Thursday, 5 June 2014

Women: The Size Debate

I'm not the first and I definitely won't be the last to put forward my opinion on the whole size zero/plus size debate that we've been bombarded with on social media in the past few years, but I feel that I need to express my personal opinion - it needs getting off my chest!

So, for a quite a few years we've all seen images of severely underweight catwalk models while claims are made that this is so the designers only have to make the clothes in one size - pfft! While models on high street fashion sites such as New Look, Topshop etc are more healthy looking, they are also usually size 8/10 and so women have quite rightly felt intimidated and been made to feel overweight and therefore inadequate.

As human beings we are all (even men!) conscious of our image and whether we realise it or not, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others and worrying whether or not we attractive and desirable. So naturally, the size zero issue sparked a huge backlash which seems to have really come to the forefront in the past few years, and this is where my criticism lies. Pretty much every time I go on Facebook, I see images like this...

...the whole rhetoric concerning size has gone from one extreme to the other, but the notion that you have to be 'curvy' and ideally, a size 12 or above to be a 'real' woman is equally as damaging as images of size zero models. Don't get me wrong, in the beginning photos like this made me feel better about myself (I am a size 12/14) because they made told me I was 'real' and didn't have to be self-conscious. However, I have recently realised how aggressive the rhetoric actually is - we should not be telling women that they have to be any size to be 'real', this has served to make naturally thin women feel inadequate.

I have seen an image on Facebook of a woman who looks about a size 16/18 with the caption 'This is what real women looked like in the 1950s' and as a history student I was frankly appalled by it! For a start it is so historically inaccurate - in 1950s Britain many people were still having to stick to rations, so I'm pretty sure most women were actually quite thin. It's false statements like these, that have no substance behind them that will truly have an impact on women.

The 'real women' backlash has launched an unnecessary hate campaign against thin women and women who probably genuinely suffer from a condition such as anorexia are being verbally battered and being plunged even further into the worst kind of low self-esteem. Keira Knightley has had to fend off numerous accusations that she is suffering from an eating disorder and I believe her when she says that she isn't. I have a friend who has a very similar figure to Keira Knightley and she loves big Sunday roasts and chocolate cake. People really need to be more sensitive when making comments like thin women look like 'ten year old boys'.

The truth is that most women are not size zero, and the dominance of severely underweight models on the catwalk is wrong. However, the aggressive backlash that puts equal pressure on women to be 'curvy' in order to be 'real' is just as wrong. What we have to realise is that real women range from size zero to size 30 and beyond, while there are probably more women around the size 14 mark, it would be unrealistic to believe that no one is thinner or bigger than that. We must appreciate diversity and the spectrum of size that exists and that fashion companies need to acknowledge. We've all developed differently and that's really something to celebrate and enjoy, not to be used as a weapon against one another. This photo pretty much sums it up for me...

I'd also like to say something about the transition from being a teenager to being a woman, based on my own experience. I'm 19, nearing 20, so technically still a teenager but I can tell that my body has changed massively in the past couple of years. I noticed that I started to put on a bit more weight or 'fill out' during sixth form and university and I have sometimes mistaken that for being a bad thing. I come across lots of teenage girls on twitter talking about losing weight but I think it's important to realise, especially at 17/18, your body will want to naturally change into it's adult version and that's completely normal. Of course, some girls stay petite and that's normal too! Hips, boobs, bum, and even belly may start to expand, but don't think that that's a bad thing, puberty doesn't end at age 13 and you'll notice your body mature again as you start to get closer to 20.

So I guess the main thing to take away from this is to appreciate diversity of shape and size and not to slate one another based on our image, it's such a bad thing. And young girls - don't be scared when your body starts to change, appreciate being who your body wants you to be.

Gemma x


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