Feminist Friday (and an absence of beards)

‘Few consumers are very thin; even fewer are very young. As for the drawn, deathly faces of the children – well, fashion likes death too, because it makes us feel impermanent.’

Tanya Gold, Guardian

No beards this week – today it’s all about the ladies.

Fashion Week starts in London today which means the city centre will be flooded with beautiful people exquisitely dressed. I remember the first time I clocked fashion week, I’d been walking along the Strand unable to work out why I felt so inadequate all of a sudden. Then I saw a Fashion Week banner, everything slotted into place, suddenly the fat and badly dressed people became visible again, and all was right with the world.

It never ceases to amaze me how profoundly rattled I can be by the way other women look. It’s hard to develop a healthy immunity to the images we’re shown of what a ‘beautiful woman’ looks like – skinny, adolescent, hipless – and live like a beautiful woman actually is – soft, round, adult.

The Stylist posted on their blog about an Italian artist, Anna Utopia Giordano, had altered images of Botticelli’s famously voluptuous women in Photoshop, using the liquify tool to slim them down to US size zero. They commented on how what we perceive as beautiful has changed, and I confess I did find myself thinking the slimmed down versions looked better, if a little too skinny. Is this in part because along the side of the page there was an advert featuring a model who’s thighs will NEVER meet at the top. If there’d been a picture of me next to them would I have thought the slimmed down Venus Rising was too thin? Fortunately, I’m NEVER going to appear on an advert on the Stylist‘s website.

Tanya Gold wrote a great comment piece in the Guardian this week about how models themselves are becoming unionised to try and gain some protection from the abuses and relentless demands of an industry where no one seems to ever be able to be thin enough or young enough or beautiful enough. When the models at the centre of that feel abused, it’s little wonder we feel the ripple effect.

I guess it doesn’t help that when you go clothes shopping nothing seems to fit properly. Anna the Coder published this brilliant schematic that explains why on her blog this week. Taking the sizing information from the websites of all the major high street labels, she charted the variations in dress sizes from brand to brand – a size ten in Next is not the same as a size ten in Topshop. Empirically.
Better still, you can take your measurements, plot them in, and Anna’s chart will show you where you fit on the chart and where you’re most likely to get a good fit. This is potentially revolutionary, and will at least mean shopping needn’t be utterly demoralising ever again.

We need to know the truth, and fully absorb it. Because believing a myth is making us dissatisfied and sad and sick. There’s a woman I see walking to work sometimes, who’s legs are so painfully thin she must be ill. I’ve seen six year olds with thicker legs. Yet when I took a sneaky glance at her face she didn’t look ill at all. I wonder what all the white van men make of us as they pass us both along the Farringdon Road. I wonder if that’s what I’m really aspiring to. No, I’m not. Seeing someone so terribly thin makes me grateful for my stocky little legs, potato knees and thick ankles.

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