Jo Swinson launches size 16 mannequins

Jo Swinson today went along to Debenhams to welcome their size 16 mannequins which have been brought in to reflect the average women. It has been intensely annoying to hear these discussed across various media, including the BBC and the Independent, as “plus size” mannequins. If your view of what a woman should look like comes from airbrushed magazines and porn rather than opening your eyes and looking at the real women around you, then, yes, you might think that size 16 was plus, but you would be wrong.

Women come in all shapes and sizes and girls should be brought up to feel confident about themselves and not to feel that they have failed because they can’t conform to an unrealistic, very narrow definition of beauty that is bombarded at them everywhere they look.

As you can see from this tweet from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, one of the figures in the picture is very different from the others…

The Independent quoted Jo as saying this move would be good for business too:

She said images popularised by fashion magazines suggest there is “only one way of being beautiful”, when research highlights that nine in 10 consumers want to see a broader range of body shapes in the media and advertising.

“That’s why the Government has fought hard to challenge our looks-obsessed culture”, she said.

“Recent research found that women are three times more likely to buy clothes when the fashion models are their size, so I hope more retailers will recognise that meeting customer demand for more diversity makes good business sense.

 

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56 Comments

  • *sings* One of these things is not like the others, one of these things is not quite the same…

  • Whilst I agree that diversity of image is welcome and an appreciation of different body sizes is a more realistic view of beauty but equally are we contentto suggest that size 16 is desirable? For most women being size 16 constitutes being overweight and carries inherent health risks. I don’t feel comfortable with the suggestion that because size 16 is either average or ‘real’ some how it should be accepted and embraced. Size 6 models might give a psychological unhealthy aspiration but size 16 can also be physically unhealthy.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 6th Nov '13 - 10:05pm

    It is perfectly possible to be size 16 and totally healthy and within the appropriate good health bits on all the charts. There is little risk to health in being a size 16. There is more likelihood over the long term of people being healthier due to being less hung up on images of conventional beauty.

  • Well done Jo Swinson. Good to see real progress on an issue she has been passionate about for so long and in my view is well worthy of support.

  • I’m not entirely confident that with 25% of UK women being obese and ‘average’ sized 16 women being at significant increased risk of heart disease, stroke, breast and liver cancers that this is really something to celebrate.

  • Depends on the build, but many people who are size 16 are likely to be unhealthily overweight (as are many people who are size 6 likely to be underweight). I’m not sure we should applaud the fact that the average woman is overweight. Represents a failure to encourage exercise and to effectively regulate the food industry.

  • Hannah Bettsworth 7th Nov '13 - 8:16am

    Any size can be physically unhealthy, my best friend at school ate pretty much exactly what I do, and she’s incredibly skinny while I’m definitely plus size. Pretty much we need to just get over prescribing some kind of “normal” body shape and just accept people how they are. Body confidence is for everyone, whether you’re size 6, 16 or 26.

  • How interesting that it is only the male commenters harrumphing about promoting obesity.

    Mannequins are there only to sell clothes – to give the customer an idea of what the garment looks like on, and to sell more by suggesting outfits. They will work more effectively if they look like the customers.

    They do not exist to promote an “ideal” body shape, healthy or not. God knows there’s enough tedious blather about healthy eating apart from all the body image pressure that this initiative seeks to address.

    I know obesity is the current hand-wringing “disease” obsession but in most cases it’s not the fatness per se that carries the risk but the type of diet.

    Post menopause, women survive better moderately overweight than underweight. And I wouldn’t want to go into hospital thin.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 7th Nov '13 - 8:40am

    I think what is really worrying me is that there are men who are making it clear that they judge women, maybe men as well, on their size.

  • James Brough 7th Nov '13 - 9:00am

    Simon –

    I don’t feel comfortable with the suggestion that because size 16 is either average or ‘real’ some how it should be accepted and embraced.

