As a dedicated Body Confidence Campaigner for almost three (count ‘em!) years now, few things shock me. I may be saddened, disheartened, surprised or disappointed, but gone are the days when I am incandescent with burning hot rage on an almost daily basis. This is good news for my blood pressure. It’s difficult to live life with that degree of anger circulating in your system and harbouring a constant suspicion that the World is unjust. That doesn’t, of course, signify that I am any less devoted to stamping out the causes of body insecurity and narrow beauty ideals, it’s simply an indication that I’m less likely to rant at high volumes for hours on end to anyone who will listen (which is a blessed relief to all my friends and family, who were collectively getting an awfully big earache circa December 2009).
However, my current calm equilibrium was shattered three days ago as I casually flipped through one of the weekly celeb glossies (ostensibly for “research”, I do PR you know darling, but actually just because, well, you know). An advertisement for a slimming aid showed the Statue of Liberty with a tape measure around her newly svelte waist. I would estimate the oh-so-familiar proportions of one of the World’s most iconic landmarks had been reduced by a total of one third.
The implications of this moronic and highly offensive advert are myriad. It suggests that paradigms of beauty are now so fixedly and utterly changed that we must go back throughout history and “correct” those who do not fit today’s super slender standards. What’s next? Will we shave a few inches from Monroe’s ample hips? Shall we decide that the Mona Lisa has too much puppy fat in her enigmatic face? Will Reuben’s paintings be eliminated from art history altogether?
Yet far more offensive than that is the idea that Libertas, the Roman Goddess of Freedom, an icon of hope in a new and exciting World should be at all concerned with the circumference of her waist. Even a mythical emblem carved in stone, it seems, cannot escape the scathing criticism of a body image obsessed civilisation.
Susie Orbach once conjectured that (to paraphrase) any woman who takes up too much space in a man’s world, who stands too rigid and proud and refuses to apologise for herself, will be put in her place by overt reference to her physical shortcomings. It seems that even the Statue of Liberty is, sadly, no exception.