I am five feet tall, I weigh exactly seven stone and I wear a size four, petite dress. So when Twitter exploded with outraged comments about the photo of a size 8/10 woman stood next to a size 4/6 Topshop mannequin, I was frustrated, to say the least.
It wasn’t just people’s replies to the tweet that infuriated me, or that Becky Hooper felt the need to accompany the photo with the hashtag ‘#poorbodyimage’, but the fact that Topshop felt so pressured by the press and social media, that they responded with the phrase “our mannequins are not a representation of the female body”.
Let me be clear…
I fully understand that the majority of women in the UK are not the 4/6 dress size represented by the Topshop mannequin. And I also understand that we live in a culture that promotes skinniness to an obsessive level. Runway models, Photoshop and celebrities have created an idea of what women ‘should’ look like and this leads to women – worst still, young girls -feeling under pressure to mirror the images posted on billboards and magazines. I also agree that that is dangerous, especially to young, impressionable girls. On these issues, I absolutely agree and support the notion that women should be confident in their body shape, no matter what size.
However, I do not think that tolerance of body size goes only one way.
While fashion might promote skinniness, there are just as many things in the public eye that seem to shame people for being thin. Such as songs from the likes of Sir Mix-A-Lot loving “big butts” and Megan Trainor bashing “skinny bitches”, TV shows with Gok Won teaching women to love a fuller figure and A- list stars like Jennifer Laurence who encourages girls to eat and just enjoy it! It’s not all about advertising thinness.
As a society we seem to have decided that promoting a positive body image is only important if that body image is higher than a size 12.
It may be an unpopular point to make, but why aren’t we teaching skinny girls to feel comfortable with their figures too? Just as larger girls can feel body conscious because of the media, thinner girls are likely to feel body conscious when they read hashtags like ‘#poorbodyimage’ next to a mannequin that mirrors their figure. Or they will feel saddened when Megan Trainor associates their body image as a “stick figure silicone Barbie doll”.
Just like bigger girls have to deal with the constant image of skinniness, thin girls frequently have to deal with the ignorance of people who label them as “too thin”. Plenty of people have assumed that because I am a size 4, I don’t have curves. Yet I am a comfortable size 4 and have curves in all the right places. My thighs jiggle just like everyone else’s and I have to squeeze my bottom into jeans for a good few minutes in a morning.
Or worse yet…
I have been to house parties where complete strangers have asked me whether I want a burger because I look anorexic. Well yes, kind stranger, I would love a burger, but not because I am anorexic, but because I love to eat… all the time. In fact, I find it insulting when I go to a friend’s house for dinner and they give me a smaller portion, because they assume I can’t eat as much.
Growing up, friends dismissed my anxiety. Shrugged off my insecurities and labelled me ‘lucky’. But when you’re young, and trying to be normal, the last thing you want is to be unable to shop where your peers shop because your frame doesn’t begin to fill the clothes.
Yes, a size 4-6 frame is not an average statistic, it isn’t something that everyone is or can be due to genetics. But have we not learnt yet, after the country’s adaption into a multi-cultural society or the fight for gender equality, that we are not all the same? Or maybe the problem isn’t the ability to accept that we’re all different but that we can’t allow everyone to be proud and comfortable with their differences, in case it offends those in the majority (either in the real world or on twitter)?
It’s time to accept that skinniness isn’t necessarily unrealistic, some people have no choice, and it hurts them, just as much as it hurts curvier women, when someone suggests that we aren’t ‘real women’.