Words: Kate Collyns

Robbed of their lives’ purpose, mannequins around Bristol seem to be quickly losing their clothes. Once a means of selling outfits, these naked ladies now seem to sell anything and everything, riding a capitalist wave that sees body parts used to shift stuff from cars to ice-cream.

When walking through a market in town the other day, I was confronted by one such lady, unclothed and tied at ankle and waist like a plastic hostage. Was this stall here promoting regular mammograms? Selling moisturiser at least? Nah, books. I decided to enquire with the bloke running the stall, to see what his reasoning was here.

What followed turned into a two-hour conversation – missed yoga, I do have a life you know – and an opportunity for Mannequin Man to share his pearls of wisdom on the broader topic of feminism. According to him, for example, women having to conform to a certain body image is the result of women-on-women pressure, evidenced by an soap advert in a 50s magazine he may have been subtly trying to flog me. Of course, 50s ad companies were notorious for being dominated by high-powered female execs, nearly all of them called Peggy (#MadMen).

He then enlightened me to the mind-blowing fact that we “all came from chimps.” Shooting down my mentions of the Civil Rights Movement, suffrage, and the legalisation of gay marriage, he asserted that society hasn’t really changed. But then maybe it hasn’t for white men, I guess? As we continued, passing lads took shifts making sexually lurid gestures toward my plastic counterpart. Sadly, he wasn’t into the connection between the normalising of this and what would happen to women on dancefloors around Bristol that same Saturday night.

It was all becoming a bit uphill. He expressed stark disinterest in the #MeToo movement, despite having two daughters. He suggested that I “go to therapy” to fix my concerns about gender relations, before recounting his childhood at a boarding school run by cruel female principals. For a guy with a lot to say, he told me more than he even realised.

Our chat ended in an amicable handshake and the potential for round two next week. Although any wins were small, it reminded this lefty that, if you’ve got the time and patience, it’s healthy to reach out to ‘the other side’. But most of all I learnt: if you see a naked mannequin tied to the corner of a book stall and you think it’s a bit creepy… That’s probably because it fucking is.