Monday, 29 November 2010

An Interesting Bit of Research

So, from a utterly pointless piece of research to a genuinely interesting one.

As we know, when it comes to paradigms of beauty, it’s usual for people to pass the buck. “Fashion shoots are forced to use size 0 models because designers make size 0 sample clothes” is a classic. The least watertight excuse, however, is the notion that thin sells. Advertisers/marketers claim they use unhealthily slender models because that is what the public want, that is what we respond to and that is what prompts us to part with our hard earned cash. We want, they claim, to quite literally buy into a fantasy World inhabited exclusively by a demographic of people who, in reality, represent less than 1% of the Global population’s natural and healthy body shape. A World in which, conveniently for them, a pair of shoes, a lipgloss, or even a kitchen utensil can offer us a gateway into the fantasy World we apparently crave – A slice of the low calorie pie.

Well, a new study recently undertaken in Australia has decisively proven this long-touted theory to be, for want of a more elegant expression, utter bollocks. Hurrah.

A huge cross section of subjects were shown adverts depicting a traditionally slender model and a plus size model showcasing identical products and were found to be just as likely to buy the item in either case. They were not off-put by the more realistic image.

So, that now means that the powers that be will now have to invent another excuse if they continue to refuse to showcase a variety of different body types in their marketing. May I suggest the following:

1. We will not use plus size models because we are lazy and wish to continue as we always have.

2. We will not use plus size models because we are actively terrified at the prospect of change.

3. We will not use plus size models for unspecified religious reasons we have been instructed not to speak about publically.

Or, my personal favourite:

4. We will not use plus size models because we are evil body facists and want any member of the public who weighs more than 7 stone to feel like crap.

More Daily Mail Related Blog Fodder

We all have a friend who insists she is 3 sizes smaller than she is, when the most brief and perfunctory of visual assessments would prove her conclusively wrong. I blame lycra. Now it is possible to shoehorn yourself into clothes that are too small and, whilst camel toes, muffin tops and other unpleasant things may result, so will the continuance of her denial. My Mum never tires of telling me how, in the 70s “we all had flat stomachs because we had to hold them in because back then you didn’t have lycra and your clothes would dig into you if you didn’t ” (yes, I hold her responsible for the fact that in year 7 at school we were asked to write an essay on what we considered to be the greatest invention of all time and whilst other people chose sensible things, like the wheel, and penicillin and freezers I chose to wax lyrical about, yep, you guessed it, lycra. Well, I don’t imagine constantly sucking your stomach in can be much fun. Especially not if the facial expressions of a lot of models are anything to go by).

The ‘shocking’ statistic unleashed on us today by the Daily Mail online confirms that 1 in 4 overweight women is in denial over her fuller figure. Probably the least shocking piece of body-related research undertaken since the revelation that airbrushing has a detrimental effect on people’s self-esteem. Although the article did, naturally, prompt a lengthy procession of people with too much time on their hands and the collective IQ of a partially crushed digestive biscuit to launch a tirade of hatred against all the terrible, obese Britons who are sending this country to ruin, causing the global recession, stealing their hamsters etc. (My favourite comment? “Women kid themselves that men find fat girls attractive, sorry ladies, but we don’t want to make love to a bouncy castle!”. My response (internal, I’ve long since given up having futile cyber discussions with Daily Mail readers) “some men DO like making love to bouncy castles, it’s quite a specific fetish, I’ll grant but people are into all sorts of things. However, there is a significant and large community of men who absolutely LOVE having sex with fat women. There are forums and club nights dedicated to it. Oh, and hey, since we’re on the subject of speaking on behalf of our respective genders, may I point out that women do NOT want to make love to pathetic losers who vent their frustration at life by going online to pointlessly fat-bash for no apparent reason?”).

There is, naturally, a fine line between being content in one’s own skin and total self-delusion. I’m all for being happy no matter what your size or shape, as well you know, blog readers. However, inhabiting a dream-like state of inverse body-dysmophia has serious implications for the individual concerned and for her social circle.

Firstly, the individual is not happy with their actual body, merely the one they believe they have. In fact, perpetuating the idea that they are happy with their figure because they are a size 12, when in reality they are a size 16, is just as damaging as being distraught at the notion of being a size 16. Secondly, say this individual I have invented goes about telling people she is a size 12. The idea of what it is to be a size 12 is rendered even more meaningless than it was already (I’m now a size minus 1 in Marks and Spencers) and potentially damaging myths are allowed to fester in the collective mind-set. For, as we know, there is nothing wrong with being a size 16. Come on ladies, let’s come out of the curvy closet.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Anti Bullying Week UK

This week is Anti Bullying Week in the UK. An excellent proposition, which few sane people would disagree with. However, what is more contentious is the notion of what ‘bullying’ actually constitutes.

Ask anyone over the age of 40, and they’ll tell you that general name calling, the odd isolated physical bashing and occasionally teacher imposed corporal punishment were not only an accepted part of their lives but also “character forming”. Similarly, ask anyone under the age of 40 whether they were ‘bullied’ at school and the answer is invariably ‘yes’, yet when probed it usually amounted to someone at school claiming they were gay, or commenting on the supposed untrendiness of their footwear. So where is the line between an individual’s sensitivity and a bullying perpetrator’s desire to inflict harm? What is bullying?

During my school days the following things occurred (in no particular order, as Dermot O’Leary would say): I was punched in the stomach for supposedly being a “lezzer”; I was sent a note saying that I was fat; a girl (whose name began with C) held me by the throat up against the lockers and told me if I ever spoke to her again she would ‘kill’ me; an incredibly racist snooty little cow (whose name began with L) chanted “your mother’s a n*gger lover” to me (in deference to my black step father) throughout the entire one hour and ten minutes of our lunch break. Also during those seven years: I got so frustrated with racist L and her ongoing taunts, I hit her over the head with a hairbrush; I grabbed C’s back pack as she was walking to assembly and told her to lay off or I’d punch her effing head in and I told another girl (whose name also began with L) that her clothes were “totally 1996” (in 1999).

Why am I recounting these trivial incidents? To prove a point. By modern standards I have both been bullied and, in fact, am a bully. Yet I would never lay claim to either of the above. Or in any way suggest that the eating disorder I suffered from for more than a decade was a result of any of these incidents. Am I being naive?

I wouldn’t wish to belittle anyone’s experience of bullying or the potentially devastating affect it can have on their lives. I fully support Bully UK and their ongoing endeavours to stamp out the presence of bullying

There is, however, one factor, something which affects all of our lives, which I can confidently claim bullies us all. I speak of the advertising industry and their insistence that one simply MUST fit a pre-decided and totally unattainable aesthetic in order to be happy. A message which is consistent, insistent and unyielding. In fact, surely this can only be described as consistent bullying inflicted on the British public. Imagine the billboards, the televisual messaging, certain glossy mags were a person. They’d be an incredibly clever sort of bully.

That’s why, once again, I’d urge anyone who reads this to go to and learn how to take a stand in keeping with Anti Bullying Week.