Dear JC Penney~
A few days ago I was in your store and one of your women’s mannequins in the center aisle was wearing a pair of your “super-skinny” jeans. It was a staggering image that truly disturbed me. The legs on the mannequin were not just “super-skinny”, they were extraordinarily, shockingly thin. So thin, that the mannequin’s leg was the same size as my arm! So thin, that it made me stop, take a picture, and discuss it with my family, and not one of us could figure out who these pants were for.
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”.
Super-thin images of unrealistic "perfection" are everywhere 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. The long term effects of bombarding girls with messages that say "you are not OK as you are” can include low self-esteem, body dysmorphia , problems with trust and relationships, anxiety, depression and other mood disruptions, self-medication with alcohol and other drugs, eating disorders, seeking external validation and suicide attempts.
According to a recent study, 81% of ten-year-old girls are afraid of being fat and adolescent girls were more fearful of gaining weight than getting cancer, nuclear war or their parents dying. I take no issue with skinny jeans or skinny people. I love fashion and I recognize how important it is to keep yourself at a healthy weight. This is not about body diversity or fashion trends. This is about a major retailer choosing to advertise with unrealistic portrayals of the human body. This was not a "thin" mannequin, it was two malnourished poles with jeans on them, and I refuse to encourage retailers to SELL this image to our children.
I posted that picture on my Facebook page and was overwhelmed by the responses I received. I think my absolute favorite was the simple comment, "Legs are bigger than arms, people. Just be comfortable in your own skin." I couldn't have said it better myself, JC Penney. What about you?
You have made some lovely and generous gestures towards families lately, however I would much prefer that you consider the size and proportion of the mannequins you use to market your clothing so that my children feel good about themselves on the inside rather than having a snazzy free haircut making them look good on the outside.
Dae C. Sheridan
Mother of Two
Board Certified Clinical Sexologist
Certified Rehabilitation Counselor
Professor of Human Sexuality