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.