Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Word On The Street...

The size zero model issue rages again. It is undeniable that the fashion industry and certain sections of the media are setting norms that for most young women are largely unattainable, resulting in an increasing number of young women with anorexia and body dysmorphia issues. That much is true. But is that the extent of the story? I have never heard anybody argue publicly that they prefer a size zero, apart from a minority of adolescent girls, top designers (apparently clothes just don’t hang right on women with a woman’s body) and a minority of men who prefer pre-pubescent girls but, in a bid to stay the right side of the law, choose women who just happen to look like pre-pubescent girls instead. I have a hunch, though, that alongside this truism the fat girls are voting with their feet. I followed a young woman down the High Street this summer. She was in the uniform of most young women: crop top, hipster jeans, far too much flesh on show. It wasn’t a particularly warm day, and I worried for the cold on her kidneys in a rush of maternal concern. She was also revealing a considerable roll of corned beef-mottled flesh over the top of her jeans, and I couldn’t help but admire her for it, cold kidneys aside. I liked the fact that she was more than happy to show off her quite considerable belly, complete with belly-button piercing. It seemed a sign of her liberation, within the parameters of today’s cultural norms.

I loathe the fact that young women today seem to have abandoned any notions of old-fashioned feminism, and dress in a way that advertises first and foremost their sexual attractiveness. Their pat answer to this charge is that ‘I dress to please myself, not to please men’, which is the biggest pile of hypocritical pants since Hillary Clinton took part in that nauseating bake-off with Barbara Bush. But if we old Kate Millett types accept that that is how it is for young women today, then it is pretty cool that fat girls feel that they can pull it off too. In my teenage years – which was actually only ’79 to ’86 – there is no way a fat girl would’ve dreamt of wearing the same sexy clothes that her skinny friends were wearing, for fear of public humiliation. Walk down any High Street at 11.30pm on a Friday night, however, and you will see any number of curvy young women showing off their curves, their bulges and their magnificent cleavages without a hint of shame. And although I do wish they would all cover themselves up and leave a bit more to the imagination, I admire the curvier girls their self-confidence and their blatant two-fingers to the size zero culture.

PS. I have a rather curvy friend who wears very low cut tops with no bra, and her breasts can often be seeing escaping from the briefest of material that feigns to cover them. She once complained to me that ‘men only talk to my tits’. I pointed out that I only talk to her tits, as it is quite impossible to take your eyes off them as they swing out of her plunging tops. When I invite her over to dinner my poor husband has to take a very deep breath and chant “eyes forward” quietly to himself until she has left. I love her very much but come on, what is that all about? I will show you my tits, but you mustn’t look? Come back Andrea Dworkin, all is forgiven.

15 comments:

Caroline said...

This terrifies and confuses me.

I'd argue that the issues with anorexia and body dysmorphia issues stem from years of sweeping away the problem and from fashion houses providing inappropriate styles for larger sizes. The woman that you mentioned was probably sold that style of clothes that was stylish for the size zero, but not for a larger size. Why can't there be a fashion revolution that designs *the most* desirable clothes for the fuller figure, to show off curves? Curves are wonderful and clothes should celebrate the fuller figure, instead of forcing people to slim into a masculine and pre-pubescent state just so that they can follow fashion.

Is it a self-confidence statement or rather the buying/wearing of clothes that were stretched from size zero designs to appeal to the fuller girl who longs to be fashionable????? It all comes down to money and profit. It's wrong on so many levels.

THE PERIODIC ENGLISHMAN said...

Apart from the Andrea Dworkin bit, I pretty much agree with all of this, Melancholy. It alway feels a little bit uncomfortable, as a man, talking about these things - namely, how women look or dress - because I think men have probably said more than enough already. And I'm not even sure it is our place to say what we would like to happen or how much some stuff bothers us.

I do sometimes wonder, however, about the sexual motivations of men who actively obsess over and lust after women who have, to my mind, abnormally and dangerously skinny hips. I'm glad you said it.

I already feel I have overstepped the mark by commenting on skinny hips etc. I immediately begin to ask myself what right I have to make a judgement - fair or otherwise - on the desirability or, indeed, advisability of women being size zero's. Total minefield.

It does seem fair to say, however, that the people who peddle these myths about thinness equating to desirability are both stupid and hatefully irresponsible. What a crock of shit.

(excuse my language, please)

Kind regards etc....

Ms Melancholy said...

