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See No Fat, Hear No Fat, Definitely Be No Fat: An Open Letter

Dear Miss Gold,

Reactions from all over the world to your article titled ‘Obese mannequins are selling women a dangerous lie’, featured in The Telegraph, will have informed you of one vital fact—it’s fatphobic. I am not going to link it here to add to the bevvy of readers you and the publication perhaps wanted to entice. Hidden behind a paywall, it has already done much damage than any of us require.

Your views, of course, came in response to the news of Nike unveiling plus-sized mannequins in their Oxford Street Store in London, ones that you have termed as “ immense, gargantuan, vast.” So on behalf of everyone who is curious to know, let me ask you this: when did being fat become a problem? “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”, you further state, the tone of your article dripping with unveiled disgust.

Image Courtesy: Nike
Image Courtesy: Nike

You go on to describe how advertising and fashion have bullied women, while being seemingly oblivious to the fact that your article does just that, and more. We have all been conditioned to believe that there is an ‘ideal’ body type, one that is skinny or with curves in the right places. And yes, fashion is indeed guilty when it comes to promoting the tall and thin narrative, but isn’t it up to us to shatter this mindset, especially in this day and age? By your logic, women who exceed a certain body weight aren’t runners or interested in sports, because they aren’t fit. And by that same logic, plus-size models should be forbidden to walk the runways, grace magazine covers or be featured in adverts or campaigns because being fat is equal to being shunned from the public. Not to forget, merchandise for the body type should be denounced at the earliest. Just let them wear whatever they can manage, who’s looking?

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it’s so disheartening working in an industry where you think great strides are being made, only to be starkly reminded that fatphobia is rampant and no matter what we do we will never be respected Just last week we saw something incredible happen. @nike put a plus size mannequin in Nike Town. A representation of a body we never see in the fitness industry. It was powerful But yet again another think piece comes out. Another dehumanising, awful set of words to remind us fat people that we are despised by society. Tanya Gold the writer of the piece in the Telegraph describes the mannequin as “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.” I usually would write a response to this with a point to prove. something defending my point of view and those of my peers saying how outdated and disgusting these views are but quite honestly what’s the point? I’m that heaving with fat woman she is talking about. It’s ludicrous that fat people are mocked, bullied and told to get to the gym and lose weight yet we are also told, we don’t deserve the access to active wear. Do you see how ridiculous that is? Which goes to show It’s got nothing to do with health concern and everything to do with prejudice Prejudice and discrimination isn’t just harassment, or discriminatory behaviour. It’s living every day life watching as people stare at you whilst you eat. Move away from you when they think you will sit next to them, listening to countless jokes being made about your body shape on TV any film. It’s doctors not offering you care because of your weight or not getting jobs because of the size dress you wear. It’s no wonder people are turning to extreme weight loss measures like surgery because it feels like the only way out. If you are following this page and you aren’t plus size please use your platform to stand up against this especially and even more so for plus size people of colour. Hashtagging #bodypositivity isn’t enough. Please Speak out

A post shared by Callie Thorpe (@calliethorpe) on

For far too long, we have continued to associate the words thin and healthy together and there is no better time than now to evolve out of this notion. Callie Thorpe's Instagram post on the subject sums it up for us, clear as a day. Studies have shown us time and again that the average size of women all over the world is no longer what it once used to be. Research undertaken by the Medical News Today in 2018 specifically states the average weight of women around the world, from a 58 kg (127 lbs) prevailing in Asia to a 78 kg (156 lbs) being the median in Europe. The clothes they wear will vary, as will their body types, heights, structure and personalities, because no two individuals are the same. We are all different and that’s what makes us beautiful. The fact that retailers are taking a step to correct their once stereotypical store displays made with the ‘ideal’ size in mind is something we should recognise and applaud.

In building this narrative, you forget that there is an entire, vast section of women who have the body type you have publicly disowned, and that these women wish to shop for athletic apparel that Nike, and many others provide. Should clothes only be made for the skinny, the lean and by extension, the acceptable ‘fit’?

You cite obesity as a concern, calling it an “addiction” and being a “recovering addict” yourself, you justify your concerns. The line that troubles me the most, however, is this: “The obese Nike athlete is just another lie.” Because God forbid if a plus-sized woman ever ran a marathon or played basketball for fun; her focus needs to be “recovery” and the ‘truth’ that she “needs to be saved”. To string it all together according to you, obese women are not interested in physical activity, and that it’s a lie that someone plus sized is interested in athletics. Like Roxane Gay said, “I work out six days a week. I am fat. I wear workout clothes while working out. The world continues to turn. Shut up.”

The aim of this open letter is not to insult you. The Telegraph too shares responsibility and that mustn’t be forgotten. We are all still unlearning what we have been taught since ages now, and it’s upon us to bring each other up, rather than push one another into the stereotypical depths that have long reigned minds.

With the plus-sized mannequins on display, Nike joins Old Navy and Nordstrom in a bid to make fashion more inclusive. That more can be done by the industry would be an understatement, but it’s pleasant to see that we are at least getting there. Women have certain rights, one of them is being able to wear what they want to and do the things they enjoy, no matter what their shape or size. So, let the women wear what they want, Miss Gold, and let them be, because we deserve it.

Featured Image: Nike, Roxane Gay, and Callie Thorpe on Instagram

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