During the mid-2000s, campaigns began springing up within the fashion industry aiming to rid the catwalks of unhealthy size 0 models, with designers such as Victoria Beckham pledging not to use models of a UK size 4 (US size 0) or below and claiming her clothes will be worn by "healthy girls who look 'realistic' to encourage a positive image to impressionable teens.” As more criticism against size 0 poured out of the media, the more conscious we became of those around us, and those in the spotlight. Larger, curvier women were being celebrated as inspirational figures with their middle fingers up to society’s version of beauty and smaller girls the world over were feeling more and more insecure about the way they looked. Has our mission to rid the fashion industry of unrealistic body types and unhealthy role models now gone a step too far in the opposite direction?
It seems that in a decade, we’ve moved from one extreme to the other. Celebrities such as Beth Ditto, a size 28 singer, who openly speaks out against size 0 and in February 2009, posed nude for the cover of LOVE magazine, are idolized as an inspiration to women, showing that no matter what size you are (just as long as it’s not too skinny) you too can be beautiful. The same goes for Verity Brown; the 37 year old recently crowned Miss Plus Size International, who like Beth Ditto wears a size 28. On ITV’s This Morning, Verity claimed that she would rather be her size than underweight and received countless tweets of support and admiration, despite a doctor on the show pointing out that a woman of her size is 90 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than someone who eats well and exercises regularly. As much as I agree that beauty comes in many different forms, surely it doesn’t matter whether or not you are under or overweight, unhealthy is unhealthy. How can it be morally wrong to promote one but inspirational to celebrate the other?
What disappoints me the most, is that we’ve become so accustomed to this ‘skinny shaming’ that we think it’s perfectly okay to openly criticize others – while it is deemed totally unacceptable to walk up to someone and call them fat, I, in the past, have been approached by both strangers and people I know and received comments such as ‘your legs look like twigs’ or ‘you look too thin’, leaving me feeling both floored and incredibly hurt. Disturbingly, it’s now a standard occurrence for me to scroll past a comment such as ‘ew too skinny’ or ‘that’s gross, are you anorexic?’ on my Instagram feed or on the blogs I follow. Unquestionably, above anything else in the fashion industry, personal style blogs represent the masses – ‘real’ woman of ‘real’ sizes wearing their own clothes and sharing their individual style with the rest of the world, and yet over the past few years I’ve seen countless healthy girls and young women effectively being bullied for their smaller frames and judged as ‘not real women’. Just because someone is a size 8 or below doesn’t mean they are not a real woman, after all, skinny girls aren’t invisible, they do exist in every day life. Some women have fast metabolisms, some can eat as much as possible and still not gain weight due to their petite frames and some are just young girls who’s bodies are still growing – not every skinny person has an eating disorder and not every slim woman is promoting one. People think it’s less hurtful to criticize those who are skinny because it is assumed that all smaller girls with size 6 figures are happy with themselves because they look like the models they see in magazines, but increasingly nowadays, thinner girls are being alienated from society and are left feeling ‘disgusting’ or ‘gross’ because their knees stick out slightly more than their friends or they lack the ‘curves’ that all ‘real’ women supposedly have.
What’s certain is that people come in all shapes and sizes and whilst the fashion industry has realized that we shouldn’t be promoting anorexic or bulimic behavior, in the same measure it is important to realize that we shouldn’t be celebrating overeating or lack of regular exercise either. What our society needs is an understanding of what is normal: normal women can be curvy or athletic, with big boobs or small ones, they could have a thigh gap or legs that touch, wide hips or narrow hips, they could be tall or short, pear-shaped or apple-shaped - all of which are perfectly healthy. Neither extreme on the scale can be pretty, but healthy is beautiful.
Love Ellen xx