Today in Fat Hatred

by Shaker Esme, Esq. Esme is a recently licensed attorney who currently works as a legal assistant. At night she makes tiny dragons out of clay. She is both fat and an occasional wearer of clothes.

[Content Note: Fat shaming; body policing. There is also thinshaming at the link.]

I personally am no big fan of mannequins. In addition to being disproportionately white in appearance, often being headless, and always, always cis and non-disabled, they're also incredibly impractical for me. The slender form of a mannequin does little to reflect what a garment will look like on my voluptuous body, particularly problematic when one has to shop online to find clothes in one's size, and you're left shouting at the screen because, goddammit Old Navy, you need to at least give me a hint whether that dress can stretch over wide hips or a full bust or large belly if you're going to refuse to carry plus sizes in your brick and mortar stores.

So the idea of larger mannequins does seem like a step in the right direction, in terms of making them more functional for me personally, but it does not even begin to fix their other problems. So I appreciated, at first, this piece in the Guardian about how British retailer Debenhams' new size-16 mannequins aren't really all that great. The author recognizes that, though technically a size 16, the mannequins are not representative of most fat women:
Yes, they have hips and breasts that bear some resemblance to the sort that could once have given birth to and nurtured children. But they're still weirdly super-human. For all their supposedly democratic proportion, they're still flat of stomach and toned of thigh…There's celebrating the full and natural form of a woman's body, and there's fetishing "curvy" in an un-flabby, cellulite-less vacuum.
Lovely writing. (Aside from the implication that women's bodies are designed to and universally can bear children, or that there's only one female body type post-birth.) I'm on board. And then...
The way to redress the balance of fashion imagery is not to fight it with an equally unachievable extreme. And it isn't to revel in being average. Because 5ft 3in and 11 stone is not healthy. Any body mass calculator will tell you that it is overweight, with risk of heart trouble. It shouldn't be controversial to point that out.
Because GOD FOR-FRIGGING-BID anyone go a whole article about fat women without shaming.

So let's take this point by point.

1. To say definitively that a woman who is "5ft 3in and 11 stone is not healthy" is wrong (11 stone equals about 154lbs in imperial measurements). Weight (and most certainly BMI) are not the best indicator of health of a physical or psychological condition. A number on a traditional scale gives you your mass. Not your body-fat percentage, not your predispositions to disease, not whether you have health insurance so you can get preventative care, not whether you have a thyroid condition or even if you're a champion weightlifter.

2. Of course, no article about fat women would be complete without a link to a BMI calculator so that women can immediately go and hear a CALCULATOR tell them they're too fat because you input 2 numbers. Because 2 numbers are your entire physical condition.

3. It certainly isn't an indicator of heart health. For fun anecdotes, let's go with a comparison between my sister and me. My sister, whose BMI has been "too high" since birth, has spent her whole life playing ice hockey (including 2 years playing professionally in Canada's women's hockey league), eating healthfully for her needs, and regularly riding horses. I didn't break 100 lbs until I was 15. I ate nothing but "junk food" and got no regular exercise after age 13. Guess who had better blood pressure and cholesterol count? Now guess whose BMI said overweight and whose said I was just barely outside of underweight.

4. I WISH it was controversial to end every article about women's bodies with this bullshit. But it isn't. That, THAT, is a problem to be fought.

5. That entire second to last paragraph blurs interpretation of the last.
So for Jo Swinson to suggest that these mannequins are a healthy step for women is not only incredibly patronising, it's also wrong. As wrong as it would be for her to come out in favour of size zero.
6. Yeah. How dare she, HOW DARE SHE represent larger women and call it a step in the right direction. Doesn't she know she's just patronizing the fatties? She should just tell all fat women who come into the stores that they're not meant to have clothes that fit. If those fat women want to feel good, they should come back when they're whatever size HARRIET WALKER thinks they should be. Not a zero, apparently. Nor 16. Tell me, Harriet Walker, what size do YOU think I should be? Because YOU are the arbiter of what makes me healthy.

I agree that giving a mannequin wider hips and larger breasts doesn't fix things. It doesn't increase representation women of color or any other under- or entirely-un-represented population. The best I can really say for them is that they have heads, thus bucking the media trend of only depicting large women from the neck down. But to write an article about how these mannequins aren't realistically fat enough for your tastes, and then conclude by saying that we shouldn't even have mannequins in larger sizes because representing fat women is unhealthy is just silly. All women, regardless of their weight, face enough body policing as it is. We don't need any more, Ms. Walker.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus