Iskra Lawrence, Jessamyn Stanley, and others explain why this representation is so important.

By Faith Brar
Nike

Last week, Nike introduced plus-size mannequins to its NikeTown London store. The change was meant to "celebrate the diversity and inclusivity of sport" and showcase the brand's commitment to embracing human bodies of all shapes and sizes, Nike noted in a press release.

While the brand's decision was praised by those within the body-positive community, it didn't take long for critics to voice their ~opinions~ about Nike's decision.

A particularly vocal opponent was a British journalist who wrote an op-ed for The Telegraph titled, "Obese mannequins are selling women a dangerous lie." She argued that the new plus-size mannequins (which, by the way, look like the majority of women around the world) were "immense, gargantuan, [and] vast." She then continued to berate Nike for glamorizing obesity, going so far as to say that if the mannequins were real, they would likely be diabetic and riddled with osteoarthritis.

The fat-shaming article makes the erroneous assumption that non-straight-sized people have no interest in fitness and should be ashamed of their bodies. In reality, that is the exact assumption Nike is trying to dismantle. By showcasing plus-size mannequins wearing athletic clothing, the company is normalizing the fact that people who work out have extensively different body types. (Related: Why America Hates Fat Women, the Feminist Take)

That notion is something model Iskra Lawrence alluded to while addressing the backlash Nike has faced. "I've been nearer the size of a traditional mannequin (US4/6-UK8/10) and I'm currently nearer the size of the new plus size mannequin," she wrote on Instagram. "News flash: I am more healthy NOW than I was when I was thinner because being skinny does not equal being healthy." (Related: Iskra Lawrence On Why You Should Look Beyond That Numerical Weight-Loss Goal)

Style blogger Callie Thorpe also had some thoughts about The Telegraph's article. She called it "disheartening," sharing a lengthy Instagram post about the hypocrisy of its message.

"It's ludicrous that fat people are mocked, bullied and told to get to the gym and lose weight yet we are also told, we don't deserve the access to active wear," she wrote. "Do you see how ridiculous that is? … It's got nothing to do with health concern and everything to do with prejudice."

Ultrarunner Latoya Shauntay Snell, who's been open about the fat-shaming she's experienced while running marathons, also had some choice words for the author of The Telegraph article. "If we cannot see ourselves in something, then the world doesn’t think we exist," she wrote in an Instagram post. "It's easy to bash but I'd love to hear your solutions for us. Excuse me as I do what mannequins can't do―run."

Other vocal women, like Jessamyn Stanley, didn't mince words.

"Honestly, this @telegraph article gave me a hearty chuckle and I bet it's given them endless clicks," she wrote on Instagram. "Fatphobia, fun for the whole marketplace...The new Nike mannequins are fresh to death and fatphobia is basic as f*ck. I mean, they gave the mannequin a real ass FUPA, what's not to love?" (See: Jessamyn Stanley's Uncensored Take On 'Fat Yoga' and the Body Positive Movement)

Jameela Jamil joined the conversation as well. She wrote on Twitter that she feels The Telegraph owes everyone an apology. "The Telegraph are supporting bullying and hatred," she continued on Instagram. "If we just sit back and do nothing, then WE are supporting bullying and hatred. I'm disgusted and furious. Everyone at every size deserves to feel comfortable and good about themselves."

Nike's plus-size mannequins represent just one of many moves the brand has recently made toward inclusivity. The sportswear giant has started featuring more diversity in its ad campaigns, offering apparel in extended sizes, and it has only encouraged other major brands to follow suit.

Regardless of what the haters have to say, we know Nike will not be deterred from continuing to do what's right. It's only a matter of time before they introduce more plus-size (and para-sport) mannequins into other locations worldwide—and that's something everyone should be happy about.

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