Friday, 20 August 2010

A weighty issue: Signs of a neurotic culture!

I wrote this piece some time ago, on my original blog. Anyway, I felt that this subject needs to be addressed properly, if we are to value people for who they are rather then the size and shape of their body, so here is a revised article.

I took the above photo from the web site of one of our more trashy tabloids. Those papers love to carry endless features on women’s bodily issues. But, I like this image as it really puts into perspective the fact that no matter what shape a woman is, she can still be radiant and beautiful.

The media have an almost neurotic fixation on body size, and through the power of the sick, ‘celebrity,’ culture that predominates these days, many women are lead to believe that only by having a certain look and body appearance, will happiness, success and fame be possible. So we are treated to the ghastly spectacle of images of paper-thin women (and it’s usually women), who look like they have existed on a starvation diet for the past 6 months, paraded before our eyes

When I originally posed this piece, I received an interesting comment from someone who has the opposite problem, she is underweight, and she felt I was criticising thin women in general. I wasn’t of course, and as a ‘thinny,’ myself I know well, the problems those of us who are underweight, can go through. I am saying that weight, not matter what size we are, should never, ever have any bearing on how we perceive someone.

I have not the slightest interest in celebrities, but even I cannot avoid them always. I saw a copy of the Radio Times a few months ago, which carried a photo of the singer Cheryl Cole on its cover. As she appeared so underweight, I thought it was to advertise a programme about women’s health issues, before reading that she was to be featured in an entertainment programme. Many impressionable females will look up to Ms Cole and her like with almost god like reverence.

Here is another photo; its subject is the present holder of the Miss America Beauty (?) Contest. Whatever ones views are on such events, I would hope this photo will induce a feeling of unease within you. Unease that it has to come this, that a human being, who is clearly unwell, could be celebrated and rewarded in such a manner. What this person needs is someone with a kind heart to take her aside and tell her that she doesn’t have to risk her health to such a degree, to gain approval.

Such images of women are a symptom of a society fixated on very limited definitions of beauty; and where celebrity and materialism win out over sanity, compassion and indeed reality. Everywhere we go nowadays, we are assailed by images of thin, bean pole shaped females, who are displayed for their so called ‘sexual appeal.’

The media is full of such images, images that send out all of the wrong messages to young women out there. We’ve all seen and read reports of the problems many girls suffer, with eating disorders. How we, as a so-called mature society, can tolerate such madness, let alone celebrate it, is beyond me!

The fashion industry must shoulder much of the blame for encouraging such negative behaviour amongst women. And for encouraging the notion amongst thousands of vulnerable young girls that thin is good! They excuse their use of anorexic models, by claiming that their clothes hang, so much better on thin women, and that women ‘like looking at images of thinner females.’ I read an article in the Independent newspaper a while ago, where the writer was arguing similar points to those raised here. He went on to suggest that magazines like Vogue should be shut down, on grounds of gross indecency!

It’s time now that we stopped applauding such images of women, that we stopped buying fashion magazines, and that we vocalised our disgust at the way, the female body has been hijacked by popular culture! It isn’t just that such images are responsible for an outbreak of anorexia, amongst a generation of young women, but such emphasis on excessive thinness does nothing for the coincidence of most of the female population. I don’t think I have ever met a single woman who has been 100% happy with her body! I can well understand why. If as men we were subjected to such a narrow defined ideal of what is considered as desirable, then we too would suffer from inferiority complexes. At last these who


  1. I read this earlier and before, I've a different perpective on this. I read .G. B=Greer's whole woman and Simone De Bauvoir and many other feminist texts as part of my dissertation in my research about Dicken's portrayal of women. I don't blame the media, or Dickens or any other person, just individuals and their self obsession. I can be self obsessed but I have qualities and I think my best qualities are my intelligence and creativity. I attract people with that. Not my looks, although I think I look fine. I looked different when I was younger, I will look different when I'm older. I don't read magazines, I appreciate the images in the media are of YOUNG women and YOUNG men; like I said I looked different when I was young. I also don't really follow fashion so I don't look at pictures of that either. I see women's bodies on the beach and at the swimming pool and I'm bigger that some and slimmer than others. I don't think they look 'better' just different. I know my other half finds me attractive and my kids think I look lovely and tell me so, as do my parents and friends. I was 9 stone when I had my first baby at 20 and I'm 13 stone now, so I suppose I've put on 2 pounds a year! I lost three stone a few years ago, by starving and running I sit, listen, watch, stay calm and eat nice food! Fatter? or just real? I think I'll go for the latter.

