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June 8, 2006

The Wingnut Mannequins


Maybe the culture war’s “battle of the week” was slated for Washington, but it seems Boston saw a lot more of a showdown.

The AP reported Wednesday (via Huffington Post) that an anti-gay rights group in Boston had intimidated Macy’s into removing two store-window mannequins honoring the 2006 Boston Pride event.  Given that Bush and Frist arranged a (failed) Senate vote on an anti-gay marriage amendment this week, this story couldn’t be more timely.  As well, the visuals (and the attendant mindset) are just too fascinating not to offer to The BAG community for deconstruction (and also, a little blow back).

What I’ve done is borrow the photos from the Mass Resistance website, and then reproduce their captions (poor grammar, and all) onto the sticky notes.


Sure, there are some obvious points that stand out (if, you’ll excuse the pun).  For example, the homophobes didn’t realize that the so-called “dress” happened to be a gay rights flag.  (Of course, any symbolic play would be completely lost on smaller minds, wouldn’t it?)


Also, isn’t it fascinating how threatened these people are that men actually have nipples?

Mostly though, I’m just dying to hear your interpretation of the assumptions, cultural codes and even fashion norms that cause these people to find the second set of mannequins so “normal” (and those shirts “normal,” besides).

And then, what about Macy’s in all this?  Did I hear someone say “backlash?”

(Mass Resistance follow-up here.  Besides gloating pic of empty window, this page offers Macy’s contact information for counter-complaints.)


  • SLJ

    I don’t have time to comment on the pictures themselves at the moment, but for some (much needed) additional background on this topic please see:

  • Ksue

    They find the second set of mannequins “normal” because they are all pasty white and brainless. Just like they are.
    They find the second set of shirts “normal” because they’re conformingly butt-ugly. Just like they are.

  • Marysz

    The “normal” male mannequins in the men’s department are headless, legless, white and immobile. Their hands either hang limply by their sides or are passively tucked behind their backs. Many of the shoppers in department store mens’ departments are actually women (like myself) buying clothes for their shopping averse husbands, fathers, boyfriends or sons. Could the passive, non-threatening headless torsos actually be for the benefit of female customers wearily sorting through endless stacks of Dockers?
    The men pictured in the window have complete bodies. Their skin coloring reflects America’s racial diversity and they stand in postures that imply strength and mobility. The visible nipples on the men reflects a similar trend in women’s mannequins towards more anatomical realism and overt sexuality. The men who complained about the men’s nipples probably have no objections to seeing them on female mannequins.

  • Tony

    The mannequins have a defensive yet confident stance and expression and look like real people. This cannot be tolerated by the bigots because they are now confronted by the “gay” that they are trying to dehumanize. The fact that they succeeded in making Macy’s take the “gay” away is sad at best and despicable at worst. Macy’s made a huge mistake and I hope they are made to pay for it finacially through loss of customers. Macy’s should restore the mannequins and issue an apology immediately.

  • Technocracygirl

    Gosh, I figured that the mannequins in the window had more defined breasts because they were wearing tighter, more fitted shirts than the in-store mannequins. That, plus the lighting could easily create the differences.

  • Mark Denney

    ok, call me crazy but I think the dudes in the picture are actually real people, not mannequins.

  • limapup

    I’m with Mark Denney: the mannequins look like they are actually people.

  • ummabdulla

    I’d have to see the normal set of mannequins wearing the same clothes to really compare, but those ones on the top do seem to have figures like young women just reaching puberty. The breasts and nipples are set up by the position and lighting, but they seem to have pulled the shirts tight around the waists to accentuate small waists, too.

  • Will

    How despicable that Macy’s legitimized the hate mongering by pulling the figures.

  • donna

    Sigh. One more store to take off my shopping list. Not that I ever shopped there anyway, considering how ugly all the clothes are.

