Is Fat a Feminist Issue?

‘Are thin women the enemy?’ asked BBC Magazine this week, to which the inevitable conclusion was: all shapes and sizes are beautiful, let’s celebrate that, please represent svelte little beanpoles and the ‘huge n happy’ band of neo-Beth Dittos and maybe even the normal people in between a little bit more. And as much as this is a good message in itself, can I just say: blah blah fucking blah. Because I’ve heard all this before, in many reputable media outlets, and it doesn’t change a thing.

It’s the wording of articles like this that somehow get my goat, and this is why:

‘In an era where pro-anorexia communities congregate on social media sites like Pinterest, it’s no wonder that lawmakers are concerned with women’s body image.’

Well, I’m glad the lawmakers are concerned. But this makes me feel a little like the woman who went to protest against anti-abortion laws with a sign saying: ‘If I wanted the government in my womb, I would have fucked a senator.’ Do I want the government in my kitchen? Do I feel 100% excellent about the Israeli government setting strict BMI standards for models? 90% of me says yes, and that regulation should be there to protect those women from higher sources who demand that they lose unreasonable amounts of weight - but 10% of me envisions Nick Clegg sprawled leisurely across my kitchen table, proffering a fried breakfast at me with a glint in his eye as I sit down to my yoghurt and granola (yes, I’m that kind of East London yuppie.)

Susie Orbach said fat is a feminist issue, and with skyrocketing rates of eating disorders among young women, we’re supposed to agree. But rates of obesity are much higher among men than women in the population as a whole, and since only a very small percentage of men end up in such a self-loathing place that they starve themselves or purge, we can fairly conclude that as a group, they’re just not as bothered. The social pressure, regarding this particular issue, is much less intense.

However, there’s only so many Nick Cleggs you can place in working women’s kitchens, and only so many articles asking why oh why these poor women don’t just drink a Guinness, buy the next size up with a smile, and be a real feminist by disregarding all this pressure and beefing up for the cause, before you realise that this doesn’t change very much at all. BMIs can be manipulated; some naturally skinny sisters will slip through the net and lose their jobs; the pressure will still be there in the magazines and adverts and diet plans aimed at women, leaning on their every cafeteria decision like a gigantic, wheezing 20 stone man who never had his BMI checked any day of his working life.

The moral cesspit that is More magazine will follow on the coattails of its older and sluttier sisters (namely Glamour, Grazia and the ubiquitous Cosmo) by incorporating a ‘plastic surgery section’ into its Body Confidence pull-out. All in the name of good capitalism, ‘how to get liposuction’ will become increasingly normalised in a media where people used to worry about even publicising the Atkins diet. And while women of all ages swallow this shit every single day, we’re still worrying more about whether they swallowed a Big Mac or a breakfast bar.

The feminist issue here is the culture that gives rise to anorexia, bulimia, body dysmorphia, and the all-round accepted idea that women will walk around feeling crap about themselves for having a convex stomach and body hair. While we target individuals with our laws ‘in order to protect them’, we can only go so far, and only be so patronised. Why not get in there and target the big dogs - banning sinister plastic surgery advertorial in the UK where it is actually already illegal to advertise medicine would be a start, or setting media guidelines for editors on content until they stop pushing the insidious social agendas that give rise to this epidemic.

The fat on your thighs is your own business, girls. But our weight-obsessed culture is a feminist issue.

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