    Or to put it another way, you are in favour of making over half the women in the country feel bad about themselves? I’m going to pay you the compliment of assuming that this is out of genuine concern, rather than just “No Fat Chicks!”, so this link may be of interest.

    http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/12/31/evidence-that-fat-people-can-be-as-healthy-as-thin-people/

    To summarise, among people who eat poorly, smoke, drink and do not exercise regularly, excess weight is a danger. Among people who actually follow these healthy habits, excess weight makes no difference to health.

  • *applause and whistling for Andrew and James*

  • Natalie Jester 7th Nov '13 - 9:08am

    “Why *not* celebrate fat people? Not, note, necessarily “obesity” or fat itself, but fat *people*. And this isn’t even celebration — just acknowledgement that they exist.”

    This. A thousand times this.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 7th Nov '13 - 9:15am

    And while we’re on with the fat-shaming, here’s an article I wrote a few years back which goes into some detail about how that makes me feel. And I’m sure I can’t be alone.

    http://carons-musings.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/being-fat-my-life-as-outcast.html

    I don’t recall any of the men who are complaining about the size 16 mannequins complaining about the unrealistically thin mannequins which also exist and are portrayed as what women should aspire to be.

  • People who equate size with health no not of what they speak.

  • Natalie Jester 7th Nov '13 - 9:21am

    Exactly Caron. Being too thin can also cause health problems, but lets not worry about that, because [insert excuse here].

  • Natalie Jester 7th Nov '13 - 9:24am

    I should point out that my last post was not intended to judge thinner people, only to demonstrate the logical inconsistency of professing a worry about health… but only where one body type is concerned.

  • Morwen Millson 7th Nov '13 - 9:51am

    Wasn’t Marilyn Monroe meant to be a size 16?
    I’m pleased to see Jo’s policy go live, and I’m sure most people who are size 16 are healthy. However, the fact that size 16 is average means an awful lot of people are a whole lot bigger and that really isn’t good for their health.

  • Caron,I pointed out in my comment that being underweight is unhealthy too!

    I completely understand and agree with the desire to use models and mannequins of a healthy weight and more reflective of national averages. I would also support efforts to discourage fat shaming. However, equally I would support efforts to improve the health of the population and in particular healthy eating and exercise habits.

    I research human diseases, some of which are linked to the physiological condition of a patient and the risk of which can be considerably reduced by improving this.

    Obviously just shouting at people to eat less and exercise more doesn’t work, or we wouldn’t have a growing problem, what is required is a change in how society is structured, from the regulation of advertising to simple measures like discouraging car travel and promoting other forms of transport.

    I find it counter productive for politicians to effectively promote sizes associated with unhealthy lifestyles as being a positive thing, rather than seeking to reduce these lifestyles.

  • Liberal Neil 7th Nov '13 - 10:32am

    For me this isn’t so much about celebrating size 16, but being pleased at the move away from presenting ridiculously small sizes as normal.

    Well done Jo.

  • Zoe O'connell 7th Nov '13 - 11:14am

    BMI is a population statistical measure, it was never intended to be used on individuals.

    For example, I’m a size 14 and my BMI makes me overweight. But I exercise and I’m fit enough to still pass army fitness tests, the same ones people do before they go on front line duty in Afghanistan. The only time I’ve been “normal” (And it was right at the top end of normal, 24.5ish) I was keeping up with a bunch of very fit 18-21 year olds. (No, I can’t do that now, I didn’t keep the fitness after an accident!)

    Who is healthier and less at risk of disease, me or someone who is size 6 and ended up with an eating disorder because of pressure from society not to be fit and healthy, but to be thin?

  • Not knowing Jo’s height or size and with no real reference point to scale the image, I find the photo a little disconcerting, as it would seem the mannequins are taller and hence whilst they may be a size 16, I wonder whether some artist licence has been used to ensure garments display well…

  • Simon –

    I don’t feel comfortable with the suggestion that because size 16 is either average or ‘real’ some how it should be accepted and embraced.

    Or to put it another way, you are in favour of making over half the women in the country feel bad about themselves? I’m going to pay you the compliment of assuming that this is out of genuine concern, rather than just “No Fat Chicks!”