  • Lighkeeper

    Wow. Look ma, the crazies are it at again!!
    A number of interesting points: first, (most) gay men are more narcissistic than most. Considering that that is who Macy’s is marketing to here, it helps explain why these mannequins have been ’sexualized’, ie. made real, in this display. What Ummabdulla points out – that they look like preadolescent girls – is pretty accurate: the smaller the waist the better, allowing gay men to wear such tight fitting clothes etc.
    I suspect there are two reasons for this obsession with their bodies: one, because gay men see other men as actual sexual beings (whereas even now our society largely insists women are the only ones to be objectified). The second is because, a la the underprivileged blacks (with their astonishingly high self-esteem), and as a subjugated minority, their bodies (as representative of their ’selves’) become infinitely more important than they are to your average joe.
    Homophobic straight men (even simply ’straight men’ without the loaded adjective), and conservative homophobes in particular, are threatened by the idea that men can actually be sexual beings as well – which goes against always and only sexualizing the ‘other’ (in this case female). Apart from the fact that almost all Republicans seem to be in the closet, I suspect this is one reason why they can’t stand these pictures. The idea that they might be turned on by a man is frightening to behold. (This may also help to explain why, by and large, the men in straight porn are usually hideously ugly. God forbid if, in a moment of ecstacy, one’s eye roves toward the man rather than the female!)
    The headless mannequins then, inevitably become ‘normal’. Headless, and thus faceless, they become things standing for beings.

  • CommiePinkoScum

    I’m impressed at how life-like the mannequins are. I don’t think they’re real people because the bodies seem to be almost exactly alike in every way, except color and the faces. It’s pretty reductionist but I think anti-gay people are uncomfortable seeing a literal face put on the issue of homosexuality. When it’s a headless formless shape holding up a polo shirt, it’s much easier to objectify than a real person, or what looks like a real person.

  • Chuck

    “For example, the homophobes didn’t realize that the so-called “dress” happened to be a gay rights flag. (Of course, any symbolic play would be completely lost on smaller minds, wouldn’t it?)”
    Well, unless that symbolic play happens to be with the American flag. Then we have to fall all over ourselves to make sure there’s a Constitutional amendment which lets us use that symbol for *our* political purposes, but not others.

  • Asta

    It turns out that Mannequins are an interesting search subject. You can find your average types (Kohls, Sears, Burdines) starting at $300, or you can get really carried away and visit Rootsteins.
    Their mannequins look very alive, and they don’t give a price, which hints that — if you have to ask –
    The mannequins at Macys are so artistically divine, I can’t begin to guess the price of each piece. There is an artist in Charleston SC creating such works starting at $35,000 each, but I don’t know if Macy’s is into the art market. But those two mannequins look much like the creations of that artist. They seem so alive, you can’t help but want to reach out and touch their perfection. Maybe even caress, like I did at the gallery. Bad me.
    As an artist born into an generationally artistic family, I suggest that everyone should attend a live nude model session and do a charcoal sketch and get over the psychotic fears of seeing a naked human being. It would do the soul good.
    Too bad Macys pulled the display. It was a work of art. Probably at a bargain, too.

  • Kerstin

    After reading the MassResistance site, what I’m left with is “How dare anyone take PRIDE in being gay!” Given the fact that Boston is still a segregated town, maybe there’s a racial component to their fury. After all, it wasn’t long ago when races weren’t allowed to intermingle, let alone marry. Astonishing how little it takes for these big corporations to cave when hatred comes calling.

  • Lighkeeper

    Not hatred, Kerstin. MONEY.

  • Cactus

    I just sent Macy’s an email chastising them for their cowardice, so my creativity quota has been used up for the day.
    When, oh when, are people like Kazan and Macy’s going to get it that people like ‘article8′ are a very tiny collection of 3-year-olds who have learned to scream very, very loudly.
    Lighkeeper brings up some good points. Many men these days (not necessarily husbands) do their own shopping, so having these mannequins asexual may be to put them at ease. Most women I know, if presented with ‘real’ mannequins like the picture, would have a lot to say, and it wouldn’t be asexual.
    When all the fuss came up about gays in the military, ‘the girls in my office’ thought it was hillarious: here were a bunch of men terrified that other men would objectify them the way THEY had always objectified women. Then there are all those Hollywood ‘buddy movies’ where they are both banging the same girl, when it’s obvious they are more interested in each other. Gay by proxy. Maybe that’s what ‘article8′ is really afraid of. You must admit they are obsessed with gays. There must be a reason for that.

