I am utterly bored with girls talking about their weight. Can we please as a gender move on to a more interesting topic of conversation? Like the infrastructure of a beehive, for example, or the literacy techniques employed in Twilight or the perfect strategy for winning FIFA 13? You can pick any topic, any topic at all. Anything that is not the repetitive twaddle that continuously spills out of some women’s mouths about what women look like.
Maybe this rant needs a bit of context. You need to know where I am coming from, because my story isn’t often shared. I am not the woman who has always struggled with her weight, who has been bullied and ridiculed. I am not the woman who took up exercise, lost some extra weight and now looks and feels fabulous. I am not the woman who had been through every diet going and ended up weeping in frustration. I am not the woman who has felt the pride-and-shame-paradox of a controlling eating disorder. These women are precious and their stories need hearing. But their story is not mine.
So here I am. I am the woman in the middle-ground, I am 25 years old, 5ft3 and my weight tends to be around 8st3. Sometimes its 3lbs lighter, sometimes its 3lbs heavier. Occasionally I have an indulgent few months which leads to a small amount of weight gain. When that happens, I feel the difference, and I cut down on my chocolate and crisps until I either drop down to 8st3 or get distracted by an epic TV series and forget all about it.
My weight, body and looks are fine. I am happy with them and I can work with them. Depending on my mood and what I am wearing I can feel pretty, beautiful, sexy or elegant. My husband and Mother tell me that I am beautiful and that is all the affirmation I need.
For me, my body is not an issue, yet what has prompted this blog, is the number of people who seem to have something to say about my weight. It just seems to be a part of our culture now, that any woman’s weight should be open to discussion. I get asked about once a month if I am losing weight. The question always catches me off guard and I just frown in puzzlement and say ‘I don’t think so; it’s just a fitted cardigan.’ Then the inquiring woman (It is always a woman) will smile a little sadly and tell me to be careful.
Whatever I eat in public seems to provoke an unwanted comment from someone. If I have fish and chips for lunch I get people saying ‘It’s all right for you, you can eat what you want.’ Or ‘Better watch out, you’ll start getting fat.’ But if I have a salad instead, I get quizzed on dieting. The idea that I picked the salad just because I fancied it is met with barely concealed scepticism.
Now I cannot claim that these little snipes have severely shot my self-esteem but it is a daily annoyance I could do without. And if people think it is OK to make these comments to me, they will be making them to other women too. And who knows what that woman may have gone through with her own body image? Careless words can cut deep.
So I shall state here, once and for all, that commenting on someone else’s weight is rude. If all they have said when sitting down to a meal is ‘mmm, this tastes good,’ that is not an invitation for you to discuss their weight. Just let them enjoy their lunch. We should allow women (and by ‘women,’ I mean me) to eat food without taking them on a little guilt trip.
Then there are times when a group of my friends will be having a serious conversation about weight and dieting, and I just sit there, unable to add anything to the conversation because (as many people have pointed out to me) I have not struggled in these areas so what can I have to contribute?
What is bizarre about this scenario is that I am not the “pretty girl” among a group of fat women. Whilst we don’t all have the same body shape, my friends are some good looking women. I am not the thinnest in the group, I am not the most conventionally pretty. But here is the difference between us; I don’t habitually put down my looks in front of people. I don’t call myself fat, I don’t say that I am ugly and I don’t say ‘Oh I wish I had your legs’. I don’t say those things because I believe:
1. Those remarks are boring and
2. Those remarks are damaging to me and to anyone else who hears them.
What is even more frustrating than people making unwanted remarks on my own weight is when perfectly beautiful and healthy women bemoan their own ‘hideous bodies’. Skinny colleagues starting bikini diets in preparation for a holiday drives me mental.
I have seen first-hand what happens when a girl nearly loses her life in the grips of anorexia. Now an eating disorder is a complicated thing, and it is not all about weight loss, but one of the factors that encourages starving behaviour is the idea that girls must be very very skinny to be beautiful.
This idea is repugnant but constantly presented to us, and not just in Photoshopped magazines but in our day to day language. Every time we allow normal everyday women to talk badly of their bodies we drive the lie deeper under our skin. There are far too many girls out there who believe that women are either model-esque beautifully thin or fat freaks, with no middle ground in-between.
We need to change this. We need women in the middle-ground to start holding their heads high with the knowledge that their bodies are perfectly normal and lovely. We need women to stand up and shut up. We need to kill this lie with silence. Let’s stop nipping at one another, let’s stop making the diet talk a part of our daily routine, let’s stop obsessing out loud over our flaws. Who has the right to call them flaws anyway? We need to stop indulging in ‘You think you’re ugly? Have you seen my bingo wings?’ conversations. If the only way we have to boost a woman’s self-esteem is to attack our own then there is something very wrong. Why can’t we celebrate our beauty more? Let’s not leave it to the Dove campaign but let’s do it ourselves. Why not start by admitting to one another that we know that stomachs are supposed to be rounded not flat?
Why can’t we say to one another, ‘stop moaning about your wobbly bum. You and your bum are stunning! And whilst we are on the topic, I am rather spiffing myself’
The world is full of beautiful women. Let’s accept it with a cheerful smile and move on. Being outwardly beautiful is wonderfully unimportant. Divert your attention to being intelligent, kind, creative and courageous and you will be beautiful in ways that no amount of dieting, worrying or even Photoshop could ever achieve.
Come on. Let’s find something new to talk about!