A British store has recently been in the media because of its misguided choice of mannequins. A grotesque figure of a “size 0” plastic body dressed in lingerie was prominently displayed on the window, which caught the attention of Sarah Hayter. The woman posted a picture of the mannequin on the store’s Facebook and added a comment explaining how it gives the “wrong message”.
Her post got a lot of attention and support from the community, and the store dutifully listened. They took down the mannequin and released a statement on Facebook explaining that they were starting “an investigation to ensure this style of mannequin isn’t used in any other stores or is removed as appropriate”. They insisted that they would never want to encourage women to aim for an unhealthy image or lifestyle. Everything had a happy ending, right? Sure, but there’s still one question: Why does that mannequin exist in the first place? And why is “size 0” still a thing?
To be completely clear, this is absolutely not an attack on thin or slim women, or on women who actually fit a “size 0”. For starters, that mannequin was not a “size 0” so much as a “size poorly drawn comic book character”. Those proportions were absolutely impossible, but somebody made a mold for a mannequin built like that anyway. It’s like they forgot a human being is supposed to have room for organs in the waist. And the store never questioned it once before buying it, dressing it up in lingerie and proudly display it to the public.
The second question is perhaps the most important one: why do we call the smallest size a “size 0”?. Have you ever thought about that? After all, the number zero represents nothingness. In our current culture, we are encouraging young women to work out, eat less and lose weight so they can fit the smallest size possible. So they can fit into a zero. Essentially, we are telling young women in our society that they should aspire to become so small, they are nothing. We want them to occupy so little space they stop existing. Symbolically speaking, of course.
And this wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t reflected on a lot of different attitudes and ways in which we socialize women to become smaller. Ladies sit with their legs crossed, stand with their ankles touching and their arms neatly folded in front of their bodies. When we tell young girls they should become a size zero, we are undermining their confidence in more ways than one. Not only we are instilling in them the compulsion to attain a nonexistent mannequin size, we are also reminding them that their space in this world should be as small as possible. We are telling young girls that they should be asking for permission to exist.