  • tuffy

    How interesting that the Mass Resistance looks exactly like a gay issues blog. It’s bright pink, fer chrissakes, and filled with photos of gay people and events. It’s only upon actually reading the text that one confirms that it in fact is a wingnut site.
    What kind of priggish reactionary do you have to be to get worked up over the fact that some mannequins don’t look enough like the other, “normal,” mannequins?
    I can’t help but look at the “normal” mannequins in the last photo and be stoutly reminded of the stupid, loud, obnoxious, sweaty, drunk asshole frat-boys who work the bar circuit downtown near campus. They favor exactly that sort of gaudy, tasteless polo shirt–typically matched up with one of those stupid fucking puka-shell necklaces and a filthy baseball cap. The shirts fit those “normal” mannequins exactly as they fit the frat-boys–dumpy and shapeless. All the better to help conceal a premature beer gut.
    By contrast, the gay mannequins are dressed rather well for so casual a style. Their shirts are perfectly proportioned and flattering. Of course, it helps if one’s body is flawless. Though I don’t know why they’re dressed like that for June in Boston. Their dress seems much more appropriate for the beaches of Fire Island.
    I think the gay mannequins look as though they know they’re being talked about by the wingnuts, and that their body language expresses the appropriate disdain and willful, open defiance. “Go ahead. Just try me.”
    I know it’s mostly a function of the store’s fluorescent lighting and the camera’s flash, but the atmosphere evoked by the latter photo screams “discount store.” When I look at it I am practically assaulted by the imagined smell of cheap shoes–rubber and inferior leather. Wal-mart, K-mart, Shopko…the clothing departments of these places are always dominated by the acrid odor of the cheap shoes in the shoe department. And in my own version of reality, cheap discount stores are primarily the domain of the worst kind of red-state, redneck living cliche.

  • steve talbert

    I think it’s interesting that macy’s also got rid of the web address at the same time as the mannequins. The phobes didn’t like the ‘gay’ mannequins because it reminds them how overweight, tired and unattractive they are to woman and themselves. It isn’t hate, it is envy and the fact that they find themselves attracted to the mannequins (going on about young girls). Too bad they can’t spend 50 years in prison.

  • readytoblowagasket

    The funny (as in sad-funny) thing is, Macy’s is so *GAY.* Closeted apparently, but gay nonetheless. Otherwise they wouldn’t have supported a Gay Pride window in the first place.

  • hauksdottir

    Window-dressing is an artform. The most expensive and expressive and edgy models will be used to lure customers into the store. Boring storefronts don’t attract customers!
    The comment about not finding other male mannequins such as these internally shows that the wingnut writer failed to properly research the displays. Were the female models in the window also perky and lively compared to the ones in the various departments? Were their nipples obvious? Waists tiny? Was the lighting dramatic and designed to enhance their femininity?
    Were these models brand new for this promotion, or have they been used for months/years showcasing swimsuits and businesswear… unnoticed.
    How about other (more fashionable) stores? Best mannequins up front and cheaper ones back with the sweaters and bathrobes?
    What if those were two smart, sexy, fashionable female mannequins advertising gay pride? Would the wingnuts still feel threatened enough to pressure Macy’s? Or would they stand in the street slobbering at the thought of lesbian love?
    I’ve certainly seen enough mannequins with nipples to not pay much attention. After 3 1/2 years of life drawing, I know the difference between flesh and plastic. Expressive hands and body language catch my eye, but plastic, no matter how perfect, doesn’t threaten my sexuality. I really have to wonder what these people fear. (And driving all that hatred must be unfathomable fear.)
    Meanwhile, I can’t believe they are selling that hideous green shirt for $40! I wouldn’t use it to polish the furniture. :sheesh!:

  • jt from BC

    Apologies to Lighkeeper the US Military et al for incorrectly posting this on Give Me The Largest Frame You’ve Got.
    Lighkeeper opines “A number of interesting points: first,(most)gay men are more narcissistic than most”
    *than most*-are you referring to heterosexual males. If so how do arrive at that conclusion
    {narcissistic-characteristic of those having an inflated idea of their own importance}
    As a ’straight man’ a few friends and acquaintances (non gay) impress me as abundantly endowed with this characteristic of self, some use it subtly to verbally intimate while others if appropriately challenged verbally will resort to physically intimidation.
    Could you mean that heterosexual men are more covert in expressing their narcissism.? I have straight and gay friends/acquaintance’s but particular enjoy those who are defined in category # 4
    I understand some of your points but as a former sailor your light in other areas does not shine all that brightly for me.
    Other possible definitions to contemplate
    1. Excessive love or admiration of oneself.
    2. A psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self esteem.
    3. Erotic pleasure derived from contemplation or admiration of one’s own body or self, especially as a fixation on or a regression to an infantile stage of development development.
    4. The attribute of the human psyche characterized by admiration of oneself but within normal limits.– The Free Dictionary-BY FARLEX (online)

  • kiku

    how sad and small minded to pull these mannequins.
    i worked my butt off painting these. we took great pains to make these realistic, artist and beautiful in our manufacture, Rootsteins makeup artist

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