I’m no stranger to the effects that media representation of women’s bodies can have on your mentality towards your own body – trust me. However, as I’ve professed in previous blog entries, I’m no longer allowing body negativity to fog up my attitude towards my curvier figure, voting instead to embrace my size, shape and squidgy bits. In the face of – shock horror – a curvy woman being confident and happy with her body, many have jumped on the fat shaming bandwagon, choosing to shame, not aid those who are plus size. The media is rife with fat shaming activity and is often disguised as ‘concern’ about a fat woman’s health – but it doesn’t take a genius to pick apart this ‘concern’ and realise that actually, these trolls are trying to subvert any happiness that we might feel towards our wobbly bits and refuse to acknowledge a fat woman’s right to exist. I cover enough surface area, as a plus size woman, to refute these attempts at extinguishing fat girl culture – so let’s talk about the elephant in the room, it doesn’t belong in the shadows any longer.
It seems that the catalyst for this stigma against fat women comes, predominantly, from the media. When stripped down to its most basic form, it can be deduced that the media is governed by men – I’m not a man hater, before anyone jumps on that bandwagon, I’m just saying it as I see it… and let’s face it, the evidence is there. The Sun has given the male eye unrealistic female bodies in the form of Page 3 models for years; the new trend #AskHerMore arrived as a result of the media’s focus on the bodies and clothes of women at the Oscars; the new Cinderella film has come under fire for promoting an unrealistic body image for women and the Everyday Sexism Campaign is rife with comments women have received about their bodies and the way they look. Patriarchal media has so far dictated how a woman should look, how she should behave, what size her body should be and how she should feel about it – which is why I was shocked to find an article, by the ever controversial Daily Mail suggesting that women should turn to men for validation of their bodies.
In the article, Dr Aric Sigman, a chartered biologist and psychologist, states that ‘men are an untapped army who need to become aggressively vocal’ about the ‘body dissatisfaction’ that women feel. Sorry, but I’m a little confused – men are far from ‘untapped’ when it comes to voicing their opinions about women’s bodies, ask any woman you come across and I can guarantee that she’s received comments about her image. Further to this, women are fed ideas from the men who govern the media which often dampen their body positivity spirits. With this statement, it seems that Dr Sigman is suggesting that we take these negative comments and ideals on the chin and then go crawling back to men for some kind of twisted affirmation that our bodies are acceptable. By stating that men should ‘become aggressively vocal’ about women’s bodies, Dr Sigman is advocating a conversation about body image that women neither want, or need and by encouraging men to foist their opinions upon women in an ‘aggressive’ manner, he is negating a woman’s right to not only not own her body, but to not own the conversation about her body. According to Dr Sigman, ‘men are in a position to countercheck the prevailing highly damaging generalisation that female body fat is unattractive and disliked by males’ – even if I wasn’t writing from a gynocentric perspective, it screams hypocrisy, doesn’t it? Men are more often than not the perpetrators of this ‘highly damaging generalisation’ – I’m more than aware that women are often cruel about plus size and curvy women, but where do their ideas about body ideals come from? This once again supports the idea that women are weak and need to first be battered down by patriarchal media and then picked back up by men to keep them in check.
Dr Sigman writes from an educated male perspective, finding comfort in his status as a biologist and psychologist, he is able to disguise his misogynistic stance over the appropriation of women’s bodies as concern about women’s body image. As with many, he is following in the fat shaming trend and supporting the idea that women cannot even entertain the idea of ownership of their bodies and minds without input from men being foisted upon them. I for one refuse to allow my acceptance of my body be managed, handled or under the authority of anyone other than me. Why do men need to be ‘aggressively’ heard? Leave our bodies to us; we’ve got it in hand – trust me.