    @james brough
    Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt – yes it is for a genuine concern. I’m a man in my 30s who is average height and average weight. Because of this I presumed I am ‘normal’ and ‘real’. Actually my doctor pointed out that I am overweight and this could have health consequences. As a result I am making the effort to lose some pounds. I’m doing this for the benefit of my health not for my appearance. If i was to use ‘normal’ or ‘average’ as a benchmark i wouldn’t be making that decision and the implications for my health would be negative. I maintain that promoting something because it is ‘normal’ or ‘real’ is not responsible. If it hurts some people’s feelings to be told they are overweight then unfortunately that is sometimes for their own good. I didn’t feel great when my doctor said I would benefit from losing weight but I’m glad that she did.

    re -Male commentators. Are males not allowed a view on this? The implications seems to be that somehow men making points are being chauvanistic. I would point out two things. Firstly whilst it may be true that men are involved much of the media and fashion obsession with women and body idealism is driven by women and gay men. It is not the exclusive preserve of heterosexual men. Secondly men are also subject to notions of what is ‘ideal’ and this is not only a problem for women. As it happens I don’t subscribe to visions of stick thin women being beautiful and I don’t like the pressures placed on young people (boys and girls such as my daughter) but I also don’t think we should say that being overweight is ok for fear of hurting people’s feelings.

  • Peter Watson 7th Nov '13 - 2:20pm

    Surely bringing out size 16 mannequins is not a wonderful liberal victory but simply a commercial attempt by this shop to sell more clothes. Did Jo get paid for this bit of promotional work?

  • daft ha'p'orth 7th Nov '13 - 2:52pm

    @Simon
    Your anecdote describes a man who thought he was ‘normal’ and ‘real’, was advised to lose some weight and lost some weight. On this basis you take the stance that not only is being greater than a certain size not “ok”, but that these people who are not “ok” should not be permitted to view clothes in any size close to their own on a shop-floor dummy. This might give them the false impression that they themselves are “ok”, which would be irresponsible on the part of society because large women are not “ok” and should not be permitted to believe for a second that they are.

    I’m not impressed with that view, not because it is offensive (although one does wonder whether a person who classifies others as not “ok” and not “making the effort” on the basis of their dress size alone does not allow that to spill into their daily lives) but because it isn’t well-informed. It is based on ignorance of the lived experiences of the people whose physical sizes you are attempting to regulate! In general, women are very much aware of health issues and are already keenly aware of the charges you lay at their feet. Re. “male commentators”: there’s no problem at all with male commentators giving their opinions, but there does need to be some recognition that their lived experiences may not always be directly analogous or relevant source material on which to draw.

    I can’t imagine why anybody would assume that womens’ bodies can be regulated by the presence or absence of size-16 mannequins on the High Street, but there you go. It’s a funny old world.

  • What exactly is wrong with giving people something to aspire to?

    You may not have noticed, but the male mannequins look better than most real men, too.

  • @daft ha’p’orth and Andrew hickey

    I’ve actually written long responses but I’m not going to post them. Obviously they disagree ith your points but I’m not in the business of trying to offend. I was rather trying to engage in debate. Its absolutely not my intention to offend people and if I have been inarticulate or been misinterpreted and this has caused offence then I apologise.

    I certainly did not mean to imply that it’s not ok to be a certain size and I absolutely would never try to ‘regulate’ people. By the way I never used the word regulate.

    Perhaps we’ll have to agree to disagree on the substance of the argument but I will leave the discussion by clarifying that I am worried about obesity in this country. If my posts implied bullying I’m genuinely sorry but others may wish to reflect that perhaps some (men or people giving a personal experience perhaps) have also been bullied into silence on an issue which is of great importance to our society.

  • “Oh will *no-one* think of the poor people who are so “worried” about other people, but have been “bullied” into minding their own business, except for all the times they don’t? Truly nobody is more oppressed than the people who want to tell other people what size they are! And all they have on their side is the whole of the media, societal attitudes, government health advice and the multi-billion-pound advertising and diet industries.

