Thigh gaps furores, pro-ana websites, dire warnings of obesity crises, size 16 mannequins in storefronts, the Daily Mail’s side bar of shame. What it all adds up to is that bodies are hugely varied, but almost never ‘right’.
A woman’s lot in this case is (as almost always) far worse than men’s: you can never worry too much about your age, your flab, your hair (head or body), your breasts, genitalia and even the presence of absence (eg. the thigh gap). Of course worrying about all of these bits and bobs does two things – first off it keeps a massive ‘beauty’ industry on track, second of all it helps to keep women concerned with their individual faults while overlooking the massive gender inequalities that still exist.
But flab is of course a problem of both genders – we’re all getting fatter and it’s going to kill us, alledgely. Except that not everyone is getting morbidly obese of course and the elision of the slightly chubby and the massively obese is worth looking out for: muffin tops are not the same as needing to be airlifted to hospital through the roof of your house. BMI charts are bandied about as if they were holy tablets rather than statistical information on populations (which are largely out of date). Here’s the thing: if everyone is now chubby and the average woman is a size 16 (which won’t kill you, no matter what the Daily Mail says) how can we maintain a fiction that the world is a place for the thin?
And when did it become ok to comment on peoples bodies anyway? I was always told that pointing people out and making personal comments was rude – by the age of 6 I got it and kept my opinions to myself. Nowadays we have magazines pointing fingers, counting rolls of fat or criticising the definition of peoples ribs. A permanent feeling of body loathing can’t be helpful whether its projected inwards or outwards. Get angry people, but not at a failed diet or an ill fitting pair of leggings. If you’re a woman, male violence ought to be something you’re worrying about and if you’re a man, maybe you’d be better off fretting about that too.
Economic inequality, gender discrimination, xenophobia, violence against LGBT people, the destruction of the environment, those are genuine reasons to be glum. A stray grey hair, a bigger bum than the norm, the signs of ageing? Not so much.