For the first time ever, women this year dominated the New Years Honours list. What a bloody great week to be a woman; a week where women’s contributions to society are recognised and celebrated so publicly. And what a bloody awful month to be a fat girl, according to Now Magazine.
You may well have seen Now Magazine’s front cover from one of their December issues. If you haven’t, here it is, but be warned, it’s not good at all. In fact, it’s downright repulsive. I was in two minds about whether or not to post this, because I wasn’t sure I wanted my struggles with my size to be splashed across the internet, but hey, we all know I’m made up of wobbly bits and bad hair, so there’s no point trying to pretend I’m not! So, here is my letter – with a trigger warning for body shaming – to Now Magazine’s editor, Sally Eyden, on why the only thing that’s shocking is her magazine’s body shaming and why I am going to eat an extra bar of chocolate tonight:
My name is Kate and I am a fat girl. Actually, I am a thin girl, but I pretend to be fat because I enjoy being ridiculed and mocked by magazines like yours with front covers like the one from your December 10th issue. The one where you presented 21 “shocking bodies which would make me feel normal”. Only, they didn’t make me feel normal. They made me feel utterly hideous.
You see, Sally, I’m rarely proud of my body. Some days, I love my body; days where I get a new dress and I put on some heels and I look at myself in the mirror and think “Wow” are my favourite kind of days. Most days, I hate my body; days where every lump and bump is magnified, and I change outfits just before I leave the house (because I’ve talked myself out of wearing something in case my thighs look too big in it) are becoming more and more common, mostly because my thighs just keep growing and growing!
My feelings towards my body haven’t come from nowhere. They’ve come from horrible boyfriends and girlfriends and awful family members telling how fat and ugly I am, hell, even strangers on the internet have joined in. Have you ever been called a whale by someone you didn’t even know existed, Sally? How many times have you logged on the internet to find people picking you apart based on how big the gap between your thighs is? Do you know what makes it worse? The fact that comments like that appeared on a news article of something really bloody positive that I did, when I went and got myself elected to my city council at the age of 18. Why don’t you take a look at some of the comments on the article yourself?
You see, I’m trying to learn to love my body, Sally. I know in my head that my worth as a person, my ability to do the things I love, isn’t reliant on my weight or my waistline. I can write pretty well, and I read every Harry Potter book the same day I bought it, and I like to spend afternoons serving lunch to the elderly residents in my ward who don’t have any family, and I know that none of that has anything to do with the fact that I’d choose Kentucky Fried Chicken over grilled chicken, or full fat Coca-Cola over it’s diet alternative.
But it’s so hard to love my body when I’m faced with multiple reasons why I shouldn’t – and 21 of those are probably in your magazine . I’m not a size 10. I have a wobbly tummy, wobbly thighs, probably even wobbly arms (but I cover them up so I don’t have to look). I have veins and stretch marks all over my body, because when I feel sad about not having the perfect body you say I should, I shovel even more food down my gob to make me feel better about not having the perfect body you say I should.
I wonder what you’d think of me, Sally. I’d like to think that if I met me, I’d get on with me. But I’m one of those women your magazine would probably refer to as “curvy” – which is the cringe-inducing equivalent of being referred to as “bubbly”. Or better still, you might refer to me as a “real woman” which, yes, I am, because, well, I exist and I identify as a woman. I have some great friends, who think I’m funny and intelligent and caring because, well, I am. And yet I’m judged by, and often ridiculed for, the way I look and the size clothes I wear, so quite often, people don’t really care about what’s underneath the plus-size dresses. I’ve lost count of the amount of nights I’ve sat in pubs, watching my thinner, more attractive friends being chatted up and not being given a second glance. Suddenly, I’m not funny and intelligent and caring anymore; I’m just the fat friend.
I’m lucky to have met someone who appreciates me for who I am, and loves me despite my flaws (and probably because of them, because with a plus-size waist comes plus-size breasts – haha!). But he hasn’t come before a string of destructive and hurtful comments from previous relationships which have left me hating my body – “well, you’re beautiful on the inside“.
I don’t want that for my young nieces. I want them to grow up loving themselves, and loving all of themselves, every characteristic, every freckle and every imperfection. I don’t want them growing up swallowing the revolting trash that you’ve displayed on the front cover of your magazine – and don’t worry, it’s not just your magazine which is printing trashy stuff like this, they are all at it. In short, Sally, I never want them to believe they aren’t beautiful because they aren’t perfect.
I’ve tried all sorts of diets over my teenage years. Just the other day, I was considering starving myself for two days a week, just so that I could drop a couple of dress sizes. And for what? To lose a few pounds? To be hungry? To be unhappy? Instead of teaching women to fit into this abhorrent media ideal, why not use your influence to teach women to love themselves, whatever their size, whatever they may look like? How about I trade your 21 shocking bodies for 21 shocking body-shaming articles from your magazine and why they’re wrong, just for starters?
It’s not me, with my huge thighs and my flabby tummy, that’s ugly. It’s shaming women’s bodies because they might have huge thighs and a flabby tummy which is ugly. So, in your honour, Sally, tonight I am going to eat an extra big bar of chocolate. Because hey, my shocking body deserves it!