The 1980s ruined me. I now cannot think, hear or see the word ‘mannequin’ without automatically picturing Kim Cattrall (whom I adore) and Andrew McCarthy (possibly my least favourite of the Brat Pack stud muffins – I’m putting links in for anyone under the age of 35 who is now hopelessly confused at these references) in the eponymous film of 1987, and having this song from the TV series The Kids From Fame (1982 series) as an earworm. Click on the link, I dare you…
However, I was pleased to be able to resort to such humour when I went shopping last weekend and upon immediately stepping out of the lift from the car-park into Marks & Spencer was confronted by these in the lingerie department.
This is Marks & Spencer, a store renowned for good quality, fairly expensive (to a person on a median average wage, ridiculously expensive to the vast majority of people) clothing for women of all sizes. Look as hard as I could, it seemed ALL the mannequins in M&S are now shaped like this. Thigh gap, extremely small waist and slight bony protrusions in hip and collarbone included. This represents a body shape only natural to an extremely small (pun unintentional) proportion of the population, and this was the first thing ALL shoppers are confronted with on stepping out of the lift.
I then found myself noticing mannequins in all shops. The next one which irked me greatly was in BHS – another store which has a good solid reputations. These mannequins are located at the store entrance, directly next to the Wallis collection (which proudly and publicly caters for the larger lady as well as those deemed ‘normal’ and ‘slim’).
As you can see, pretty much the same size. Those clothes are just hanging off the mannequins. All the mannequins looked no more than a UK size 6. All the mannequins in the shops were this size. Mannequins are 2 sizes smaller than they used to be.
Not only does this give people absolutely no clue as to what the clothes might actually look like on, it is further pressure on women to reach an ideal of body shape which is simply not possible and most definitely not healthy for the vast majority of women. This constant pressure on women is also a great way to divide-and-conquer in maintaining the patriarchy; after all, if women are too busy hating each other and being jealous, and hating themselves for failing to comply with unattainable goals, they will not combine to overthrow. Great for beauty/fashion industry profit too, but I digress from my original point.
I’m angry about this. I don’t care if it costs more to have larger mannequins or whatever reason shops may give for using them, I want to see a variety of sizes and shapes INCLUDING disabled mannequins. I want normal to be inclusive, not exclusive. I want encouragement towards health, not body shape/size. I’d like them to be in a variety of skin shades too, if that’s not too much to ask.
You may think that with all that is going on in the world, this is a minor problem. I don’t think so. We are surrounded, constantly, by a culture of raunch culture and rape culture, which idealises the female form and then blames it for whatever befalls the women contained within it. One’s body is the very basis of one’s identity, upon which all else hangs. Each change for the better is a step forward, a step towards being free from patriarchy, free from inequality, free from misogyny. I don’t think that this is a minor problem at all.
Now I’m off to revisit the The Kids from Fame. I want to meet my 10-year-old self in nostalgia when I would have given anything to be Doris Schwartz, before all this shit became real…