Beautifully Bulimic? Alluringly Anorexic?

Credit: Becky Leigh Hopper

Credit: Becky Leigh Hopper

It’s official — over 10,000 people (at least) agree that big companies like Topshop and Victoria’s Secret do in fact have a duty of care to their consumers. To think otherwise is to simply think of the money and not of the well-being of over half of the world’s population. Whether you agree that the Topshop mannequin I photographed and posted to Facebook and Twitter is too thin or not, there’s no getting away from the fact that this super-skinny image in unattainable for the majority of women and girls. Plus — who are they to tell us what ‘beautiful’ or ‘normal’ is?

Aside from creating a feeling of self-doubt for many women, these super-slim mannequins are portraying one single body image to their demographic, rather than a range of healthy representations. As we know, the world can be very judgmental about a woman’s weight, men’s magazines suggest that voluptuous figures are better, sometimes with plastic boobs and a tiny waist. High fashion suggests that we should all probably be Kendall Jenner look-alikes — Yes, she’s stunningly beautiful but I’m sorry, how is that an attainable body image when Nando’s exists? So if we all have a different idea of what’s beautiful, then why don’t we have a diverse range of body images portrayed by the high street?

Just take a minute to imagine that you’re a young, easily influenced girl, already predisposed to eating disorders. You walk into Topshop and this mannequin is the first thing you see — the ONLY representation of the female body throughout the store. Do you think, ‘I’m thin but I’m not that thin — is this how I should look like?’ Possibly, yes. Of course you can’t even begin to imagine how it must feel to have such low body confidence that you develop an eating disorder and of course there’s so so much more to having an eating disorder than just seeing a very slim mannequin, but eating disorder charities have claimed that these images can and do act as a trigger for girls who have anorexia or bulimia.

There are many girls in the world who may very well look like this mannequin and who are perfectly healthy, I wouldn’t for a second say that you’re wrong or unattractive just part of a low percentage of women who can naturally be this slim without being unhealthy. Topshop are also aware of this.

The statement they released this week, stating that the mannequin is a size 10 — which let’s face it, is an absolute crap — and that mannequins are simply pieces of plastic used to advertise their clothes and aren’t supposed to represent the female body, is far from sufficient. As I’ve said before in TV and radio interviews and my own personal blog; These pieces of plastic may not be intended to represent the female body, but when they’re molded to the shape of a woman and wear women’s clothes, then the intelligent answer is obviously that they DO represent the female body. Are Topshop bosses living in la-la land? Or maybe they’re just making too much money to care what millions of people think? Perhaps if their umbrella company, Arcadia Group, put some of that money towards paying their taxes, they would care how people felt?

Today, a photo was tweeted to me, of a T-shirt on the Spreadshirt website, with a logo across the chest. One of which read ‘Alluringly Anorexic’ and another ‘Beautifully Bulimic.’ No — I’m not kidding. So in comparison, Topshop look like angels compared to sites like these. The designer of the shirts Ioana Urma received a very snotty email from yours truly, highlighting her irresponsibility and carelessness as well as the fact that she is essentially and quite blatantly, glamorizing eating disorders. I don’t expect anyone will get a public apology from Spreadshirt or the designer due to the fact that the T-shirts exist in the first place. Why are these companies so blasé about body image?

Ioana Urma's Designs on Spreadshirt Site.

Ioana Urma’s Designs on Spreadshirt Site.

I’ve received overwhelming support in regards to the Topshop photo and have received such lovely messages from girls, boys, men and women. While the vast majority of men have been just as supportive as the women, I would like to say that the obviously well-meant tweets from men suggesting that many men like women curvier than women who look like this mannequin, I must say — men like all different body types, not just curvy women, thin girls are just as attractive too and I’m sure a lot of men and women would agree. The point has never been ‘which female body type is more attractive to men’ because men, as much as we love you, a woman’s appearance isn’t all about what you guys find attractive. Some women simply couldn’t give a fig what others think of their appearance. All women should be happy in the skin they’re in without fear of judgement from anyone.

So, on that note — shake what your mamma gave ya!