SPORTSWEAR brand Nike has unveiled a fat mannequin in workout clothes. This seemingly benign act of reflecting reality has prompted a predictable flurry of bigotry and concern trolling. The most egregious was what can only be accurately described as 1000 words of poison from The Telegraph’s Tanya Gold. It’s not often that I read something so laden with vitriol that I feel concerned enough to ask, “What happened to make you write like this?”

Unless it has somehow escaped your notice, mannequins have hardly been the gold-standard representation of what an ideal body should look like. If we’re looking to shop windows for life advice, we should all be striving for the neck of a giraffe, the torso of an Olympic runner, the thigh gap of a skeleton and nipples so erect you could hang coats on them.

I’ve yet to read a polemic about the insidiousness of clothes dummies promoting unrealistic headlessness.

No, the real reason this Nike dummy is working the masses into a froth is that she is fat. Not a wee bit plus size, not “curvy” or any other euphemism – fat. And that is a word that people use as shorthand for everything that is sinful. It is everything that is to be avoided as a human being.

Research by the National Eating Disorders Association found that the average shop dummy has the body of an extremely underweight woman, and yet there was no furore about the potential impact of that ideal on women and girls. Thinness is vaunted as the epitome of our embodiment, dangerously mis-sold as a picture of happiness and health, and as a state we should all strive towards. This is a lie.

I have measured my worth by how many ribs I can count, how much flesh spills out of my bra straps, and how much daylight can pass between my thighs. I know all too well how torturous a thin body can be.

Unlike a fat body, you wear all of your problems on the inside, so people spend their time telling you how good you look, when what they really mean is thin. Every time they do this, they reinforce the bars of your own psychic prison. Using that heuristic – that thinner is better – to make a judgment about how physically or mentally well a person is, or how together their life is, is a false friend. Because when we imbue a slender frame with virtue, we fall into the trap of upholding a thin ideal despite the Trojan horse it can often be.

The open hostility to fat bodies, the revulsion hiding behind the fig leaf of “health” concerns, makes it abundantly clear that our bodies do not belong solely to us. Your visible body is public property, which means it is fair game for anyone to comment on, despite them having zero experience of living your life. The more visible your body is, the more it deviates from what is considered morally acceptable, the more opprobrium it invites. And we’re all supposed to just be OK with that.

The constant policing of women’s bodies is exhausting. Even if it is not your own body that is being policed. Whether we’re fat, thin, or anything in between we cannot escape the scrutiny.

We cannot win because we cannot be invisible. Regardless of what we are, what we strive to be, or our comfort levels in our own skin, we will always be subject to someone else’s ideology. When they see us, they see us through their own distorted lens, even if they believe they regard others with impartiality.

When I look at the Nike mannequin, I feel sorry for her.

I know that like me, and like countless other women, she’s likely trapped in a constant cycle of self-monitoring and improvement. For her, like me, her body is likely her project instead of just her vehicle for moving through life. I feel sorry knowing that however she feels about herself, however defiantly she has railed against the ridicule and the nastiness, the very fact that she exists will offend some people – people who often can’t keep their mouths shut.

I would love to see a body like mine wearing the clothes that catch my eye. I’d be thrilled to get an accurate preview instead of the disappointment that comes from seeing yourself in something cut for a size 6 and scaled up with no accounting for boobs or hips.

Having a little diversity on the shop floor will not suddenly see women unchained from a lifetime of acculturation to the thin ideal.

No-one is going to see a fat mannequin and become deaf and blind to the constant social pressure to look a certain way. It is a mannequin, not a genie. It will not magic away the war on women’s bodies.