"Real women have curves!" "Men prefer curves!" "Curvy is in, skinny is out!"
How many times have we all heard those phrases in the past 12 months or so? Facebook is awash with groups titled "Curves are beautiful, size zero should be illegal", "Real Women Have Curves", "F**K Size Zero, I love my curves". Channel 4's documentary series, Battlefront, has even commissioned a campaign against size zero (http://battlefront.co.uk/campaign/who-wants-to-be-a-size-zero-anyway/) From the national press, Cosmopolitan to the blogosphere, the seachange in public opinion is clear to see - skinny is out and a more attainable, more "womanly" figure is in. Great - right?
Wrong. Indulge me, if you will, fellow feminazis, and I shall explain why the rise of "curves" is just as pernicious as so-called "skinny culture".
First off, this new culture of curves is NOT about celebrating fuller figures, it is about denigrating slender women. How many more screaming "So Skinny She Looks Like She'll Break!!!" headlines on the frontpage of Heat Magazine, how many more paparazzi shots of "Worryingly thin Lindsay" in the Dail Fail, how many more scare-mongering ITV documentaries on the "dangers of size zero" before people realise that there is no new culture? The culture is exactly the same, it's just that the target has changed. We've swopped fat-bashing for skinny-bashing and exchanging one prejudice for another isn't an advancement in women's rights, it's a step sideways.
Secondly, to the "more attainable, more womanly" part. Who is to say what is "womanly"? Women come in all different shapes and sizes and only a fool would try to attribute a higher level of feminity to one over the other. Really this argument belongs to the first point I made - it's not about celebrating so-called "womanly" figures, it's about taking a dig at slimmer women, saying they're "manly", less "real". Who cares which women we're picking on, as long as we can still pick on women, hey?
As for "more attainable", let's investigate this, shall we? In the last week two websites; MSN Lifestyle and the Daily Fail have run articles on the "most desirable" body shapes, with an emphasis on "curvy" woman such as Kate Winslet, Halle Berry and eponymous Kelly Brook. The Fail, in particular claims this as a great victory for women, because such figures are supposedly more realistic a goal for the average woman. Really? Neither Winslet, Berry nor Brook can be more than a size 10 at most, and with the average dress size in the UK now up to a 16, that's quite a gap. More pertinently though, "curves" of the type that these women have are not something you can ever achieve. They have big breasts, and wide-set hips, set off by tiny waists. No matter how much you diet you can't change the width of your pelvis, you can't grow your breasts without implants - you're either born an hourglass shape or you're not. Don't get me wrong, I think Winslet, Brook et al have fantastic figures (as do Kate Moss, Cheryl Cole and Victoria Beckham) but promoting them as "better" role models than your average supermodel because their figures are "more attainable" is ludicrious because a girl with a straight-up-and-down body type has as much chance as naturally growing a second head as she has of ever looking like Kelly Brook.
What I'm trying to say, in my tired, rambling way, is that despite the rhetoric, we are still being sold an unachievable dream. All this adds up to is a continuation of the body facism we all know and hate, which tells women they should look a certain way and chastises those who fail. All switching the hatred from large women to thin women achieves is to alienate one group of women, to make one lot of women feel good at another lot's expense - in short, it is turning women against each other. I've said it before on this blog and I'll say it again: divide and conquer is a tool to keep women down - we'll never beat sexism if we're too busy being at each other's throats.
The moral of this story is, body facism is alive and well, and women, more than ever before are encouraging it. The aforementioned Facebook groups are almost all founded by women, and boast an almost all-female membership. Women have grabbed onto this trend with both hands. Your mission, should you choose to accept it? Stop it. Revoke your membership to "Real women have curves", write to Heat and ask them to stop demonising women who happen to naturally be less than a size 10 and even more so the ones who are unnaturally thin, because last time I checked, laughing at women with eating disorders wasn't helpful, just cruel. If you're a man, write to women's magazines and tell them that actually men don't "prefer curves" but that different people have wildly differing tastes. If you're a woman, write to women's magazines and tell them to stop insulting your intelligence, and that implying slim women are unnattractive to men is no friendlier than shouting "you're going to die alone, fatty!", and no better for the female pysche as a whole. Hug a skinny girl.
Who Wants To Be A Size Zero Anyway? I do, actually, because that's the way I was born, and it's impossible for me to be anything else.