16 September 2006

Body Fascism

Granted that anorexia and bulimia cause enormous misery and even death in some cases, and granted that many young women go overboard in the pursuit of perfectly fashionable thinness, does it really seem like banning skinny models is a sensible way to go about tackling the problem?

For years now, columnists of the Guardianista ilk - many of them, if the truth be told, middle-aged women who've begun to put on a little more weight than they might like - have been banging on about "stick-thin waifs" and protesting that they can no longer find fashionble clothing to fit their more "womanly" bodies. From time to time male columnists flying the PC flag will join in, protesting that they themselves prefer woman with "real curves" and "a bit of flesh on them." Underpinning all this nonsense is the implication that girls and young women are so stupid and gullible that they'll deliberately starve themselves either because of some fashion show they've seen or because men won't want to bother with them otherwise.

It seems as though society is becoming a bit schizophrenic on this subject. On one hand, we're constantly being told - legitimately, I think - that America is literally eating itself to death. Obesity is at an all time high in the USA, and the UK is fast following - well, waddling, anyway - in its footsteps. Yet simultaneously we're meant to be worried that one segment of society is entirely too thin, to the point where "liberal" politicians are seriously discussing banning the representation of women with what they deem to be too low a body mass.

Never mind that the BMI (body mass index) is a notoriously blunt instrument (it doesn't account for bone structure, metabolism and a host of other variables). And I wonder, too, why this concern is limited to young women. I can personally think of three guys I know whose body mass falls well below the 18.0 threshold considered "dangerous." All of them are perfectly healthy, and one of them completely thrashed me when we got into an ill-advised wrestling match a few years back.

Personally, as someone whose own BMI is (thankfully) near the lower end of what's considered normal for men my age, I think the great majority of people are too fat, and that given the preponderance of medical evidence, that's a far greater danger to public health than a few ultra-skinny girls. For all the whingeing by the mutton-aspiring-to-lamb generation about not being able to fit into the fashions at Top Shop (hello, it's a shop for teens and 20-somethings, what did you expect?), I could come back with just as many stories about being unable to find jeans or shirts that aren't cut for lard-arses.

Somebody once defined fascism as the imposition of aesthetic standards by political means, and I'm sorry, trying to legislate skinniness out of existence comes dangerously close to qualifying.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Why does it matter if people try to do something to address both problematic ends of the spectrum?