So this week, American Apparel hit the news again with some brand new mannequins. Apparently they are causing quite a stir because THESE mannequins are sporting prominent nipples and a prodigious crop of pubic hair. Now some folks have applauded American Apparel for showing women that are more “realistic”. But I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree.
These mannequins are completely in line with everything else I’ve seen from American Apparel. It seems that their ads are not only focused on women as sex objects, but I’ve always felt that there was a gritty, DIY Internet porn, especially inelegant focus on women as sex objects.
In any case, I see very little here that makes these mannequins look more like real women. They are still all the same size and shape. They are still very tall and impossibly willowy. They still portray a body that would probably be unlikely to bear children or even menstruate. Nope. What I see here is a dirty little boy with a magic marker drawing pictures on his sister’s dollies just to get attention.
And it’s gotten plenty of attention. Which I am quite sure was the point. The sad thing is that there are others making a real effort to make mannequins look more like real people. There was THIS post I did a while back, about a shop in Sweden making more realistic mannequins. And then there’s this video. It portrays special mannequins being created from some very unlikely models. The video is beautiful. Please watch. I’ll wait.
I can’t say everything about that video is perfect either. But I can say that it seems a whole lot closer to the sort of work towards inclusiveness that we need in this space. I’d love to see a mannequin that shows how clothing looks on a short, modified hourglass with apple shaped tummy body rather than the plus-sized mannequins that are 7 ft. tall with perfectly flat stomachs.
And how does all of this relate to fitness? I think so many people go into exercise trying to look like those bodies in the Macy’s store windows. So many of us have spent years not working at FITNESS (being fit, being able to do certain things that we’d really like to do), but rather working at “FitThis” (being able to fit this pair of jeans, this image, be accepted by this crowd). And so what? Is there something wrong with having fitness aspirations for having a “better body”? The thing is that for most people, physical fitness does not create an overly dramatic shift in the way their body appears. Only a very small percentage of genetically gifted folks are even physically capable of sporting a visible “six pack” or “eight pack”. Exercise doesn’t change your body’s bony structure. It doesn’t make you taller. And for most of us, it doesn’t make you significantly thinner. The problem with aspirational “FitThis” is that it takes our attention away from what exercise is very likely to accomplish in our lives (better sleep, better health, better mood, better self esteem, better sex, better sleep…) and focuses our attention on an area where exercise is a lot less likely to succeed. It sets us up for unrealistic expectations. It sets us up to fail.
So I’d like to encourage you to put yourself into your elegant, pricey, fitness store, right at the front, behind the huge glassy windows. See yourself, happy, healthy and feeling fabulous as the epitome of what you are hoping to accomplish. Because you are amazing. You are inspiring. And you are the ones who keep me doing what I do.
Love, Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)
P.S. Want some more amazing real life inspiration? Check out what we’re doing with the Fit Fatties Virtual Event and Decathlon! We’ve already had our first decathlete! And there are some truly amazing pictures including our recent 5K finisher who walked the beach with her son and met Santa (an honorary Fit Fatty), a woman who lifted literally a TON of weight wearing jammy pants and lots more gorgeous happy people. Sign yourself on up!