Saturday, 15 October 2011
Article for Necescity Hong Kong Interview
Does my bum look big in this?” “Yes, incredibly and I think you’re also at high risk of heart disease and will probably die young” said no-one. Ever. Political correctness, the notion of being fair to all people, is a trait that I believe makes the UK a wonderful place to live. But I’m left miffed that apparently being overweight requires the same sensibilities that we give to stuff like race, gender and sexuality.
Is pointing out someone’s willful ignorance towards healthy eating and the fact that it could send them careering to an early grave akin to being a huge racist?
The most recent weight loss poster child of plus-size models, Crystal Renn, has recently been under the glare of the media. Renn enjoyed a mildly successful high fashion career until she developed an almost fatal eating disorder which saw her career falter. Renn re-emerged a size 16 and became the bigger model du jour. High profile brands such as Chanel, Jean Paul-Gaultier and Dolce and Gabbanna lapped her up. Though their campaigns reeked of “look, we can do heavy girls too!” her effect on the fashion world has been impressive, not least in that she has been more than vocal on her feelings towards the size-zero debate. But whilst her recent appearance in Harpers Bazaar looking markedly slimmer was a kick in the teeth to plus-size, the reaction was just as hypocritical. Commentators and critics alike spat that her new figure was ‘disgusting’ but though the weight loss is very noticeable, it’s by no means to the degree that she campaigned so passionately against. I’m not at all surprised by the backlash because if there’s anything women are guilty of it’s slagging each other off.
Myself, I’m not big and I’m not skinny and I’m definitely squishy, I have a love/hate relationship with womens magazines, I'm nosy and embarrasingly interested in whether Jordan does secretly still love Pete, if Abbey Clancy has really done no exercise to get that post baby body, horoscopes are my guilty pleasures and yes, I read the diet pages. Comparing my body to the celebs of the world. I admire friends who boycott women’s magazines because they know without fail they’ll be brimming with contradictory shit on what weight we should be. I despise how they have kittens over the fluctuation of any female celebrities weight, with ‘skinny versus curvy’ features pitting celebs against each other like a glorified game of Top Trumps. My boyfriend complained just today that every one of the magazines littering the coffee table (approximately fifteen) were filled with the same garb. Diets. Kardashian work out tips, Geldof sisters competing to be the slimmest and shockingly quick weight loss fixes rated and slated by celebs such as Tara Reid and Tara Palmer Tompkinson. Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure they're lovely ladies, but who in their right minds aspires to resemble them?
Stories of super-model anorexia and laxative-fuelled mania backstage at fashion shows have been done to death. Of course drawing attention to the size- zero debate has done wonders in challenging body image, in particular for women of my age where eating disorders are of a frightening regularity.
But at the other end of the scale, with “skinny” scaremongering in full swing, we’re bombarded with images of women whose bodies are equally as unattainable. Women we are supposed to look towards as healthy body role models. For example, Christina Hendriks is a size 14 but she also has tits the size of my head. Many of us are just not blessed with Hendricks’ measurements and yet there’s been an onslaught of women, who to put it politely, are just a bit dumpy lauding the comeback of ‘real’ curves. Numerically, yes, Hendricks is nearer the national average (because of said huge melons) than Kate Moss. But seeing as the UK has the highest obesity rate in Europe is that necessarily a good thing?
I realise there is a drastic jump from being plus-sized to being morbidly overweight (the national average body size for a woman in Britain is 12-14, the average plus-size model is a size 10-14) but isn’t the constant hankering for ‘real’, curvy women just as irresponsible? Because, shock horror, it isn't quite that black and white. We can’t all just be bundled into one of two categories.
Fashion magazine Love was praised for featuring a starkers Beth Ditto on it’s cover. Now call me bonkers but is weighing 15 stone at 5'2 really something I should aspire too? “Yeah, you go girl! Have your menstrual abnormalities, gout and coronary heart disease, work it sexy!” But the ‘curvy’ debate doesn’t seem to be slowing, what with it being women’s magazines most popular kind of demoralising rubbish, encouraging us to constantly compare ourselves to each other. The notion of ‘real’ women is militantly backed up by interviews with your every day average Joe, (who we all are aiming to gain approval from, naturally) sheepishly saying “I love women with real curves. You know, something to grab hold off”.
Is a generation of plus-size women, clicking their heels and announcing with confidence“only real women have curves!” a good thing? If a woman is naturally slim is she less of a woman? You have a womb sure, but have you got big boobs?
The irritant himself, self-appointed spokesperson for ‘real curves’ aka Gok Wan, was at first likeable in his quest to raise the esteem of women of all shapes and sizes, the focus being on self-worth, not just waist line and bra size. I enjoy watching How To Look Good Naked, sometimes I shed a tear at the hapless woman so lacking in confidence as she is transformed into what resembles to her, the best shes looked in years. (Bear in mind I cry at Eastenders almost daily and quite a few TV advertsiements.) In hindsight Gok has descended into being the uber camp officer of an army of frivilous, over excitable, overweight morons. I would like to see an episode of How To Look Good Naked where Gok, instead of wrapping a waisted belt on every single woman he meets, uses a tape measure to see whether they are in the high-risk diabetes category. “We’re going to touch upon health and weight issues briefly as it could be an issue, in the sense that you're blood pressure is dangerously high and that after a few tests you might be diagnosed with fatty liver disease but don't worry babe! Live dangerously. You can just stick some Spank and a smock top on. Remember, its all about the confidence”.
I’m thoroughly worn out by the obsession with ‘skinny versus curvy’. Any women’s magazine will promote fad diets where you live off water and mung beans. But the same magazine will have an interview of a ‘curvy’ actress with the pull quote “I hate diets! Pass me the chocolate cake”. So which one do I pay attention to? Have we completely discarded the idea of a happy medium? Or did someone eat it?