Monday, 3 November 2014

The end of thin fascism?

There's nothing like wearing a bikini for a week to make you feel a little body-conscious. My family spent half term in a hotel in Gran Canaria, surrounded by a palm trees and two glistening swimming-pools. Each day, after we had plundered the buffet breakfast, we lay like beached whales on our sun loungers. By day three, my husband and I were feeling so bloated we volunteered for poolside yoga, followed by some thrashing about in the water (aka aqua aerobics). 


A dish of paella
Holiday excess: one too many helpings...
When we got home, after a week of gluttony, I was too afraid to get on the scales. On the plane home, however, I was comforted to read an article ('I was born with curves') in The Sunday Times about an American, plus-size model called Ashley Graham. This young woman, apparently a British size 18, is a ravishing beauty who turns heads in restaurants and brings traffic to a halt outside. She also loves pizza and dips her crusts in Nutella. "My butt rolls, it's really out there," she told the journalist, Eleanor Mills

The fact that Ashley's modelling agency is marketing her skills outside the plus-size market is, according to Mills, reflective of changing attitudes about body weight. Thin fascism is on its way out. God, I hope so! As the mother of a slim 10-year old who is already worrying about the size of her thighs, I am beginning to realise how pernicious magazine culture is, with its plethora of skinny models and photoshopped images. 


Beauty in 'many forms'


Ashley, who has been modelling since she was 12, has set up a coalition of models, called ALDA, which aims to represent beauty in all its different sizes. The organisation goes into schools and colleges to talk to girls about body image. "I am not pro-obesity, but I think beauty comes in many forms, and it breaks my heart to see girls being anorexic and bulimic in their teens," she told Mills. "You can be fit and larger." 

It's also about confidence: Ashley knows she's desirable and she's strong-minded enough to challenge an industry that has celebrated the waif for too long.

There has been talk of a sea-change about body image before, but perhaps it is finally gaining some momentum. As part of this cultural shift, the luxury fashion website, Net-a-porter, is encouraging European fashion designers to provide larger sizes. It seems that sizes 14 and 16 sell out first on the website. No surprises there as more than half of British women are a size 16.

It would be lovely if my daughter didn't have to spend half her life worrying about her figure. Significantly, Ashley's mother played crucial role in making her feel happy about her size. So I am putting my Gran Canaria binge behind me (literally) and letting my butt roll. It's time to love the curves! What's more, societal change always needs a bit of grassroots support. 



FURTHER READING

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
Over the course of a year, Bridget records her hopes, dreams and fluctuating weight. Her mission is to find inner peace and poise... and hopefully Mr. Right.