…of course I think I’m fat. Pretty much the whole world is geared towards making me feel fat, towards assuming that I already am or at least feel fat, and towards helping me feel more insecure about whether or not I am fat.
I know I’ve ranted about this one before but it still really annoys me, and talking to P last night I realised I am being completely illogical about all of this, so I think it’s worth reiterating. It starts with the Disney Princesses and other childhood heroines – beautiful and slim and elegant in long floaty dresses, and you could never attain such beauty, of course. Then you get a bit older and you start to read magazines aimed at pre-teen girls and I promise, promise, promise you there are diet tips and exercise fads and things in there marketed directly at twelve-year-olds; you’re already being shown ‘fashion to flatter all figures’, but meanwhile school is doing its best to put you off getting exercise at all ever because for crying out loud you’re twelve years old, your hands and feet are huge and where the hell did those thighs come from and you’re incredibly aware of your body and you’re expected to wear slimy white really short shorts? Hell no. And meanwhile over in the centre of the gym the Dance Set are gyrating around chairs with impeccable hair and make-up and not an ounce of fat on them except for the fact that at age twelve they already have perfectly perky, round, grown-up boobs (or perhaps they’ve already mastered the art of bra-shopping, something which takes the rest of us about a decade, but never mind).
You’re insecure and completely exaggeratedly aware of every last part of your body and yet you grow up and it becomes public property because the first thing anyone thinks about a girl, or says to a third party about a given girl, is almost certain to be some kind of comment on her looks or the way she physically presents herself or dresses, or some kind of veiled criticism of the same – ‘oh, it’s such a shame, she’s such a lovely person’ (I’m sure you can guess what it is that is the ‘shame’ here).
And you’re growing up and changing and you’re not cute any more, you’re not the Daddy’s little girl you used to be, and so your parents will also feel that they have free rein, to comment on your figure, and suddenly on the one side you’ve got any well-meaning parent going ‘are you sure you should be eating that’ whenever you’re offered seconds or pudding or something, and on the other side you’ve got magazines and telly and newspapers and books and things, a whole industry based around making you infeasibly aware of all your slight imperfections, diets, regimes, products, throwing words in that you hadn’t even worried about before – ‘bingo wings’, ‘cellulite’, ‘orange peel’.
Every single page in any given magazine will say something about your figure – and will assume, because they’re aimed at a specific demographic, that you are dieting, that you want to diet, that you’re slightly overweight – and because the entire world, without even knowing who you are or of your existence, assumes you’re fat because you’re a woman, or at least that you think you’re fat, and because everyone else thinks you’re fat, you think you’re fat, because of course all your friends also think they’re fat, and if they think they’re fat, then you must be fat too because look how thin they all are, so-and-so has a far flatter belly than yours but then her thighs are gigantic, but then so-and-so has stick-thin legs but huge boobs, or whatever – and theyr’e not necessarily thinner or fatter than you they’re just different but suddenly you’re in competition with every woman you know.
And if you’re in the slightest bit insecure all of the above will trap you from the age of about twelve and you will think that just because your belly isn’t perfectly flat, or your arms perfectly toned, that your body isn’t fit to be seen in public, so you’ll cover up with leggings and cardigans and tops that ‘skim over all those unsightly curves’ just like the magazines say.
So yes. I think I am fat. I think this because I have been told to think I am fat by every influence on my appearance since I was old enough to care. I first looked at my thighs and thought they were horribly fat when I was eight. And I’m not stuck up or obsessed with my appearance, I am an average, slightly geeky girl, who dressed in blues and sludge greys and browns until she was about fifteen, and has only really learned to enjoy clothes in the last couple of years.
And, furthermore, I am not fat. I’m not toned, because I don’t get enough exercise. But I wear clothes that are usually size 8-10, and since when has a UK 8-10 been fat on a 5’7″ girl?
And what is more, just to point this out, men do not get this kind of scrutiny, they really don’t. There is not the same media obsession with which male celebrities are fat or thin, toned or not, what they eat, how they exercise, and so on. Media aimed at men talks about computers, cars and girls, and not, as a rule, about buying shirts that ‘hide that beer belly’ or trousers that ‘flatter that post-Christmas silhouette’.
I am normal, thank you. I really don’t get how or why a whole huge facet of media and entertainment and bookselling and so on is actually based around cynically making money out of the not inconsiderable insecurities of half the bloody population. And if you’re going to do that to us women then damn well torture all the blokes with their imperfections as well, because this just isn’t fair. I am twenty years old, I’m probably about as pretty as I’ll ever be, and I would actually quite like to enjoy it while I can. As should all of you.