On today’s episode of “How Did This Get Published?” we have a blatantly fatphobic and infuriating essay written for The Telegraph by Tanya Gold.
Titled “Obese Mannequins Are Selling Women A Dangerous Lie,” the clickbait-y excuse for a story was published in response to the (excellent!) news that Nike has unveiled plus-size mannequins in its Oxford Street location.
The language Gold uses to describe a mannequin that reflects the bodies of countless women around the world ― “immense, gargantuan, vast” ― is bad enough. But it’s the assumption she makes about those women that is truly shocking.
“She is, in every measure, obese, and she is not readying herself for a run in her shiny Nike gear,” Gold writes. “She cannot run. She is, more likely, pre-diabetic and on her way to a hip replacement. What terrible cynicism is this on the part of Nike?” Right, because making assumptions about one’s health based on their appearance always turns out well.
She makes the erroneous assumption that fat people are uninterested in fitness and should be ashamed of being fat, blatantly ignoring the work Nike is doing to normalize the fact that ― spoiler alert ― people who work out have extensively different body types.
Luckily, plenty of women on the internet were open to giving her a refresher.
“I look like that @nike mannequin and I’ve done a 10k, a half, & a marathon this year,” London-based Tegwen Tucker tweeted in response along with a side-by-side shot of her body. “If you think obese women can’t run you’ve clearly been living under a rock.”
Ultra runner Latoya Shauntay Snell, who has written extensively on fat-shaming and marathon running, also had some choice words for Gold. “If we cannot see ourselves in something, then the world don’t think we exist,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “It’s easy to bash but I’d love to hear your solutions for us. Excuse me as I do what mannequins can’t do ― run.”
Actor Jameela Jamil chimed in as well by demanding an apology from The Telegraph, and author Roxane Gay summed up her stance pretty succinctly:
Fatphobia often implies that fat people should strive to be thin while also ridiculing and shaming them when they want to exercise. It’s a lose-lose situation and a sad continuation of the status quo. As dietitian Michelle Allison concluded, fatphobia does not want fat people to be fat or thin — it just wants them “to suffer.”
On the bright side, the amount and ferocity of the backlash to an essay that belongs in the black hole of internet obscurity provides some hope to this entire conversation. It’s about damn time we dispel the notion that fitness is one-size-fits-all and fight back against fat-shaming and hypocrisy.
And it’s about time more brands acknowledge that, too.