opinion

Nike's plus size mannequin tells the story of countless, faceless women. I’m one of them.

“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 cannot run. She is, more likely, pre-diabetic and on her way to a hip replacement.”

These were the words British journalist Tanya Gold used in an article for The Telegraph this week to cut down the significance of a plus size female mannequin taking up space in Nike’s London store.

The mannequin stands on a podium wearing a pair of black full length Nike tights and a matching crop top, her arms raised above her head as if she’s stretching before taking off.

nike-mannequin-portrait
Meet the most-talked about mannequin on earth. Isn't she great? Image: Twitter.

She's not in the back corner of the store or in her own little plus size section, but front and centre with the other mannequins that represent the many different women who wear Nike.

When the first images of the mannequin, whose name is Avril, first appeared on social media, we cheered and gave Nike a virtual high five for having the guts to back themselves and a demographic of their paying customers by representing them in their store.

After all, if they make tights in a larger size, why not show us what that size looks like on?

 

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I thought I'd go and visit the babe responsible for thousands of fatphobes on the internet losing their shit this week. Apparently a fitness brand using mannequins above a UK size 8 is the most outrageously offensive thing that's ever happened! Or to quote some of the comments I've seen - "dangerous", "disgusting", and "promoting death". Imagine my surprise when I entered @nikelondon and the mannequin did not, in fact, try to kill me! We actually got along great and fully rocked this impromptu photoshoot. • And do you know what I noticed during my death defying encounter with a plus size piece of plastic? People of all shapes and sizes were in the store. Some bigger than the mannequin, some smaller, and every single one deserves to see themselves represented and be catered for. Regardless of their fitness level. Whether they work out or not. Whatever fatphobic wankers want to say about who can and cannot wear a pair of fucking leggings. Every one of us is worthy of being represented, celebrated, and seen. This is a very small step in the right direction, and the reaction to it has shown exactly how necessary it is. • P.s. the mannequin is called Avril and she would like to remind you to drink some water and say something nice to yourself today. ????????????????☀️ • [image description: Megan is standing in a Nike store next to a plus size mannequin in black sportswear. She's wearing a white crop top, pastel patterned trousers and pink trainers while smiling and leaning on the mannequin as if they're besties] #bodypositivity #bodypositive #bodyconfidence #justdoit #nike #allbodiesaregoodbodies #fitnessmodel #plusisequal #bodyposi

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Need some perspective on your body and how you feel about it? Body activist Taryn Brumfitt shares an important message below, post continues after video.

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Then came the inevitable bow that's always drawn whenever a brand decides to be more size-inclusive: they're promoting obesity.

At the root of criticism over the mannequin is an outdated assumption that a person's weight directly correlates to their health, an idea women around the world thoroughly reject.

From Australian plus size model Kate Wasley, who said every person is "worthy of self love and respect no matter what your opinion of her size", to plus size fashion blogger Katie Sturino, who pointed out this kind of hate is "more of a reflection of how someone feels about themselves", women are posting images of themselves working out in their activewear to prove the point that skinny doesn't always equal healthy.

 

