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Earlier this week the Daily Mail published an article about our new Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone. She made some comments over the weekend about the media’s portrayal of women, the ridiculous ideals that young women have to live up to, and the amount of tiny, airbrushed models we see in publications every day. She even suggested some kind of kitemark system for images that have been digitally altered. “Advertisers and magazine editors have a right to publish what they choose, but women and girls also have a right to feel comfortable in their own bodies.” She said.
So far, so good. But she then suggested that girls would be better to aspire to the curvaceous figure of my current girl crush, Christina Hendricks, rather than the impossibly thin models on the catwalk. “Christina Hendricks is absolutely fabulous. We need more of these role models.”
This, of course, led the Mail run with the shock headline “All women should aspire for hourglass size 14 figures, claims new equalities minister.” Talk about paraphrasing!
Nowhere, as far as I could see, was size 14 being held up as some kind of ideal. Featherstone was simply saying more curvaceous women in the media would be a good move – which I agree with.
But we do not need a country where all women strive to be a size 14. And I say that as a size 14 myself. Picking a size out of thin air and saying ‘be like this’ is not the way to make changes! Not everyone is meant to be a 14. Not because it’s too big, or too small or too anything, but simply because, as many other great people have already said, there is no ‘one size fits all’.
Hendricks, according to the measurements of the dress she wore to the SAG awards, has a 40-28-40 figure, so it’s pushing it for The Daily Mail to even call her a 14! She probably has a myriad of sizes in her wardrobe depending on the cut. That kind of waist-to-hip ratio is uncommon, difficult to achieve without a lot of help from mother nature (or surgery) and probably just as hard to achieve as size zero. She is a beautiful woman, but she is not the only woman who’s the right size. And Featherstone never actually said she was.
Luckily, while the DM website is full of all the usual “size 14 is fat” bullshit, others have chosen to read the real story beneath the stupid headline. And it’s started a really interesting conversation (on blogs, twitter and so on) amongst women of all shapes and sizes.
Even Lynne Featherstone was quick to clarify herself after the publication of the Mail story. She commented on Amber’s brilliant post to argue how her comments had been skewed.
Going on to call slim women ‘stick insects’ on her own blog wasn’t particularly clever (just as some of us are naturally curvy, some are naturally slight) but enough people have commented on that for her to have learned her lesson. Hopefully.
A few mistakes aside, what has been lost in all the size 14 hysteria is that what Featherstone is saying in broader terms is definitely a step in the right direction. We do need to continue to encourage diversity in advertising and publications. Some of us are thin, some of us are fat, some of us are somewhere in between. We need to stop promoting this ideal of the super-slim body as the only acceptable one and we need to stop seeing excessive airbrushing as ‘normal’.
But what is clear is that we don’t want to go too far in the opposite direction. Just as size 6 is not the ideal, neither is size 14. In truth, they both can be, along with many other sizes above, below and in-between. It just depends on the woman!