    My heart bleeds, it really does.”

    More applause and whistling

  • My heart bleeds, it really does

    That’s probably the stress.

  • @Andrew Hickey

    I’m sorry your hearts bleeding. I tried to engage in debate. When it was pointed out that I’d caused offence I tried to step back because I certainly don’t want to and did not intend to offend. If that’s not enough for you then there’s not much more I can do about it. Its a shame you don’t have the same courtesy.

    I was trying to say that difficult messages shouldn’t smothered in order to not hurt feelings. I was trying to say its not ok to give misleading messages. not that its no ok to be overweight. When it was pointed out to me that this was taken as saying its not ok to be overweight I stepped back. i tried to apologise as I accept that my statement could be read in that way (though i didn’t mena it as such), I wouldn’t want to ad to a perception of being a bully (which i did not intend) and perhaps reflected that my use of language inadequately expressed my thoughts. I’m sorry that you continue to have reason to attack that.

  • Oh will *no-one* think of the poor people who are so “worried” about other people, but have been “bullied” into minding their own business, except for all the times they don’t? Truly nobody is more oppressed than the people who want to tell other people what size they are! And all they have on their side is the whole of the media, societal attitudes, government health advice and the multi-billion-pound advertising and diet industries.

    My heart bleeds, it really does.

    The intriguing thing about all this is, that despite all of the above, society has not halted, let alone reversed, rising levels of obesity.

    Anyway, that’s incidental.

    But the argument that people shouldn’t care must then apply to the current fashion for skinny mannequins and models?

    It doesn’t though. We are told it promotes harm via unreal ideals of body size, encouraging eating disorders and is demeaning to people without that body shape. Thus for the same reasons it is valid to apply much the same arguments to larger models.

    We should all care anyway, because people don’t exist in isolation, if they are ill, they use healthcare paid for by all of us, and that gives us and the state an interest in their health.

    We should of course be sensitive about this, and consider approaches to reducing unhealthy lifestyles and weight that work, rather than a hectoring approach.

  • @Andrew

    You really are trying your best to make this unpleasant and attributing notions onto me which frankly don’t exist. Re; fauxpologising. There’s nothing faux about it. When it was pointed out to me that my posts were being construed as bullying then I decided to disengage. You may consider that passive aggressive and faux. Not much I can do about. If you really believe that its not genuine then why didn’t I just continue to debate specific points? I’m not sure how to apologise other than to use the words the ‘apologise’ and ‘sorry’; both of which i did.

    Once again I tried to clarify but but you don’t seem to have any intention of accepting what I say in the manner I have intended. I am NOT passing judgement on people’s bodies or lifestyles. Where have I mentioned people’s lifestyles? I’m trying to say that obesity is a difficult problem which will require difficult solutions and messages which may in the process hurts feelings. That is my view. I’m not trying to pass judgement, I’m not trying to regulate. (again I never used that word) I’m not commenting on people’s lifestyles.

  • Andy Boddington 7th Nov '13 - 5:24pm

    Some of the comments in this thread are getting a bit personal. Please don’t let the debate sink into a slanging match. That will not further what is a very important debate. Many thanks. Andy

  • daft ha'p'orth 7th Nov '13 - 5:38pm

    Simon 7th Nov ’13 – 4:17pm
    “I’m not in the business of trying to offend.”
    Understood.

    “I certainly did not mean to imply that it’s not ok to be a certain size and I absolutely would never try to ‘regulate’ people. By the way I never used the word regulate.”
    You didn’t use the word ‘regulate’, no. I won’t go into this any further unless asked 🙂

    ” I am worried about obesity in this country.”
    Fair enough. It is a concern, although it’s really only one of many metrics (it’s just one of the most visible…) I just don’t really see that there has been any evidence provided to support a purported causative link between increased numbers of larger shop window mannequins and a rise in obesity.

