A few days ago a woman named Mel Fraser noticed the mannequin pictured above while passing by a UK fashion store, Primark. She tweeted a photo of the mannequin with the following:
“Dear Primark, is it really necessary that these new mannequins have protruding ribs? And before I get anyone saying I’m skinny bashing, I’m not, I’d just like to see mannequins in all different shapes and sizes in all stores rather than young girls thinking this is the only way to be.”
Instead of addressing the lack of variety in their window display, Primark pledged that “the mannequin… will not be used in this way again.”
That’s a knee-jerk reaction, much like when Spanish designer Mango vowed not to use mannequins smaller than a size 6 because of “problems with eating disorders among Spanish Women”.
Removing mannequins with protruding hips or visible ribs isn’t the solution. After all, there are lots of women whose bodies look like those mannequins and they’re neither anorexic nor unhealthy. Removing them sends the message that those bodies are wrong… is that really what we want them to say?
Using mannequins of varying sizes, shapes and abilities would go a long way toward encouraging positive body image and acceptance. If no one body were held up as the “ideal”, there might be less anxiety about “promoting eating disorders or unhealthy lifestyles” which are the usual arguments against slender and fat mannequins.
JCPenney recently took a step in a diversified direction by introducing 5 new mannequins modeled after real people. Desiree Hunter, a 6 foot 1½ inch college basketball player who was one of the models, hopes the mannequins will tell the world that “everybody’s perfect the way they are”.
So instead of removing the “too thin” mannequin, Primark should show her off with mannequins who are size 28, 14, 10 and 6. That’s how to promote the message that bodies come in all sizes and shapes and they’re all good.