Why I despair of women criticising others for their body issues
Catty comments over Daisy Lowe’s body issues highlight a larger societal problem.
Last week there was a newspaper article that caused a bit of a stir in my Facebook timeline. The model Daisy Lowe had given an interview to the London Evening Standard ahead of the launch of her healthy eating cookbook.
During this interview she spoke about her body issues and how it had taken her ten years to accept her figure. The size 8 model said she felt “like an elephant” next to others in her industry.
It was sad to read that a young woman had felt that way about her own body. But I was made even sadder by the reaction the article appeared to get from other women.
Looking through my Facebook timeline that evening, I saw that someone had shared this article and accompanied it with a rant that Daisy Lowe had no right to feel insecure about her figure. That she had never been fat so didn’t understand what it was really like to ‘feel like an elephant’. That she needs to get a grip on reality.
Others had commented too, sharing a similar outlook.
I can understand their point of view to a degree. They thought that younger, more impressionable women reading the interview might start to believe that anyone who fits into size 8 clothes is fat.
But for me, their comments raised a bigger issue: that according to some, only overw8 women are allowed to have body issues. Apparently, if you’re a size 8 or ten, you’re simply not allowed to feel insecure about your figure.
I have a few problems with this sort of attitude:
- the focus is on what size clothes a person wears, not what their actual w8 is. This isn’t healthy.
- there is an implication that women who are overw8 should feel bad about their bodies
- it implies that all overw8 women do feel bad about their bodies
- apparently ‘thin’ girls should be grateful that they’re not fat
But what I couldn’t quite believe was that this vitriol was being spread by a group of so-called feminists.
That’s right, a bunch of women who condemn the ‘image-obsessed media’ for piling pressure onto young women to look ‘just so’, were criticising a young woman who, for many years, felt bad that her body doesn’t – in her eyes – live up to this body-beautiful ideal that we are continually being sold.
I’m a size 8/ten, but I have had body issues for as long as I can remember. My thighs are too wobbly; after 2 children, my stomach is far from taut; my nose is flat; my skin is blotchy; my hair doesn’t ‘swish’.
I might scrub up relatively well, but I still have issues with the way I look. Are my insecurities less valid because of my size?
Don’t make me laugh. Feeling insecure about your body isn’t a w8 issue. Show me a woman with no body issues and I’ll show you a flying pig.
What we should be doing is looking behind these insecurities to find out what is causing young women – and young men – to feel inadequate. Why do people feel under pressure to look a certain way and feel so bad when they don’t think they match up?
Daisy Lowe says it took her a decade to feel comfortable in her own skin. I’m glad she’s finally happy with how she looks. So many other men and women aren’t. So many people of all shapes and sizes.
I wrote a piece for The Independent’s website a while back which touched on this issue. After OK magazine published post baby w8 loss plans one day after the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to Prince George, I questioned whether it was the magazine or society at large who were at fault for such articles. Researching this article I came across a 2009 study that had found that the use of ultra-thin and airbrushed models in advertising is causing a number of problems in young women, including eating disorders, depression, extreme exercising and encouraging cosmetic surgery.
And increasing numbers of men are turning to anabolic steroids to bulk themselves up. Earlier this year, a drugs and alcohol charity told the BBC it had seen a 6-fold increase in steroid users.
Decrying someone publicly for talking about this issue only serves to reinforce the message that there is a ‘right w8’ to be (whatever that may be). That if you fit into size 6 or 8 clothes then you should be happy with your lot and keep your mouth shut because yours is the sort of figure that everyone should be aiming for.
I am raising 2 children. I want them both to grow up confident and self-assured. I don’t want them to pile pressure on themselves to conform to an ‘ideal image’, which is inevitably impossible to achieve. I don’t want them to feel unhappy because they aren’t the ‘right w8’ or don’t look a certain way. I don’t want them to be judged solely on how they look.
As a society we need to take a long hard look at ourselves and ask ourselves why we place such importance on appearance. We need to change how we talk about such things and try to support each other rather than criticise. We all have insecurities and they are all valid.
Where do you stand on this issue?