What is the average size of America?

With holiday shopping in full swing, it is no wonder department stores are under criticism. I am not just talking about the misleading sales or messy changing rooms, but mannequins. Recently an article was published by Huffington Post explaining a comment made by a user on Reddit that used strong and harsh views against a newer model of mannequins found in stores lately.


“Anyone else horrified that they make obese mannequins too now?” a user of Reddit said.


This short yet gripping post has received a lot of attention and generated around 1,400 comments debating the accuracy of mannequin size. Huffington Post goes on to give multiple examples of instances where mannequins have caused a disturbance among shoppers.


“J.C. Penney has made a point of providing clothing for people of all sizes to snatch business from nearby Macy’s,” New York Times writer Cinta Wilson said, as noted in the Huffington Post article. “To this end, it has the most obese mannequins I have ever seen and they probably need special insulin-based epoxy injections just to make their limbs stay on.”


Wilson’s article was written after J.C. Penney started the use of larger scale mannequins back in 2009 and leaves nothing to the imagination about her views on what the plastic bodies should look like.


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third (35.7 percent) of U.S. adults are obese. With that percentage slowly creeping up, it is true that stores need to create products available to different groups of people. Those that were upset at the large-scaled figurines revolved their frustration around the idea that it was honoring an unhealthy lifestyle.


However, the negative attention of mannequin size does not just reflect upon obese sizes. Over the past decade there have been many debates about whether or not stores should be allowed to model clothing items on mannequins with sizes between 0-2. The reasoning is that it promoted anorexia, the opposite side to the unhealthy lifestyle spectrum.


According to the New York Daily News, there was an instance in 2011 when Gap was strongly criticized for using an “anorexic-looking mannequin” to promote their ‘Always Skinny’ Denim. The legs were elongated and disproportionate to the rest of the body, creating the ultimate Barbie physique.


However, looking at the two separate arguments, this only raises one question of debate for me: why can’t Americans just make up their minds?


Society is glorifying a plastic body in hopes to justify their own body type. Let’s be completely honest. People in America today come in all different shapes and sizes. Mannequins cannot be an average size, because among American people we do not have an average size.


The real underlying issue in this ongoing problem about whether or not mannequins should be a size 0 or a size 14, demonstrates the insecurity shoppers face when viewing clothing items.


“Walking into a store and seeing nice clothes on a mannequin that has a body type similar to your own could be a huge boost for self-esteem, but it might also backfire,” body image expert and assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School Jennifer Thomas said. “A lot of fashion is aspirational, such that people hope they will look like the mannequin if they buy the clothes. In our society, most people would rather be thin than obese.”


Retailers have been hesitant towards the use of plus-sized mannequins for this very reason. People would rather be thin than obese and viewing clothing on a larger scale could prevent interest for buyers.


If the same amount of time and energy spent on debating the size of a plastic doll were spent on helping others live a healthy lifestyle, the number of anorexic and obese citizens would decrease. I do not think the influence of looking at a mannequin should create in anyone a life altering health problem. Our society has become very desensitized to what a national problem really is if we are concerned with how our clothes are displayed before we even purchase them.