A funny thing happened on the Internet the other day. A blogger and womenâ€™s rights advocate posted a picture that has started waves of indignation in the fashion World. They say the camera doesnâ€™t lie, but the blogger did. She said the photo was of a Swedish shop window belonging to the high street retailer H&M.
The photo was of 2 â€˜plus-sizedâ€™ mannequins in sexy purple underwear. The response of the fashion Internet community went viral in no time at all.
Rubinesque Mannequins at H&M?
At the last count the page had nearly 60,000 â€˜likesâ€™ and 17,500 â€˜sharesâ€™. This is despite the fact that H&M put out an immediate and vehement disclaimer that the â€˜rubinesqueâ€™ dummies were not now, nor have they ever been, members of the Swedish, or any other countries, window dressing party.
A global discussion has blossomed from this photo seed and it is only going to get bigger. Much to the delight, and no doubted intention, of the â€˜Womenâ€™s Rightâ€™s Newsâ€™ who posted the article saying. â€œStore mannequins in Sweden. They look like real women. The US should invest in some of theseâ€.
Just a Hoax?
Real or fake the idea of mannequins in shop windows with â€˜realâ€™ body shapes has struck a loud chord with many. It begs two questions;
- Should the fashion industry and the retailers, project an image that is â€˜idealâ€™ and unattainable, or should it seek to show more realistic and healthier body shapes, for the sake of the female, in particular teenage, internalized body image?
- How much damage does the â€˜stick thinâ€™ fashion model image that is pushed relentlessly and, oh so profitably, do to the health of successive American generations?
If the latest Internet furore is anything to go by, there is certainly an appetite (ouch! Sorry about that) for an alternative healthy body image. But the Kate Moss look is very entrenched in our psyche. Last year there was an interesting protest in London where, women mostly, dumped thousands of diet books in front of Parliament to publicise what they see as the deadly effect of the diet industry on national health, both mental and physical.
America will know it has moved on from the obsession with body image and how we look, when the coverage of our politicians is all about policies and not at all about their waistlines. Think about Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor. He has weighty opinions and ideas. But do we listen to what he has to say through the filter of his weight problem? Certainly the cult of a perfect body image is not just the province of teenage girls. It is an illness that afflicts all American public life.
As an indicator of just how unhealthy this obsession is, a recent study of teenage behavior reported that, of those who smoked cigarettes daily, 46% of females and 30% of males were doing so because they believed, in part at least, that it helped them keep their bodies slimmer. Changing the look of mannequins, to be more realistic, or just talking about it, is a very small step to towards improving Americaâ€™s body image.