If you’ve checked your Facebook feed this week, you’ve probably seen a certain photograph of two mannequins in the window of Swedish department store Åhléns. In my personal daily roundup of Facebook news it’s only second to St. Paddy’s-inspired temporary tattoos.
Image courtesy of becka.nu
Despite having been taken in 2010 by a Swedish blogger named Rebecka, this image only recently went viral. I’m not interested in the cyclical debate about what’s fat in the fashion industry – I think it’s obvious to all of us why these mannequins stand out. But I do think it’s important that people are bringing this up now – the idea that mannequins can be anything but a size 0 isn’t a new one, but it is a newly popular one. According to The Business of Fashion, when the image was posted on the Women’s Rights News’ Facebook page this year it got “more than 60,000 likes, 18,000 shares and 3,000 comments.”
As a web editorial intern at ELLE Canada, I’ve noticed a distinct tendency among Facebook commenters to broach the subject of weight, especially when it comes to models. Posts focused on runway fashion almost inevitably draw discussions about women needing to eat more hamburgers. It’s as if the ability of models to showcase clothing has turned on itself: the clothing seems only to draw attention to the body, i.e.: “What a gorgeous dress – too bad the model wearing it is so skeletal!”
From SkinnyGossip’s controversial Kate Upton takedown to the slew of “Real women have curves” memes, the Internet is brimming with anonymous commentary about the representation of “real” women in the fashion world. Cady Heron once said, “I thought there was just fat and skinny” – I used to think that, too. But the Internet has created a whole new playing field in which to qualify body image (just look at sites like mybodygallery.com). It’s no longer a question of fat vs. skinny but a question of real vs. fake. The demand for “real women in fashion” begs a complicated question: what qualifies a woman as real?
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