Mannequins are meant to give shoppers a general sense of what a store’s clothes might look like on a human body. But at department store JCPenney, the mannequins are sending a different message. They are so outrageously thin that one woman actually stopped to take a picture comparing the mannequin’s leg to her own arm. It was about the same size:
Dae C. Sheridan, a psychotherapist, professor, and mother of two, was so disturbed by the unrealistic body image portrayed by the JCPenney mannequins that she wrote a letter asking the company to change its sizing. “Super-thin images of unrealistic ‘perfection’ are everywhere,” Sheridan wrote, “and lead healthy, beautiful girls to feel ‘less than.’ That internalized pressure, stress and shame leads to irrational thoughts about their bodies and a decreased sense of self-worth”:
Now, I realize that lots of people have, and will continue to walk on by, unfazed by that same mannequin. Maybe it’s because they are busy with their back-to-school shopping, maybe it’s because they are more focused on other things… but my greatest fear is that nobody notices because of the way the media, retailers such as yourselves, and popular magazines portray the female body.
Nobody notices because of the saturation of an unrealistic thin-ideal and beauty standard in our culture which teaches girls and women to attempt to “achieve” impossible proportions. People walk by, faced with emaciated chic and famine fashion, because sadly, this is becoming our “new normal”.
The term “skinny jeans” is already fraught with critique of body-image, forcing women to assess whether they are, in fact, “skinny” enough to wear the pants. And it’s not just adults who are marketed into this self-ridicule. Such products are pitched to young girls, who increasingly suffer body image problems. According to JustThink.org, “The number one magic wish for young girls age 11-17 is to be thinner,” and 80 percent of 10 year-old girls in the United States say they have been on a diet.
And, morals aside, it may be in JCPenney’s business interests to change their mannequins. The Girl Scouts released a report revealing that 81 percent of girls would rather see unedited images of models, and 75 percent “would be more likely to buy clothes they see on ‘real-size models’ than on super-skinny ones.”