    Separately to the size-16 mannequin controversy I do agree that some of the larger sizes out there appreciate and benefit from some support becoming smaller sizes, just as some of the smaller sizes appreciate and benefit from support in the opposite direction. That’s about their individual health. Society could do lots of things to support people in a situation in which their weight is unhealthy and probably it should, but keeping it constructive is the very first of the things that society can do. Mens sana in corpore sano. The two go together. Depression, stress, anxiety, low self-image are not going to help a person to achieve their ideal weight.

    ” may wish to reflect that perhaps some (men or people giving a personal experience perhaps) have also been bullied into silence”
    I’m sorry if you feel bullied with regard to your personal experience. It is, however, useful to keep in mind that there is a great deal of data out there about the awareness of obesity in British adults. It is not a novel observation that many overweight men are unaware of that their weight may be unhealthy, whilst most overweight women are quite aware (see for example Wardle J, Johnson F, Weight and dieting: examining levels of weight concern in British adults. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders : Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity). This is one area of experience that does at present vary by gender in this country.

    “an issue which is of great importance to our society.”
    Size-16 shop window dummies – of great importance to society 🙂

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Nov '13 - 5:48pm

    My opinion on this controversial topic is that it is good to show a wide range of mannequin sizes. My other opinion is that I am disappointed this whole body confidence campaign only focuses on women and girls.

  • daft ha'p'orth 7th Nov '13 - 5:54pm

    @g
    “We are told it promotes harm via unreal ideals of body size, encouraging eating disorders and is demeaning to people without that body shape. Thus for the same reasons it is valid to apply much the same arguments to larger models.”

    The key word here is ‘unreal’ or ‘unrealistic’. Size-16 is realistic.So no, you can’t apply the same argument here.
    Now, if you wanted to argue that it would promote positive thinking to display a size or two below average, yeah, maybe it would. Here, they display both 10 and 16.. Personally, I’m very much of the the mindset that if businesses want to sell clothes then they will do whatever works, which apparently in this case includes size-16 mannequins as well as existing size-10 mannequins. If governments want to encourage good healthy living then they will have to come up with a well-designed, joined up strategy that doesn’t suck, implement it and wait for about a decade, just like the governments before them…

    @Eddie Sammon 7th Nov ’13 – 5:48pm
    “My opinion on this controversial topic is that it is good to show a wide range of mannequin sizes. My other opinion is that I am disappointed this whole body confidence campaign only focuses on women and girls.”
    I completely agree with both your points!

  • Tony Dawson 7th Nov '13 - 6:18pm

    @Caron Lindsay:

    “There is little risk to health in being a size 16”

    This depends a lot on your height. I used to think this but about two years ago, having never stood on a set of scales for over 8 years, I found that my weight had nudged up very vary slowly to being about the rough equivalent of a size 14. I looked up various texts concerning internal fat deposits etc and correlation with ill-health long term (always averages because there will always be outliers) and they were none-too-good. Without too much effort, I lost a stone and a half. The difference in my physical fitness is amazing though I am arguably still half a stone or so ‘over’ . Just try running up the stairs with 10 bags of sugar around your shoulders and you will notice the difference. But the principal benefit is metabolic. Of course, there will always be ‘outliers’ whose experience will be different.

    Remember, present average is not necessarily ‘normal’ or even within the ‘normal range’.

  • Ruth Bright 7th Nov '13 - 6:21pm

    All these comments about size 6 equalling an eating disorder or being stick thin or not constituting a “real” woman just substitutes unfair criticism of petite women for unfair criticism of larger women. Depressing. I was a size 6 for a decade or more and perfectly healthy. It is perfectly possible. Also, I was amused to see even the size 16 mannequins have a perfect hour glass shape with a flat tummy when most of us who are a size 12 or more are a wobbly pear shape.

    Sorry to go all Mumsnet!

  • @andrew
    I didn’t say anyone asked me to apologise. You said my apology was faux. I’m trying to tell you its genuine. Theres not much more i can do about refusal to accept. Again i did not say regulate. I did not comment on lifestyle.