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I’ve received 100’s of messages asking what i think of the recent article in the Telegraph on the plus size mani in Nike. This body has made people uncomfortable. I know what it’s like to see someone bigger and feel frustrated that they are that size and not doing anything about it because I used to be that person. I’ve been the person that lost weight and thought I knew it all. I gave out health advice 1 semester into my nutrition degree and silently judged overweight people and felt SO frustrated that they weren’t actively wanting to lose weight. But just because becoming smaller was my life doesn’t mean it has to be everyone’s and I knew nothing about these people. Now I’m the person who’s lost weight and put it back on over the years because I battled with disorder eating and body dismorphia. I was skinny and fit, but I was far from healthy or prompting a healthy lifestyle. If you don’t know the person, you don’t know what’s going on in their life. Maybe she has a medical condition. Maybe she’s just starting out her fitness journey. Maybe her size is in her genetic makeup. Maybe she knows she’s big and doesn’t have the knowledge or funds to do anything about it. Maybe she’s self conscious as hell and doesn’t know where to start. Maybe she’s been bullied so badly into believing she’s not worthy, she’s scared to enter an activewear store. Maybe she’s doing the best she can with what she’s got. Maybe she knows she doesn’t exist to please people with her appearance. Maybe she doesn’t give a fuck what you think and she’s happy with herself just the way she is. Maybe she’s sick of your insincere concern for her health. But she is DEFINITELY worthy of self love and respect no matter what your opinion of her size or regardless of if you find her attractive or deem her healthy (in your not-so-expert opinion) and it’s definitely not your place to comment or bring someone down. It’s not your life, it’s not your body and if the person hasn’t specifically asked you for your medical opinion, guess what? They don’t want it. The only person who your negative opinion matters to is yourself, so let the judgemental thoughts come and go and keep it tf to yourself.

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Dear Tanya Gold / @telegraph / @telegraphwomenssport . Still want to tell me my body type can’t run? . . Thank you @nike , for making me feel like I am welcome to wear your clothes. . . . . . . . #finishlinenotfinishtime #noshameinrunningslow #POWERTHIGHS #chunkyyetfunky #thisgirlcan #thisgirlcanrun #thisgirlcanrunning #irunthisbody #ihavearunnersbody #fitandfearless #prettyathletic #womensrunningcommunity #athletesunfiltered #shareyoursmile #yourworldtorun #wearerunners #travelandfitness #runhappyteam #thisiswhatstrengthlookslike #simpleexplorer #myactiveyear #inshapemyshape #runhappy #girlgains #flyingfeet #sportforeverybody #allbodiesaregoodbodies #teamWR #runequal

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When I first saw the Telegraph article by Tanya Gold claiming that the new “obese” Nike mannequin was “selling women a dangerous lie,” I was pissed. ⁣ I’m still pissed, to be honest, but I decided to look into the author of the article, Tanya Gold. ⁣ Gold herself is not a thin woman, a fact that unfortunately, did not surprise me. ⁣ Fat-phobia is a driving force in media directed toward women.⁣ We’re told multiple times a day, every single day, that our bodies are only considered worthy if we shrink ourselves. ⁣ I’m sad for Tanya Gold. ⁣ I’m sad that she has believed the lies about her body. ⁣ I’m sad that these lies have permeated her sense of self so much so that she’s begun to spew them at others. ⁣ Here’s the truth, Tanya:⁣ Your body is worthy. ⁣ At any size. ⁣ And so is mine. ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ #curvygirlstyle #sizehappy #inbetweenie #midsize #biracialbitch #midsizestyle #loveyourcurves #positiveinfluencer #discoverunder1k #tampablogger #seminoleheights #endometriosis #endowarrior #mybodymyrules #invisibledisease #morecolorplease #curvystyle #confidentlycolorful #reallifeandstyle #size12style #size14style #nike #tanyagold #thetelegraph #bodypositivitymovement

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I just really had to put my two cents in about the article in @telegraph by Tanya Gold that rips apart @nike ’s use of plus size mannequins and calls them a “dangerous lie”. Instead of celebrating that more diverse bodies are being shown in the context of the fitness space the author goes on an anti obesity crusade which is so ironic because they are showing activewear that gives bigger bodies more clothing options when working out. That mannequin with the bigger body represents me, in fact my body is even bigger than that mannequin. People wonder why fat people don’t feel welcome in the fitness space - THIS IS WHY! In my personal experience in this space I have dealt with several uncomfortable situations that range from mildly unnerving like being asked passively aggressively what snacks I eat to downright abusive like when a trainer called me a disappointment for not losing the weight he thought I should that week. My experiences are unfortunately not unique to me as a plus size person. I wish growing up I had seen mannequins like this and plus size people represented in the fitness world. I find that seeing bodies like mine represented encourages me to move and take care of myself physically. Health looks different on everyone, health is holistic, mental health matters, your health is your own business, and regardless of health we are all still worthy as human beings. A big reminder for the all people so concerned about fat people’s “health” you can not hate and shame yourself into positive long lasting wellbeing. I am exhausted by fat phobia masquerading under the guise of “health concerns”. This isn’t new and this isn’t the last time, but we have to call it out when we see it and it’s not going to stop me from putting on my cute plus size activewear and continue doing the things that feel right for my body ✌????

