Content warning: this article contains discussions around weight gain/loss and diet culture, and direct quotes that include weight critique.
On January 6th, journalist Isabel Oakeshott tweeted her opinion about a curvy mannequin wearing an athleisure outfit in the Fabletics store window on Regent Street. Since, her tweet has received nearly 13,000 replies - many of which condemn her words as harmful "fat shaming." One quietly defiant reply has gone viral - here's the story.
Oakeshott's tweet read (warning: weight critique): "This, in a Regent St fitness store, is what obesity looks like. Flabby curves highlighted in hideous lime green velour. The so-called “body positivity” movement is not “inclusive”, it’s dangerous." Her tweet shows a photo of a mannequin wearing a matching lime green workout set: leggings, a sports bra, and a puffer jacket.
This, in a Regent St fitness store, is what obesity looks like. Flabby curves highlighted in hideous lime green velour. The so-called “body positivity” movement is not “inclusive”, it’s dangerous. pic.twitter.com/OjWcGaYtNS
— Isabel Oakeshott (@IsabelOakeshott) January 6, 2022
When Sophia Tassew saw the tweet, she replied with an Instagram post - and the internet exploded with support. Tassew, who is a content creator, curve model, and jewellery designer, decided to buy the outfit.
"I bought the dangerous outfit! how do I look? 🏋🏾♀️," wrote Tassew in her caption. She posted a mirror selfie modelling the mannequin's exact look, winking confidently, next to Oakeshott's Tweet for maximum effect:
Tassew's Instagram post already has 20,000 likes and counting, not to mention upwards of 30,000 retweets. Singer and actor Cynthia Erivo wrote, "Green is my favourite colour!! You wear it well!! ❤️," while BBC presenter Clara Amfo replied, "F**king fantastic."
Felicity Hayward and Tess Holliday dropped heart eyes emojis in the comments, and countless others left messages of support.
So what prompted Tassew to speak up? Talking to Cosmopolitan UK, she shared, "When I saw Isabel's Tweet of course I felt a way about it, but it gets to a point where you get used to seeing such comments. I've spent so much time on and offline having discussions about how and why fatphobia should be dismantled, but I'm at a place now where I just want to be at peace."
She continued, "I genuinely thought the outfit Isabel shared looked incredible and I wanted it for myself. I had already moved past the words she had said about larger bodies. I just wanted some new leggings. Instead of writing the think piece I had already thought of in my head I just thought, just buy the outfit."
And why is it resonating with people so strongly? Tassew added, "It's a selfie of me in the mirror winking, but it says a thousand words. It was important for me to have the cheekiest and happiest look on my face, I wanted to show that I am absolutely content with who I am and what I look like. I don't have to say anything to prove a point. People have to deal with that.
"I have a constantly evolving relationship with fitness and reviewing activewear, I genuinely love moving, getting stronger and seeing how my body can adapt and grow. Having workout gear that fits all body types is the bare minimum but I'm glad we are slowly making progress."
Those siding with Oakeshott seem to think that encouraging any sort of size inclusivity in clothing (i.e., putting a curve mannequin in a shop window) is "promoting obesity," so where's the balance? The NHS warns that obesity can increase health risks such as Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke, and therefore it encourages people to pursue "realistic goals" in pursuit of health. However, the NHS also notes on its website that "the healthcare professionals involved with your care should provide encouragement and advice." Key word there: encouragement.
Dr. Joshua Wolrich, an NHS Doctor and Registered Associate Nutritionist, spoke to Cosmo about the harms of weight-stigma, pointing out that the full picture of someone's health simply cannot be determined by weight or body shape alone. "Weight-stigma literally kills people; it has to be called out and condemned in the strongest fashion. Exercise is for everyone, regardless of their size... Your weight does not define your health. Never has and never will do."
One could argue that brands not creating suitable exercise clothing for all bodies is a form of weight stigma - the exact thing that health workers like Dr. Wolrich are trying to combat. Kate Bottley tweeted a thoughtful point:
Yes you do and it’s an amazing achievement. All shapes and sizes can be beautiful and fit shouldn’t mean thin. Strong is what’s important. My point wasn’t about individuals; it was about corporate messaging. Hope that clarifies
— Isabel Oakeshott (@IsabelOakeshott) January 9, 2022
And Oakeshott replied to Bottley, saying that her original tweet "wasn’t about individuals; it was about corporate messaging." But still - we're happy to see brands create clothing that fits the true range of shapes and sizes out there, because exercise is for everyone. So arguably, that corporate messaging is... a positive thing?
Dr. Wolrich finished, "Let’s make 2022 a year of pursuing health-promoting behaviours without judging their success by the number of the scales; I guarantee it’s one of the best things you could do.” Now that's a goal we can get behind.
Some quotes have been shortened for clarity.
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