Imagine a world where your friend says
“I can’t eat that, I’ll get fat”
and you’re natural response was not
“no, you won’t”
Imagine if we acknowledged that there are worse things than being fat. That being crippled by self-loathing, depriving yourself of the nutrients you need to survive, spending time and energy that could be better expended on living your life counting calories or locking yourself in a germ ridden, windowless cell to huff and puff on a running machine to nowhere for hours of your week in the vain hope of looking like some arbitrary, socially constructed beauty ideal is in fact a lot worse than being ‘fat’.
Imagine if you gave yourself permission to eat whatever you liked.
Imagine if you understood that a big part of the reason we overeat is because we’ve spent so long restricting ourselves and reading about the latest ‘celeb craze’ for cutting out food groups according to colour or carb content or listening to the advice of other equally confused people that we’ve forgotten to listen to our bodies, which have always known, innately, what we need.
Imagine if we didn’t wheel out the body extremes – the sixty three stone man whose confined to his bed or woman so thin she is incapable of reproducing or the deformed genitals or the cosmetic surgery gone-wrong and recreate the Victorian freak show on the small screens of our nation every single night so that we can laugh and point and ridicule the vulnerable and disillusioned, being neither educated nor encouraged to show compassion but instead sending silent thanks to the heavens that we aren’t them.
Imagine if society hadn’t made the naturally curvaceous feel so apologetic for the fact that they take up space that they feel compelled to lambast and bully the naturally slender, endlessly using the term ‘real women’ to spitefully imply an imaged sexual advantage.
Imagine if advertisers admitted that they deal in fantasy, that they’ve hijacked the ‘real woman’ label and used it to describe women who have spent seven hours in hair and makeup, had their clothes chosen by a stylist and placed under lighting strategically designed to make them look effortlessly gorgeous in a bid to persuade us that they ‘aren’t airbrushed’ and therefore we are represented.
Imagine if we didn’t spend hours of our lives pouring over pictures of famous people devoid of their slap, delighting that they too have a blemish, or scrutinising bikini pictures to search for that inch of cellulite in a bid to reassure ourselves that it is, in fact, okay to be a human being whilst at the same time being told in no uncertain terms that to be in the outside world without makeup on or wear a bikini if not anatomically ‘perfect’ will expose us to ridicule.
Imagine if the muscle wasn’t a motif of manliness. Imagine if boys were allowed to be boys and take joy in simply playing sports for the fun of it, rather than being sold lurid powders and shakes by the’ personal trainer’ they don’t need who is earning commission out of their desire to look like the digitally beefed-up images on the front of so-called ‘health’ magazines.
Imagine if we were able to grasp that teenagers today have grown up in a world where the internet invades their consciousness and bombards them with ever more-explicit information every minute of their waking life. Imagine if we spoke honestly about pornography and rather than hiding our concerns under a veneer of faux-respectability left-over from a long-gone Victorian-style sense of repression we simply said “not every woman is a size six with pneumatic implants and delights in anal sex in just the same way that not every man has a ten inch dick”.
Imagine if we were able to grasp that different races are predisposed to different body types and that if we continue to endlessly criticise men and women for not conforming to an increasingly polar and unrealistic blu-print we are, by default, racists.
Imagine if we didn’t use the term ‘disabled’ – if body difference was seen as simply that and we could comprehend the notion that someone might move, think or live in a different way and using different means to us but that does not render them inferior.
Imagine if we didn’t fear ageing. Imagine if we celebrated the wrinkle as a sign of wisdom, maturity and experience. Imagine if we didn’t pour our disposable income into injecting poison into our faces to freeze the muscles so that we can visually reclaim a time when we knew less than we did now. Imagine what it might be like for a whole generation of middle-aged women if they didn’t feel suddenly invisible and if we valued their thoughts, opinions and physical forms in the same way we did their male counterparts.
Imagine if young girls weren’t terrified into starvation at the point of entering womanhood because their stretch marks, hips and breasts were a sign of becoming a grown up and that was actually perceived as a positive thing.
Imagine if we didn’t constantly tell young girls they were ‘princesses’, thus romanticising the idea of a life spent anaesthetised against the realities of life so that they spend years fantasising about the one day they’ll spend money they can’t afford to be trussed up like a Disney character in a room full of fairy lights being told how wonderful they look all day when in fact they are making the most important legal commitment of their lives. Imagine if on that day they were actually allowed to look like the person whoever they’re committing to fell in love with, rather than the ‘princess’ they were always told they were.
Imagine if we stopped muddying the waters of conversations about body image rights with misguided notions about 'health'. Imagine if we stopped saying things like 'you shouldn't be allowed to buy a size 24 dress because you aren't healthy!' and realised that we have no idea how 'healthy' someone is based on a perfunctory visual assessment and even if we did, this would have no relevance to and therefore no impact on their right to wear stylish clothes.
Imagine if we starved of metaphorical oxygen the public figures who have made a lucrative living out of trolling the nation with their vile, elitist opinions on the sole and right way to live. Imagine if we didn’t watch them on our TV screens or tweet about our outrage and simply treated them with the contemptuous silence they deserved.
Imagine if we celebrated everyone for their uniqueness and individuality.
Imagine if we gave everyone the right to inhabit their body.
Imagine how much more we’d get done.
Imagine how liberated we’d feel.
Imagine how many of the issues which blight the lives and curtail the potential of millions of British people would magically disappear.
Yeah, I think I’d like to live in a world like that.