A few days ago in my usual pre-bedtime Instagram browse, I saw a story that blogger Callie Thorpe had posted – It showed a ”plus-size” mannequin in the Nike store wearing a sports bra and some fitted leggings. Nike continuously amazes me with its latest ads and campaigns. Their ”Dream Crazier” ad last year brought me to tears. The press had twisted and turned Serena Williams outburst at an umpire and headlines everywhere were painted with the words ”unstable” ”hormonal” ”erratic”. I am a huge sports fan, almost every game I watch a male player shout at the ref or an opposition player, but that’s passion right? No headline here.
“If we show emotion, we’re called dramatic. If we want to play against men, we’re nuts. And if we dream of equal opportunity, we’re delusional. When we stand for something, we’re unhinged. When we’re too good, there’s something wrong with us. And if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy…So if they want to call you crazy, fine. Show them what crazy can do.”
It got me. Serena Williams, Simone Biles, Alex Morgan… iconic sports stars all saying a big fuck you to a slew of double standards and all through the medium of what was yet another fantastic Nike campaign. So, when I looked at that photograph of the mannequin my first thought was *clap, clap, clap* Nike does it again.
Now here I am, just over 48 hours later reading an article published by The Telegraph entitled “Obese mannequins are selling women a dangerous lie” by journalist Tanya Gold.
“An immense, gargantuan, vast. She heaves with fat. She is, in every measure, obese, and she is not readying herself for a run in her shiny Nike gear. She is, more likely, pre-diabetic and on her way to a hip replacement.”
Read that. Read it again because I can guarantee if you were annoyed reading it the first time, you’ll be outraged after reading it the second time around.
Let me first make myself very clear. I am a UK size 10. Sometimes I love my figure and sometimes I hate it. I play sport, I love sport, I live for it in fact. Do you know what is the worst part of participating in sport or fitness for me? The clothes. The activewear that I only ever see on a minuscule model or mannequin. I pull that Lycra up over my sizeable arse and to put it frankly, I feel like utter crap every time. I see it squeezing me in all the areas I hate. I feel it pulling up or falling down when I’m running. I feel it tighten the hotter and sweatier I get. Each time, I dread that feeling. All that, and I’m a size 10. A so-called healthy weight.
I watch each Nike campaign and want nothing more than to get onto the netball court, to go for a run, to start a gym session. They empower me. The diversity of their campaigns. The focus on power, strength, and determination. Regardless of your race, creed, gender, AND weight. I look at that Nike mannequin and it is yet another stride toward our focus on who we are and not what we are. It is a big middle finger to sports clothing labels that don’t go above a size 12. It’s a big middle finger to everyone, who just like me, whether you are a size 4 or a 24, feels like absolute garbage anytime they put activewear on because we are only exposed to one image of what working out should look like.
Tanya Gold’s main argument seems to be that by being representative of a ”plus size” woman Nike are encouraging obesity and bad health. I imagine that Miss Gold has not expressed the same opinions when seeing mannequins in the brightly coloured windows of Topshop, Oxford Street – mannequin after mannequin adorned in beautiful, tiny clothes, no bigger than a size 4 at best. Did she express her concern with promoting unhealthy habits then? Did she spare a thought over the growing cases of eating disorders in young women in the UK? I doubt it.
Nike is a brand that is now synonymous for its indiscriminate campaigns and ads. This latest move to use ”plus-size” mannequins is not a promotion of bad health. I would be a fool if I were to say that there is no direct correlation between weight and health, that correlation, however, is not strictly reserved for those that are considered obese. Health is not something you see. You cannot simply look at a person and decide whether they are or are not healthy. A few years ago I embarked on an absolute absurd diet in order to look my best for my trip to Santorini. It didn’t verge on obsessive, it was obsessive. I lived for someone telling me how skinny I looked, it only motivated me to eat less and less. I’m not really sure now looking back what stopped that mentality but I wasn’t healthy. I was starving myself, I was struggling with my body image, I had a huge eczema flare up because I was starving my body of nutrition, but boy, did I look good in a bikini.
Nike’s use of this new size mannequin is a promotion of strength, determination, and power. It’s a nudge to all of us that have felt disgusting in gym gear because we don’t have abs. Its a little whisper in your ear that you shouldn’t give up on sport or exercise just because you don’t look like Miss Gym Bunny 2019. It’s a Welcome to Nike as you walk in their store entrance because you aren’t afraid of someone pointing and laughing at you being there.
Miss Gold’s article has taught me one thing, however. I don’t know what dress size she is, I don’t know what she looks like, I don’t actually know anything about her. I won’t judge her based on her dress size or her image. I will, however, judge her on her words and the discrimination, prejudice and discriminatory behavior she has today promoted. I can do that, that is my right, as a size 10, as a size 6, as a size 20. It doesn’t matter. Discrimination isn’t for just the attacked to defend, it’s for all of us to defend and I’m glad to see a global brand do just that.
In a world where we are all discussing mental health and self-care more and more each day, how can we deign to put body types into categories – Healthy or unhealthy? As if it is something that we can see just by checking our clothing labels. I know other people will look at me and say ”she’s a size 10, what has she got to worry about?” but yet I still get that sinking feeling when I go to pull on my sports bra for my run. I still dread going to the gym because of how self-conscious I feel. I still buy my activewear online because I can’t think of anything worse than going into a sports store and trying anything on. All of that has to change. Sport is for us all, so is health, so is fitness.
So, Fuck you Tanya Gold. I’ll leave you with this.