  2. Hi John, I don't have a problem with my body image. As I've got older, I have become heavier - I'm currently size 16, the national average. The only thing that bothers me is when some of my old favourites in the wardrobe no longer fit me! No worries - off to the charity shop I go. I give them 3 bags full and bring one bag full of bigger 'new' stuff! An interesting piece. SueXXX

  3. Hello Frugal. I hope I haven't caused offence here! I just wanted to set down some feelings I have about the whole issue of what is defined as 'the right look.' I've know many females who have suffered from a lack of confidence due to exposure to countless images of thin woman and which subliminally equate thinness with glamour and success

    I do feel hat the media influence many people who may not be as aware as you are. We all know that so called celebrity culture has a magnetic appeal to many people, especially the young, that is why there are so many magazines devoted to their antics. And why so many young females want to have body modifications. I recently heard one young girl on TV, saying that she wanted to look like Cheryl Cole!

    Hello Sue. Good to hear that size isn't as issue with you at all. As you say size 16 is the national average, and a very good one too, in my view. Thank goodness more people are now starting to rebel against the straightjacket of perceived perfection.

  4. Hi John- I'm not offended. I don't blame the media, or men or advertising but people for being so stupid and gullible if they can't see that the media just wants to make money from people. Since I've stopped spending money I can see it so clearly. Look at the advertising for men's products, all the 'sub' message is the same - use this product and you will get sex. But there is very little advertised to men, most of it is to women. So if women reject materialism, then the media can't touch them. I don't buy cleaning products - I make them, so I can't judge my parenting or wifing if my house is not Cillit Bang shiny. What I reject about society is homogenisation - we are not the same. I am judgemental, I'm not perfect and when I read the chip wrappers on line, or watch the TV I have an acute bullshit filter and I know crap when I see/hear it. Enjoy the did she write it about me?

    Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
    I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
    But when I start to tell them,
    They think I'm telling lies.
    I say,
    It's in the reach of my arms
    The span of my hips,
    The stride of my step,
    The curl of my lips.
    I'm a woman
    Phenomenal woman,
    That's me.

    I walk into a room
    Just as cool as you please,
    And to a man,
    The fellows stand or
    Fall down on their knees.
    Then they swarm around me,
    A hive of honey bees.
    I say,
    It's the fire in my eyes,
    And the flash of my teeth,
    The swing in my waist,
    And the joy in my feet.
    I'm a woman
    Phenomenal woman,
    That's me.

    Men themselves have wondered
    What they see in me.
    They try so much
    But they can't touch
    My inner mystery.
    When I try to show them
    They say they still can't see.
    I say,
    It's in the arch of my back,
    The sun of my smile,
    The ride of my breasts,
    The grace of my style.
    I'm a woman

    Phenomenal woman,
    That's me.

    Now you understand
    Just why my head's not bowed.
    I don't shout or jump about
    Or have to talk real loud.
    When you see me passing
    It ought to make you proud.
    I say,
    It's in the click of my heels,
    The bend of my hair,
    the palm of my hand,
    The need of my care,
    'Cause I'm a woman
    Phenomenal woman,
    That's me.

  5. Could not agree more. I work in the classical music industry and never a year went by when I did not have 1 or 2 or even 3 students who were all in therapy or rehab for anorexia and or related eating disordersd, 'We can't go on stage looking fat'...............I rest my case. Most of them were already a size 10.

  6. I read your original post about this and applaud you! As I said then, I'm fat. No one's problem or concern only mine. If I'm happy then to hell with them all. If I drop dead tomorrow then it's my fault & no one else's! We should be accepted for who we are not what we look like. xxx

  7. hello John,
    i know i will never be a size 10/12,a size 16 would be perfect for me as i know you like curvy women:-)
    I need to learn to love my body more than what i do at present. People like the media should not judge plus size women, just accept us for who we are and not what we look like, if you feel good on the inside your confidence will shine though no matter what size you are.

  8. gosh where do I start? I became annorexic at the age of 16 after just one callous comment from my mother - actually it wasnt callous, it may have been well meant but it did effect me and my relationship with her and food. I'm glad to say that I managed to heal myself by the age of 22. But I still am affected by my "imperfection" of not being skinny. The media and fashion demand too much without realising they have lost focus on what they do - makes clothes! I can't imagine the pressure my 13 year old is currently under with all these young teenager magazine she reads and the television shows she watches. I try to keep an eye on it though. Would hate her to feel that way about her body that I did at that age.