I’ve recently turned 39, and while I’m certainly smaller than I’ve been for 15 years, I’m certainly not small, at still a generous size 16. And while I’ve probably felt fat for nigh on 30 years, I’m the least bothered about it I’ve ever been. And I’ll come on to why that might be shortly. But a conversation with a friend recently about his 14 year old daughter got me thinking, and then got me angry.
It’s not news that, in the last 20 years or so, what we’ve considered a ‘normal’ body shape has changed dramatically, at both ends of the spectrum, which are either really thin (with optional big knockers (the one you want to be) or fat (the one you don’t want to be). We seem to have lost a sense of diversity and balance. And what’s really interesting/slash depressing, is that a body civil war seems to have broken out, in which both sides seem hell bent on diminishing the other.
In the fat camp, people are convinced that ‘real women have curves’, ‘men prefer women with a bit of meat on their bones’ and ‘no-one wants to lie next to a bag of bones all night’. Common thread here is that men prefer more generously appointed bodies.
In the thin camp, we hear that larger women are disgusting, should be banned from wearing swimwear, take up too much space on public transport and should pay more for clothes.
Actually, there is a third way – the extremely fit/toned body. This camp says that strong is the new skinny, that strong is sexy.
And you know what really makes me rage about this, is that mainly, it’s all a load of bollocks and it takes women away from doing things that are more important, like wondering why we get paid less than men, why we still do the majority of child care, why there is only one female CEO of a FTSE100 company, why Cameron has a front bench with NO women on it etc.
It reduces the value of women not to what we can do or what we say, but to what we look like, and the value of what we look like is based on our perceived attraction to men. To this I say, what a load of bollocks.
Some men like thinner women. some men like curvier women, some men like athletic women, some men like all women and some men don’t like women at all. So can we agree going forward that our value is not in our body shape but about our brains? Our sense of humour? Our quick wit and love of puns? Our ability to be a good listener and be kind and bake cakes? Our love of films and going to the pub? Our knowledge of Star Wars films? Our ability to run fast or lift weights? Our obsession with expensive notebooks? In short, the million quirks and qualities that make us interesting, different and us, rather than someone else.
I’m bored, irritated and enraged by the mud-slinging and the unhelpful comparisons and the ‘this is what a woman should look like but that isn’t’ – whatever direction that’s going in. Give it a rest and give us some credit, we’re more than our hip measurement.