I'm thrilled that my latest article, "Model Behaviour: Why Mannequins Must Reflect Us", is featured as the cover story of the Fall Issue of Herizons magazine, Canada's leading feminist publication. Mannequins captured my attention back in 2010, when at Adios Barbie I reported on the inclusion of larger-sized mannequins in the lingerie section of the Australian department store Myers. Since then, my fascination with mannequins inspired me to go on a photo safari through Buenos Aires' mannequin district; invest countless hours investigating the extensive history of mannequins; create a file I continue to fill with images I've snapped of store windows from various countries; and interview fashion industry changemaker, Ben Barry. Why? Mannequins are not simply window dressing nor are they just a passive reflection of our current culture. While they do act as mirrors, I argue they are also potent tools for change:
"Triggering women’s insecurity by selling us unattainable beauty has been the golden rule for the fashion industry, but common sense begs the question: Wouldn’t sales naturally increase if consumers actually had models—both real-life models and mannequins—that looked like their own bodies? After all, meta-analyses of existing studies, such as a 2008 review by professors Shelly Grabe, L. Monique Ward and Janet Shibley Hyde, have established that repeated exposure to the thin ideal negatively impacts body image in girls and women and is a significant factor in low self-esteem and disordered eating. It’s no wonder, considering that only five percent of women actually fit this narrow ideal, as social anthropologist Kate Fox confirmed in her 1997 summary of body-image research.
Ben Barry, CEO of Ben Barry Models, presents another convincing argument for normal model sizes. Barry conducted a study involving more than 2,500 Canadian and American women of varying ethnicities, ages and sizes. He illustrated that female consumers’ purchasing intentions skyrocketed when women saw clothing featured on models that looked like them in relation to race, age and size. Further, he found that women’s intentions to purchase actually decreased when they couldn’t identify with the model. Out of the three variables, size generated the most extreme results. When models were the same size as the consumer, their intention to purchase rose over 200 percent; for women greater than a size 6, that number shot up to 300 percent. On the flip side, purchase intentions dropped 60 percent and 76 percent, respectively, when the model did not reflect the consumer’s size.
These results run completely contrary to the insecurity-inducing business model to which the beauty and fashion industries almost religiously adhere. As Barry wrote for Elle magazine in 2012, 'While some women in my study felt insecure when they saw idealized models, their insecurity didn’t translate to purchase intentions as the industry hopes; it actually turned them off the product.' As one of the participants summarized, 'Ads like this want us to be part of their world, but they have the opposite effect for me. I feel excluded'.
If making women feel lousy about their bodies doesn’t boost sales, why do it?"...
Why, indeed. I further explore the evolution of mannequins, and how activists and governments alike are becoming increasingly more aware of the power "dummies" wield. You can read the entire article online here but only the print version includes the images (©Fashion Crimes & ©Sharon Haywood). If you're based in Canada find out where you can buy the magazine. Otherwise, you can order a subscription, or even purchase single digital copies.
Sharon grew up in a suburb of Toronto, Canada and earned undergraduate degrees in Psychology (B.Sc.) and Exceptionality in Human Learning (B.A.) at the University of Toronto. In her last year of study, she was a regular guest on the radio program Life Rattle where she orated several of her short stories, many of which addressed body image and violence against women. After graduation she devoted her energies to a career in social work, in roles that included supporting families and individuals with intellectual and physical handicaps, co-facilitating eating disorder support groups, and acting as a literacy assessor and educator for homeless women. Upon reaching burnout, she decided to re-evaluate her professional goals via traveling, studying alternative healing arts, and writing.
Sharon grew up in a suburb of Toronto, Canada and earned undergraduate degrees in Psychology (B.Sc.) and Exceptionality in Human Learning (B.A.) at the University of Toronto. In her last year of study, she was a regular guest on the radio program Life Rattle where she orated several of her short stories, many of which addressed body image and violence against women. After graduation she devoted her energies to a lengthy career in social work, in roles that included supporting families and individuals with intellectual and physical handicaps, co-facilitating eating disorder support groups, and acting as a literacy assessor and educator for homeless women. Upon reaching burnout, she decided to re-evaluate her professional goals via traveling, studying alternative healing arts, and writing. After backpacking throughout Mexico, Southeast Asia, and much of South America, she found her second home in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was there she committed herself to writing. She studied the craft, joined a writer's group (Thursdays@Three), and experimented with various styles of fiction and non-fiction, which led to her participation as an author, editor, and presenter at the International Book Fair in Buenos Aires in 2008 and 2009 representing the US Embassy.
Today, she is a freelance writer and editor who has worked with a wide variety of subjects, including but not limited to medicine, web design, the American justice system, wind technology, anthropology, psychology, and the English and Spanish languages. She has authored textbooks and several online courses for colleges and universities throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Latin America. From authoring white papers to copy editing university-level exams, from ghostwriting for bestselling authors to development editing quarterly and annual reports, Sharon's experience is far-reaching.
She especially enjoys combining her love of the written word with her passion for body image activism and feminism. She regularly writes for Herizons, Canada's leading feminist magazine, and most recently, has contributed to Fifty Shades of Feminism (Virago), an anthology of "fifty women young and old - writers, politicians, actors, scientists, mothers - [who] reflect on the shades that inspired them and what being woman means to them today."
Since 2009, she has been co-editor for AdiosBarbie.com, a website that promotes healthy body image and identity for people of all sizes, ages, races, cultures, abilities, and sexual identities and orientations, and a virtual member of the London-based AnyBody team, part of the international movement Endangered Bodies. Sharon's work with AnyBody inspired her to organize Endangered Species: Preserving the Female Body in Buenos Aires, one of five international summits held in March 2011. Subsequently, she founded AnyBody Argentina, the Buenos Aires chapter of Endangered Bodies, which fights against sizeism and promotes healthy body image for Argentine girls and women, issues that Sharon writes about in both English and Spanish. Since January 2013, Sharon has been a member of the Global Advisory Board for the Dove Self-Esteem Project.Close
Published in March 2013, Sharon contributes "Owning the F-word" to this anthology of "fifty women young and old - writers, politicians, actors, scientists, mothers - [who] reflect on the shades that inspired them and what being woman means to them today."