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After reading the article in the @telegraph paper, written by Tanya gold, I’m genuinely upset by it. @nike has put in a plus size mannequin in the flag ship store and Tanya Gold has said this about it, “she is immense, gargantuan vast, she heaves with fat. She is in every way obese and she is not readying herself for a run in her shiny new nike gear. She cannot run. She is more likely pre diabetic and on her way to a hip replacement. “ Why is it ok to publicly shame plus-size women who want to be more active and fit.Who want to work out, who want to wear a well known brand. @nike have simply made it more accessible and “normal” for every women to buy some leggings and go for a run. We should celebrate the inclusivity @nike is now promoting! So I’m here to say to all them plus-size babes, let’s show Tanya Gold how we do! Don’t be put off or disheartened by this. We are allowed to workout too! I encourage it and I support it! Fuck you Tanya Gold for making me this annoyed in a rainy ranty Monday!!! #bodypositive #thisgirlcan

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But deeper than that, hiding under layers and layers of faux concern and 'honesty', is the assumption that a person's weight is their fault. That they did it to themselves. That they have no self-control and should really try to work on that.

What some might not know is that, likely, she is working on that. Women who identify with the Nike mannequin, women like me, might have been working on that for years, whether they like it or not.

Some have tried every diet and have thought about every treatment, or might have recently been through a really hard time and turned to food for comfort. Others have hereditary medical conditions and illnesses we can't see, or deal with weight gain as a side effect of the medication they take for their mental health.

There are those of us who see expensive specialists and take expensive medications because we want not to be skinny, but to be healthy. And then, there are those who have the bodies they have because... that's the body they were given and they're fine with it. Or they were, until they were told not to be.

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There's so much you can't know about a woman solely based on the way she looks in a pair of tights. Including her brain and her personality, and whether she's a good, kind person.

There is, however, one assumption you can safely make about a woman shopping for activewear - there's a decent chance she's buying it to be active in. And to be active, whether it's about getting fitter, feeling great, managing stress and mental health issues, or for some, losing weight, you need activewear in your size.

It's a fact. Clothes are non-negotiable. Sadly, most gyms or studios require their members to wear pants of some description while working out.

Mia Freedman, Holly Wainwright and Jessie Stephens discuss the Nike plus size mannequin on Mamamia Out Loud, get it in your ears below. Post continues after audio.

If you've never had the experience of struggling to find a pair of workout tights, shorts, or anything that fits to wear during exercise, you might not be aware that the plus size Nike mannequin isn't just a mannequin to some of us.

She represents millions of women who have grunted trying to pull too-small tights over their thighs, beads of sweat dripping from their foreheads while fending off well-meaning salespeople outside the changeroom outside asking if you need more sizes.

She represents women who have walked into an activewear store or the sports section of a shop intending to take the first step towards taking control of their health, only to walk out feeling defeated and excluded when they find there's nothing for them on the racks.

She represents perfectly healthy, fit, happy women who identify as plus size and aren't trying to change that. They just want something to wear to the gym, and then brunch afterwards. She represents any woman of any size who wants to chuck on a pair of tights and leave the house.

She's not just a mannequin, just as none of us are just our bodies.

More than a hunk of plastic that happens to be moulded into the shape of a woman who wears a larger size, the Nike mannequin represents the space in the fitness industry where plus size women haven't always felt welcome.

But now, she's inviting us in. She wants to run with us.

What do you think about the Nike plus size mannequin? Tell us in the comments.

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