The backlash against underweight models and unrealistic images of female beauty in fashion and the media seems to be gaining pace. I wrote a lot about positive body image in my Just As I Am Lenten self-acceptance blog but things seem to have progressed since then. And not a moment too soon. Stories continue to pop up about girls who are obsessed with their weight and being thin at a younger and younger age. I just came across this post about eating disorders and unrealistic beauty ideals on FeministFatale.com that begins with a reference to an eight-year-old girl who’s already picking out clothes that make her “look thin” and who’s started to avoid food out of fear of getting fat. I remember doing that myself – I was in my early teens.
But it seems some of the alarming statistics on eating disorders and research into the impact of unrealistic body ideals on the self-esteem of girls and women are prompting industry change. Today marks the official opening of a Centre for Diversity at the Edinburgh College of Art. The brainchild of the founders of All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, an organisation that aims to promote diversity in fashion, designers at the centre will work on size 18 mannequins. The idea is to remind designers that the average British woman is size 16-18. The UK government, which has its own Campaign for Body Confidence, supports the centre.
And it’s not just happening in Britain. Vogue Italia put three “plus-size” models on its June cover. “Plus-size” generally refers to women who are a UK size 14 and above. This follows a move by Vogue’s editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani to dedicate a special section to “curvy women” on its website. Check out Vogue Curvy for some great photos and features on women with fuller figures. And for fashionistas out there, here’s an interview with one of the Vogue Italia cover girls, Candice Huffine of Ford+ model agency, talking a bit more about the shoot.
Here in the UK, Beautiful Magazine, which only features models of a UK size 12 and above, is growing in readership and support. In case you’re wondering, though, Beautiful isn’t only for women who are size 12+. It aims to appeal to all women while moving away from the stereotypical uber-thin models that set so many women up to fail. Its objective is to promote healthy self-esteem in women of all shapes and sizes. In the interests of disclosure, I’m a size 10, but as my Just As I Am blog made clear, I’ve struggled for years with body dissatisfaction and obsession and with wanting my body to look like someone else’s. I’m in the process of letting that go. That said, taking care of my body is important to me and I’m a big fan of exercise – provided I’m exercising for enjoyment, health and sanity and not to punish myself for eating.
Another organisation I’ve written about a fair bit is Body Gossip, which turns people’s poetry and prose about their bodies into works of theatre or film, acted out by celebrity casts, in a bid to celebrate realistic beauty and diversity. Body Gossip is still in the market for stories for an upcoming book if anyone has something they want to share about their body.
From the sidelines to the pitch
On a different, more introspective note, I had the feeling the other day that I was sitting on the sidelines of life watching everyone else get on with things. Do you ever get that? I get it now and again. Sometimes it seems that life is happening to everyone else – other people are making strides in their careers, getting hitched, having babies or going on great holidays. Now, I know that from the outside my life looks pretty exciting. I know that because people tell me so. And yes, I was at a wedding in New York, I’m off to Mozambique for work in a few weeks and I have plenty of friends and a wide social circle. But sometimes, on the inside, it doesn’t feel all that exciting or fulfilling. It doesn’t feel like I’m moving forward – in my career or my personal life. It doesn’t feel like anything significant is happening or anything much has changed.
I had that feeling on Friday. I’d had a rather uninspiring day of trying to work but not getting very far. I’d been at home alone all day, struggling to write or to pitch stories. I felt on the fringes of life, dabbling in lots of things but not really part of anything. I didn’t have a hobby I was passionate about. And more urgently, I didn’t have any plans for Friday evening. Things were going on that I could have got involved in but I didn’t feel ‘part of’ so I didn’t get involved, if that makes sense.
And then I made the mistake of looking on Twitter and reading about the fabulous things all the go-getting, carpe diem-type people on Twitter are doing. And I got the feeling life was happening to everyone else. Soon after, however, I had a realisation, or a number of them: if I want to feel part of, it helps if I participate. If I don’t want to feel on the fringes, then it’s good to get involved. And if I want life to happen, I deserve to get out there and do my best to make it happen.
As soon as I’d made that decision – as soon as I’d got myself out of the house and had made an effort to participate, join in and feel part of something – a friend texted to see if I wanted to hang out that night. It might just be coincidence but it kind of reminded me that if I take the first step, God and/or the universe will respond. If I show willing and put out the right vibes, good things come my way. I’ve blogged about this before, particularly when I wrote about my encounter with a seal in my All will be well post.
In a similar vein, I wanted to share an interesting tale that was passed on to me by a friend about three women who decided to take their desire for children into their own hands. It’s a great yarn, whatever you think of the decisions the women made. They’ve written a book about it but here’s a piece from The Daily Mail: Our Date with Donor 8282. Now, I’m not saying that’s the route I want to go down – I’m still trusting that if I really want children, it will happen naturally – but there’s something in this story that reminds me of the value of taking action, of taking a step in the right direction, of moving off the sidelines and onto the pitch.