Hi folks, I think you are right, that it is a minefield trying to discuss this stuff. It's good to get a male opinion, Mr PE, and I like the fact that you are sensitive to the charge of more male hegemony. Women have been told what they ought to look like for many a century, and we should be mindful of this in the whole size zero discussion. Heat magazine is a case in point: one week it is lambasting women for being too thin, whilst the following week it is printing pictures of celebrities who have 'let themselves go' in their bikinis. I think the point I wanted to make was that women do not introject these cultural messages in an uncritical way, though. My use of the term 'fat girls' was carefully chosen and was not meant to be offensive - there are certainly a sizeable number of young women who do not conform to the size zero mentality, and who seem to do so with at least a modicum of self-confidence. I think the issue is complex, as always.

nmj said...

Fashion is nonsense and yet we women all follow it to a greater or lesser extent, fat or thin.

My 17 yr old cousin is v slim & pretty, she too goes out half clad, all weathers, and part of me thinks, Are your jeans not a wee bit too low? I wonder that she's not freezing, but I also wonder if she is aware of just how sexy she looks. I'm not sure that she does. Then I think I'm turning into my mother.

That's so pants said...

I'd rather welcome back Betty Friedan than Andrea Dworkin if we're going to start over. They're both dead so I'll bring the candles. Dworkin championed obesity as an antidote to the Twiggy/Mia Farrow sixties androgynous model of youth. Both were extremes of self-distortion. I was hoping that in my middle years I could have looked forward to a peaceful settlement on body image. If it's not to be I'm not bothered. I'll champion Tracey Emin, Zadie Smith, Lily Allen, Venus and Serena just for starters. Let's talk about women who are being themselves and getting on with it. You see Ms M I can be very grumpy too.

Ms Melancholy said...

I think there are lots of women out there just getting on with it....

Atyllah said...

What I find deeply concerning is young African girls who feel they too have to match the western model. Down here, south of the big zero line around the middle of the world, the girls are buxomy, bosomy and big bottomed and most flaunt their curves with pride. Sadly though, more and more are denying their cultural and physical identities by determining to go after that elusive size zero - and for whom? And at what cost?

Caroline's right - it all comes down to profit and greed - it's not about individuals or the good of humanity. Just money.

That said, I have no problem with women who show off their curves, their busts or their bums. Provided the sisters really are doing it for themselves.

And yes Ms M, for ages women have been told how too look. I can't imagine that tight corsets didn't anyone's insides any good, ever, just like being anorexic serves utterly no purpose either.

Miss Tickle said...

I am not so far off as not to remember going out in next to nothing and in fact my figure being next to nothing and thinking nothing of it. Neither was I thinking "A-ha! I am so thin and sexy and alluring!"

In fact it is only in the past year after gaining Some Considerable Weight that I have thought about my weight at all, and how "lucky" I was when all nothing-y.

It is all wrong, and as my *ahem* therapist said when I was whinging on, "Do you want to be the sort of person who has another biscuit or the sort of person who doesn't?"

Ms Melancholy said...

That's sad to hear, Atyllah. I still think that there is something else going on culturally here though, alonsgside all the size zero crap. Like Ms Pants said, a lot of women are just getting on with being themselves, curves and all, and I do just wonder whether there is a bit of backlash on the street? Maybe I am just being too hopeful.

Miss Tickle, I like that line. Please may I steal it?

nmj said...

. . . I also think it is worth making the 'opposite' point that when you are thin, people often say, 'How do you keep so thin?' as if it is something you aspire to, when it is just your genes, the way your metabolism is. It would be dishonest of me to say I am not glad I am thin, especially since I can't do aerobic exercise due to having ME, but I get kind of fed up with people asking me, as if I am trying to make a statement by being thin. Some people are just thin. End of. (I can be as grumpy as Ms Pants.)

Ms Melancholy said...

That's a fair point, nmj...

Atyllah said...

Ms M, I do think you may be right - I do think there is a backlash on the street. But I do still worry so when I hear on Sky that 7 and 8 year olds are showing up with eating disorders. What's driving that - the media, models, their mothers, peers, all of it together?

Miss Tickle said...

Ms M, I think everyone should steal that line. It is marvellous.

THE PERIODIC ENGLISHMAN said...

I can't help wondering, though - do you want to be the sort of person who has another biscuit or the sort of person who doesn't?

Theft rules.

Ms Melancholy (and Ms Pants) - why do the two things need to be mutually exclusive? Is it not possible to celebrate those women just getting on with it, whilst at the same time keeping a properly concerned eye on the issues that you raise in this post. That just seems like good sense to me.

I can imagine how absolutely maddening it must be to find that these issues still rage - a kind of baffled response that asks how in the hell have we not moved beyond this? - but this in itself seems insufficient reason to keep from banging away.

NMJ - good and fair point. I have a (very thin) sister who tells me the same. It drives her nuts.

Kind regards etc...

THE PERIODIC ENGLISHMAN said...

Oh God. When I use the word "sister" in the above comment, I do so because she is my own flesh and blood. One of my sisters, in fact.

I just want to make that clear.