A plus-sized error of judgment

Jamelia’s suggestion that selling fashion to larger people “normalises obesity” raises a whole heap of questions. Not least, for Kiri Pritchard-McLean, how she’s supposed to cover her tits.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Something’s got on my tits this week and that’s quite an achievement, because they’re massive.

A discussion on Loose Women made a link between shops selling larger-sized clothes and the promotion of an unhealthy lifestyle. The implication being that selling larger clothes on-trend for teenagers was “normalising” obesity.

Then Jamelia suggested there is a “healthy range” when it comes to body size and that clothing shouldn’t be sold below or above this range, except in specialist shops.

There’s so much to say about this statement, I feel like I’ve just had a roast dinner put in front of me. And also sad because I don’t have a roast dinner in front of me.

Of course, I agree everyone should be encouraged to live a healthy lifestyle. But I don’t think being a size zero or a size 18 means you are categorically unhealthy.

I think to imply an issue as nuanced as body image can be boiled down to arbitrary targets is, at best, unhelpful. At worst, it’s deadly.

Bodies aren’t one size, just like they aren’t one shape or colour, and that is great. Size-zero clothes, held up as default symbols of evil, were predominantly a response to a growing market in Asia. That’s right: in different countries women, like toilets, come in different shapes.

I’ve never been thin: even when competing at a national level in judo and riding horses for 20 hours a week, I barely dipped below 12 stone or a size 14. I didn’t give a shit because I was healthy, I knew there was more to life than what clothes size I was and I was getting tonnes of cock.

“Perhaps if we encouraged our girls to be proud of the content of their character and not the size of the jeans, we’d have fewer girls starving themselves?”

Did I mention I have big tits? Because when buying bikinis it wasn’t uncommon for me to need a 14 for the bottom half and a 22 for the top. That means with Jamelia’s rules I’d have to leave my tits at the door, like when they make you leave rucksacks in a cloakroom of a stately home in case you nick a painting.

Overeating is frequently cited as a symptom of low self-esteem. Is making sure overweight people can’t look nice or have to go to designated shops going to help that? If you think so, you should come shopping with me when I try and pour my tits and arse into something from Topshop. I’m far more likely to soothe myself with something in pastry than I am with a Pilates DVD.

There are all sorts of health reasons that can lead a person to be under- or overweight; they are myriad and none of our fucking business.

My Mum got cancer when I was 16 and harder than losing her hair was losing her figure to the steroids she needed to keep her alive. She didn’t recognise the body she was in and neither did her existing clothes. Thank God that, as well as having to endure sickness, stares and the thought she might well die, she wasn’t also ushered out of Dorothy Perkins into a more suitable “specialist shop”.

But what’s really ascending my areolas is the fascination with controlling, judging and obsessing over women’s appearance. Perhaps if we encouraged our teenagers to take some pride in something other than the way they look, we would have healthier young people? Perhaps if we encouraged our girls to be proud of the content of their character and not the size of the jeans, we’d have fewer girls starving themselves? Or if we told them that the best asset we have, that doesn’t sag, or become marked and misshapen after childbirth, is their mind. That if they work on that, the rest will follow.

Or we can tell them to keep concentrating on what size dress they are wearing, but it doesn’t seem to be working so far.


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Written by Kiri Pritchard-McLean

Kiri is a Welsh stand up comedian and one fourth of sketch group Gein’s Family Giftshop. She is also a Farmer’s daughter. The subtext to all this? Great at swearing. @kiripritchardmc