as bodies we should aspire to. Resetting the scales to define a perfect middle as the new ideal is no better — it still shames bodies that don’t fit, and by god, there is a fuckton of shame in this childish diatribe. The use of plus-sized mannequins is not to replace all other mannequins. Nike isn’t going to stop producing clothing in anything under a size 20; no-one is going to take away our short-shorts or crop tops masquerading as sports bras. It’s meant to appreciate diversity and inclusivity, not shut it out like the author seems to want.

But maybe if they did stop selling straight-size clothing, thinner women might finally appreciate what a faff it is to dress a body that society deems unacceptable. Articles like this one push the message that larger bodies should be unacceptable; which achieves nothing except to boost the superiority complex of middle-aged mean girls who get paid by a national newspaper to air their shitty prejudices.

The article also mentions the “para-sport” mannequins in the image caption, which are conveniently missing from both the image and main story. I wonder if the Telegraph would be so keen to run an article ridiculing disabled bodies? Actually, I wouldn’t put it past them. Yet that’s the same type of bullying that the author is engaging in. You shame one body, you shame all bodies.

These are real Olympians. Image via imgur.

Opinions like these, when given a platform, create an atmosphere of judgement where anyone can decide that anyone else’s body is unacceptable. That’s literally how bullies operate: they pick a feature that society deems their victim might feel conscious about, and then magnify it, regardless of whether it’s a real flaw or not. Because it’s a feature that could be perceived as a flaw or failing, their method works.

We know that obesity is complicated, yet once again it is reduced to an issue of “personal responsibility and seeing the truth”. It’s not that simple, and it never has been. But to take the advice of this article would leave many feeling that they are failures by being unable to overcome the systemic issues that contribute to their size. And it reinforces the idea that women’s bodies should be a certain way, and that they are everyone’s property to pass judgement on.

You shame one body, you shame all bodies.

It’s none of your business what size anyone else is. Other bodies exist and we have to accept it. That’s what body acceptance is about, accepting the bodies that actually exist. As if our thin-obsessed culture is going to do a complete 180° because fat women can wear sportswear now. The “discomfort” expressed about plus-sized mannequins and plus-sized bodies is nothing to do with health or wellbeing. It is to control women’s bodies. Funny how we don’t express such “concern” over the health of larger men, isn’t it?

I feel so uneasy when other people’s bodies get judged. It’s childish and nasty, a pastime for those with nothing better to do with their brains. And it’s creepy, too. Commenting on people’s bodies regarding their weight should be just as taboo as making degrading sexual comments. You have to look a person up and down to evaluate their attractiveness in both cases, and it is intrusive and dehumanising in both cases, too. Body shamers are no better than catcallers, and their methods are virtually identical. Let’s call them on their bullshit, and for fuck’s sake stop paying them to pollute the media with their misinformed and hateful opinions.

Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories, and share our lives together. We will not be silenced. We will be fearless. And we will write.

Katy Preen

Written by

Journalist, author, feminist. Reading the comments so you don’t have to.

Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories, and share our lives together. We will not be silenced. We will be fearless. And we will write.

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