I can’t remember a time when I’ve felt at home in my body. It’s always felt too much, regardless of its actual size. Over the past 25 years I’ve swung between anorexia, bulimia and the general misery that passes for how a “healthy” woman feels about her physical self. I’ve tried to stop doing it but with little success. I guess I just haven’t had the male b-list celebrity support.
However, all this is going to change, thanks to the Sun’s No More Skinny campaign. Supported by the likes of X-factor runner up Olly Murrs and rapper/Michael Gove lookalike Professor Green, No More Skinny is finally putting an end to the culture that makes women feel so ashamed of their bodies that they want to disappear. Whether we’re dealing with music videos, Page Three or ill-informed endorsements of bulimia, the Sun’s Dan Wootton, Olly and the Prof will be taking on the systematic objectification and dehumanisation of women in a patriarchal… Oh, hang on. Seems that’s not quite how it works. What these helpful chaps are actually going to do is attack the fashion industry, have a pop at thin models and, most important of all, remind us that real men like women with “curves”.
Got that ladies? You’re allowed to take up some space in the world after all! Just don’t get carried away and think it’s about taking up space as an actual human being. Once an object, always an object (but hey, an object with tits and ass, unlike those catwalk mingers!).
According to Green, husband of Millie Mackintosh (whom he describes as “the epitome of thinspiration”) “there are far too many unhealthy images of women”. Yes, Prof. You’re not wrong there. We’re surrounded by images of women, most of which, taken individually, couldn’t be described as healthy or unhealthy. After all, they’re just bodies. It’s the overall context that makes the difference. Too many catwalk models are dead-eyed and hungry. Too many bikini-clad babes drape themselves over men who are fully clothed. Too many pairs of female tits appear in the midst of stories of male violence and abuse. It is, quite simply, all too much.
Green reminds us that “the most important things are health and happiness”. Sure. When, as a girl who has just reached puberty, you discover that walking down the street bearing any sign of breasts is enough to reduce you to a piece of meat, it’s hard to give a shit about being “healthy”. The dominant culture doesn’t value women as healthy human beings. Long-term health is a luxury when you just want to survive and, for girls, survival is either conforming to the male gaze or opting out entirely.
Ah, says Olly Murrs, but it’s all about balance: “sometimes skinny women can look attractive – but it is too dangerous. It is ridiculous when you see size-six, even size-four, girls on stage”. Echoing the Daily Mash’s “Women Should Be Hot, Slutty Secretaries With Massive Boobs“, Murrs then namedrops Marilyn Monroe, predecessor to Christina Hendricks as every man’s go-to “see, she looks absurdly gorgeous while not being emaciated, why can’t you do the same?” point of reference. The thing is, Olly, while you may think women are stupid, what with all this dieting nonsense when we could be giggling coquettishly on air vents while men take sexy snaps up our skirts, it’s a bit more complicated than that. We may have bodies but we also have hearts and minds and whole days to get through, during which we know we’ll be scrutinised to within an inch of our lives but never really seen at all.
It is absurd to tell women to love themselves in a world that alienates them from their own flesh. No amount of one-quarter-moisturiser soap can wash away the knowledge of what your female body means to others: sex object, breeder, wank fodder, window dressing, on-set extra. The distress women feel when confronted with image after image of extreme thinness cannot simply be characterised as “I want to look like that so that men love me”. A woman might actually be thinking “women are supposed to look like that because men do not like us at all”. Or “I want to look like that so that my body will be less fleshy, less female and less real”. Women starve, binge and purge because they feel trapped in bodies that are not “theirs”. The trouble is, there’s never a female body that fits.
I don’t know how cynical the No More Skinny campaign really is, nor how much of it is a half-arsed attempt to “defend” the relative non-skinniness of Page Three. The truth is, I don’t care. While projects such as Bare Reality go some way to enabling women to sense what it might be like to be at home in one’s own skin, they can only do so much. We also need a world that embraces us as people, with inner lives that transcend the arbitrary curves of our flesh.