Written by Ros Bell


The Busybody Business of Bodies

Dressing it up as health concern doesn’t make body shaming any less bullying behaviour, says Ros Bell.

Illustration by Louise Boulter

There has been a lot of media discussion recently about women’s bodies. Not that this is a new thing; there’s always lots of discussion about women’s bodies. For a long time women have known that it’s impossible to win. We’re too fat, we’re too thin, we’ve got too much skin exposed and that’s disgusting because we’re too fat or thin. This is a problem that has been going on for years, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Recently we’ve had hacked photos, No More Page 3, body shaming, and now No More Skinny.

No More Skinny is a recent campaign initiated by The Sun’s Dan Wootton. That’s right. The Sun. A male editor of The Sun telling women what’s wrong with their bodies. Let’s all take a moment to be surprised, then let that sink in for a moment. Call Alanis, we’ve defined irony. As a supporter of No More Skinny, Ollie Murs was quoted as saying, “Sometimes skinny women can look attractive – but it is too dangerous. It is ridiculous when you see size 6, even size 4, girls on stage.”

Sometimes skinny women can look attractive. That’s what he said. So in case you were hoping that perhaps this No More Skinny campaign was to benefit the health of models, or to try and make a positive change in the fashion industry to include more marginalised body types, I’m sorry, but you’re shit out of luck. It’s nothing at all to do with either of those things; it’s about whether some celebrity dude thinks your body is attractive. It is, once again, using women’s bodies as a weapon against themselves. One type of body is legitimate, others aren’t, and it doesn’t matter if that body type is completely unattainable for some.

Whether it’s some dude shouting, “Oi fatty! I’d give you one!” to me in the street (I think he was hoping I’d be grateful), or some magazine talking about how ‘real’ women have curves, it’s all about someone else having agency over your body. It’s about them saying, “You don’t look like the people I like looking at, and I’m going to explain why.” It’s the height of narcissism. Why should some turd in the street think I should care what he thinks about my body?

Normally, when the fat/thin discussion happens online, there are inevitably people who say they are concerned for the health of the individual in question. She’s “too skinny”, she’s “too fat”. “It’s not healthy”. Well, let me tell you this: these people want you to think that their body shaming is coming from a place of compassion. It is not. A stranger demeaning someone else on the internet or in the street is never an act of kindness. This is a cliché, but it’s more likely that their comments come from a place of insecurity rather than a desire to be a good Samaritan. They might kid themselves into thinking that telling a fat person to “go for a jog” or telling a thin person to “eat something” is ultimately benefiting their health. “It’s tough love!” they cry. It is not. It’s bullying, purely designed to make people feel inferior. Not to mention the fact that the health argument conveniently leaves out the mental health impact of being subjected to constant judgement based on your looks.

Slightly tangential but relevant, as it still concerns randoms thinking they have agency over anybody’s body but their own, the recent photo-leaking scandal taught us that awful people don’t really like to be confronted with the fact that they are awful. That’s why they can always claim their judgements are concern, whether it’s your health, your safety or the security of those images that you sent to your boyfriend. They’re just thinking of what’s best for you, sil-ly! All you need to do is look how they want, wear what they think is appropriate for your body type and never send any possibly compromising photos to anyone. Or let anyone take photos of you. Trust no one. Except them, they know what’s best.

Actually though, it’s simpler than that: Your body. Your business

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Written by Ros Bell

Big kid tested motherfucker approved. @scrabble_girl