    You say obesity is not a problem and is no-one’s business but the person concerned. My view is that it is a problem for society; as other’s have pointed out via such problems as costs to the NHS. Thats my view. I’m willing to accept you have a different view. You use the word ‘illiberal’. I would suggest it is you who is no being illiberal for seemingly refusing to accept I’m entitled to voice an alternative opinion; pointing out that I’ morally wrong. Who is being illiberal and self righteous? I never intended for my comment to be read as saying its not ok to be a certain size as I’ve tried to explain. I didn’t comment on lifestyles and I’m not trying to regulate. I’m sorry for causing offence. Theres not much more I can say.

    @daft ha’p’orth
    Thank you for your response.

  • Paul Griffiths 7th Nov '13 - 6:43pm

    The existence of the NHS is a contingent fact about our society. Anyone seeking to argue that a liberal state has a legitimate interest and reason for action in regard to it’s citizens’ health would be on firmer ground if they didn’t assume the existence of the NHS.

  • Paul GriffithsThe existence of the NHS is a contingent fact about our society. Anyone seeking to argue that a liberal state has a legitimate interest and reason for action in regard to it’s citizens’ health would be on firmer ground if they didn’t assume the existence of the NHS.

    Well I was going to make the economic argument, illness costs the economy, especially illness without an early death, as is the case for most lifestyle diseases, but thought that was particularly heartless.

    Andrew Hickey This is the same argument that is used for every single illiberal intervention in other people’s business. I look forward to you providing a list of every sexual encounter you have ever had. After all, as a taxpayer, I must have the right to know in case you need to access sexual health services. It’s my money you’d be spending if you did, so I should have a right of veto over what you get up to. Don’t worry, I’ll be very sensitive when I reduce your risky behaviour, and won’t hector you.

    Well, I wouldn’t be offended if you advised me to use a prophylactic to prevent unwanted pregnancy or disease. That’s the basis of many a public health campaign.

  • “Well I was going to make the economic argument, illness costs the economy, especially illness without an early death, as is the case for most lifestyle diseases, but thought that was particularly heartless. ”

    And wrong.

    Time and time again, it’s show sick people die and cost less money overall than healthy people who live long lives.

    It’s fine to say fat people have a lack of self control, it’s fine to think (maybe not say) they are ugly and unappealing, but it’s factually wrong to say they cost us more money.

  • Stuart Mitchell 8th Nov '13 - 7:49pm

    @Ruth Bright
    Excellent comment, Ruth. The first thing I noticed about the photo is that the mannequins all have that hourglass shape. So much for a more “realistic” portrayal of women. The average woman may have looked like that in the 1950s but these days Ms Average is more what you’d call “apple-shaped”, according to research.

    I also agree with you about some of the anti-thin rhetoric deployed by the body confidence movement. I’ve quoted plenty of it here in the past on other body confidence threads – perhaps the worst example being when Lynne Featherstone, no less, wrote a blog post in which she called thin women “stick insects”. Thin women come in for unwarranted abuse just as much as large women do, but you never get much acknowledgement of this from the body confidence brigade. It’s pretty much solely about large women.

    And yet, according to this survey from a couple of weeks ago…

    http://www.styleite.com/media/women-who-wear-larger-sizes-happier/

    …size 16 women are almost twice as likely to be happy with their body shape as size 6 women. So why the constant focus on making larger women feel better? Why not extend this to all women?

    The above survey also found that 52% of size 6 women yearn to be “curvier”. Because the fact is, though the body confidence lobby likes to focus on “skinny” models, this kind of “ideal” is only really promoted within the highly rarefied world of high fashion. Most of the media prefers to promote the more curvy and buxom shape – much like the Debenhams mannequins, in fact – though that figure is unobtainable to a lot of women.

    Purely as a matter of factual accuracy, I think it may be overstating the case to say (as many here are doing) that the “average” or “typical” woman is a size 16. According to Mintel (2010), over 60% of women in the UK are a size 14 or less, with the most common size being 12 (31%). So the typical woman is more a 12/14 than a 16.

