Not a Solution
Posted on October 1, 2010
I’m in two minds about the latest glossy to appear on the shelves in the UK. For one thing, I find the name off-putting. Similar to how I find shops that go by the names of Forgotten Woman and My Size. There’s something defeatist (and vaguely patronising) about it. But that’s another issue entirely. Mostly, I don’t believe a publication like this is the solution to anything. Which would be fine if it wasn’t trying to be a solution, but I think it is.
I don’t disagree with encouraging a healthy sense of pride in one’s physicality, and I don’t agree with the fact Just as Beautiful is promoting obesity. Obesity and size 16 pants don’t necessarily go hand in hand. And I don’t think the magazine will single-handedly crash England’s health system, as feared by the DM’s Samantha Brick.
But I do think the magazine does the opposite of what it’s trying to achieve and this is purely accidental. By calling out women over size 14 as a group worthy of isolation, the message is clear before the spine has even been cracked; these women are different and should be both seen and treated as such. Our problem is that we partition femininity and celebrate one group at the expense of another. And any solution to this problem lies in attempts to normalise diversity in female body shapes within mainstream media – not consistently privilege one body type over another. We are better of seeing influential publications featuring the gamut of size 6-16 in glossies (I know, I just heard Wintour spit her coffee out as well) as par for the course. Existing or new publications, online and print, shouldn’t be focusing on the notion of separation as a tool for change – not when it comes to the bubbling hot pot that is body image. We got ourselves into this situation to begin with by doing just that, and it’s not healthy, at either end of the spectrum; glorifying under-eating is as wrong as glorifying over-eating.
I’m absolutely not denying comfort and pride in one’s larger skin is not necessarily encouraged nor enabled by the powers that be. And obviously larger (or indeed, normally sized) women have been maligned by the glossy, fashion world for a long time with unfortunate social ramifications. Just as Beautiful undeniably has a good heart. But this change it is trying to affect is not necessarily the right one. And it’s not going about the right way of doing it.