Ever passed a sportswear shop and decided not to enter it, because the mannequins in display look the kind of ripped you don’t even dream about becoming? Being a plus size person myself, shopping for work-out wear means opting for loose track pants from men’s section and an oversized T-shirt. That’s it. That is all the options I have because the space of work out wear belongs only to the fit and fabulous, both on displays and in the racks. So when a premium brand like Nike launches a plus size mannequin, it opens many doors for me and many others who have to battle the stereotypes that our “fat” bodies pile on us.

SOME TAKEAWAYS:

  • Nike has placed plus-sized mannequins in its flagship store in London.
  • Some people have criticised the brand of galmourising obesity and selling women a lie. 
  • But plus size work out wear, in fact, encourages people struggling with weight issues to work out.
  • It also breaks the stereotypical views that obese people have an inactive and unhealthy lifestyle.

Nike has unveiled a series of plus-size mannequins in the women’ section of its London flagship store. This move makes work out merchandise inclusive of all body types.

No sooner did the photographs of this plus size mannequin begin doing rounds on social media, a leading UK daily carried a scathing fatphobic piece on it, alleging that it sells women a “dangerous lie”. The writer calls this plus size mannequin immense, gargantuan, vast and heaving with fat. “The new mannequin is obese, and 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. What terrible cynicism is this on the part of Nike?”

All this outrage over a company putting out a mannequin which encourages obese or plus size people to at least enter the shop? Why this assumption that plus size people are lazy, sick and so beyond help that they shouldn’t even be encouraged to make an effort? Will shunning their body types out of sportswear shops help them in any way? It seems that the recent body positivity drive to include clothes for plus size people into the mainstream couture is being interpreted as normalisation of unhealthy body type by many. And they aren’t wrong. Obesity is a grave health concern and a predisposing factor to coronary diseases, diabetes, joint problems, etc. It is important that people are encouraged to maintain an active lifestyle, and at least try to lose some weight, for the sake of their own well-being. Obesity at any cost, shouldn’t be galmourised.

There is a difference between putting haute couture on a plus size mannequin versus putting work out wear on the same. Stereotypes around obesity can’t be used to shut plus size people out, as that only demoralises them.

But how should obese people lose weight? What’s that E word again? And if plus size people are to lose weight should they wait for their body fat to automatically drop down, so that they can confidently walk into spunky showrooms and buy work-out wear which sit on sculpted mannequins? Or should manufacturers open the doors for them and make them feel welcomed because one can benefit more from a little encouragement to work out, than them? Also, this projection that a fit person is essentially lean is very misleading. It is also oblivious to the fact that people can struggle with body weight due to various medical issues like hormonal imbalance etc, but that doesn’t mean that such people don’t work out.

There is a difference between putting haute couture on a plus size mannequin versus putting work-out wear on the same. Stereotypes around obesity can’t be used to shut plus size people out, as those only demoralises them. They need to be told that they are welcome in gyms or running tracks or zumba classes, and that they must be proud for not giving up on themselves, for striving to be fit, irrespective of whether it leads weight or inch loss, or not. So put up more plus size mannequins I say, and make more work out the merchandise available for “fat” people. This is the only way we can keep the stereotypes like “fat people are lazy” or “plus size people can’t run” from breaking people’s confidence and doing more damage than what has already been done by unreal mannequins and discriminatory merchandise.

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.

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