  • And, of course, there are a lot of women (and equivalent in men) who are sizes 20 and 22 and above. We really shouldn’t eliminate those from consideration merely because of overweight / obese.

  • Glad this sparked a debate! Some really good points made, especially about the assumptions that still exist that slim = healthy, when in fact you can’t tell if someone is fit and healthy just by looking at them. When I ran the London Marathon in 2011 I remember how fantastic it was to see people of many different body shapes participating – and you need to be pretty fit to run 26.2miles!

    A little shocked that someone asked if I got paid specifically for this as if I’d only be doing it for money! The answer is of course no. I receive a salary as MP and Minister and see this campaign as just one part of those jobs.

    And someone asked what height the mannequins are – well I’m 5’4″ and was wearing heels, so they are tall! Not saying we’ve cracked the whole diversity thing yet in fashion & retail – still more room for a range of heights, shapes, skin colour and so on, and also picking up Ruth’s very good points about not demonising ANY particular body shape or size. It’s about celebrating that people are different.

  • Stuart Mitchell 10th Nov '13 - 8:28pm

    “and also picking up Ruth’s very good points about not demonising ANY particular body shape or size. It’s about celebrating that people are different.”

    Stopping the demonising would be a good start. It would be nice though if future government reports / teaching materials explicitly acknowledged that thin girls suffer from body confidence issues as well. What has been published so far only talks about girls who feel they ought to be thinner. No mention at all about the many girls who feel miserable because they wish they were “curvier”. Too much of the body confidence campaign up to now has been about making larger women feel better by denigrating thin women; it’s replacing one wrong with another.

  • The original article mentions “unless your view of what a woman should look like comes from … porn”. As I and others have mentioned several times, mens magazines have to cater for actual male heterosexual taste; research on British men suggests that there is a range of preferences but the peak atttractiveness is of BMIs in the range of 19-23 – i.e. almost the same range as healthy weight (BMIs 18-25). That you women choose to read your pro-ana magazines showing people with unhealthy weight is not something you can blame us men for.

    Caron Lindsay “I think what is really worrying me is that there are men who are making it clear that they judge women, maybe men as well, on their size.”

    I think the question is “judge” for what purpose. Obviously it would not be acceptable to hire someone for a professional position based on looks, but presumbably it is ok to choose one’s sexual partners based on what their bodies look like, or not? I would be interested in clarification on this, because it seems to me that if:
    a) this is also judged as unacceptable behaviour (in which case I salute the men who outed themselves as having a socially unacceptable sexual orientation towards women of a healthy weight) then we are into highly illiberal (and fantasist) territory. but if
    b) it is acceptable to choose one’s sexual partners based on their bodies, then I don’t see how any significant progress in terms of body confidence is going to come from this campaign, partiularly among teenagers, for whom getting the first serious boyfriend and girlfriend can become the be-all and end-all of everything.

    Certainly my experience of losing 10 kilos in the last four months and finally getting to be officially non-obese (BMI 29.94) is that it has improved my body confidence a lot. Women are looking at me in a different way to before and complimenting the new me; I also feel more motivated to dress smartly and look after myself more generally. I haven’t really done a scientific survey but I feel I have a wider choice of potential sexual partners than before (perhaps women also judge men based on looks?). I know others would disagree but I do believe that the best way to improve confidence in something is to improve the reality – one can be a more confident violinist when one learns to play the violin better. I am also interested why it is not ok for me to combat my body confidence issues by losing weight but it is ok for Ms Swinson to wear high heels and thereby gain a couple of inches of height.

    By the way, I agree to a certain extent that BMIs are intended for whole population data, but they can offer a more objective reality check (for example, “yes I know you feel fat but your BMI is now 17 and you have really lost enough weight and would look worse and be less healthy than if you lost more: – or “BMI 33?, time to lose weight”) rather than having no numbers at all in those messages.

    Also great to see a minister engaging with the comments, instead of using LDV as another place for one-way communication.

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