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Body Shaming

I recently got a lot of abuse on Twitter for discussing the issue of body shaming, fat shaming,  skinny privilege, and feminism. I was called a fucking moron and stupid, and told I must be fat and ugly otherwise I wouldn’t get offended by fat shaming and skinny privilege doesn’t exist. My notifications went from occasional to a sudden flood I could barely keep up with, mainly people arguing and giving me abuse.


Whilst I don’t believe my body size or shape has any relevence to anything I am saying, I am my words and my mind not my body, I will put this one to rest right now. I am not fat. I am 5″7 (172cm) and weigh 8st11 (123lbs) which gives me a BMI of 19.3. I didn’t argue this point on Twitter because I firmly believe in don’t feed the troll and that it is none of their business, but just in case anyone reading this does believe that, please put it out of your head.


It was argued most aggressively that obese people need help to lose weight, and doing so requires shame over their weight. I am not saying I believe we should tell people obesity is healthy, nor am I saying we should tell people obesity is the best. What I am saying is if someone is obese a) it’s not the duty of the public to change that and b) shame is not the way forward. Obesity is a medical condition which often comes with far more mental conditions than just over eating. It may be caused by depression or anxiety, and neither of those things will benefit from cruetly and abuse. If someone is obese and wants to seek help to get healthy, they need support, encouragement and love. Not mocking, cruelty and shaming. And especially not by Twitter trolls who hide behind their computers spitting vile abuse at anyone who doesn’t fit into their view of what a body should look like.


Saying fat shaming is okay because obesity needs to be stopped is implying that only people who are abuse are fat shamed. It is simply not true, and it is naive to suggest it is. The fact I was fat shamed when I’m not even overweight, just for siding against it in the first place, proves it. Any woman who does not conform to the standards society is putting forwards about what an ideal body looks like receives shame. Celebrities get it constantly, they gain weight and stop being what is often clinically underweight and become a more average body shape and suddenly they’re abused. That abuse is seen constantly by women and girls who then feel disgusted by their own perfectly healthy and beautiful bodies.


I was accused of skinny shaming for criticising adverts for their use of very slim women all the time. I have been skinny shamed. I have been accused of being bulimic when eating a big piece of cake and anorexic when eating a salad. I have been told I’d be sexy if I had bigger boobs and a bigger bum. I’ve been told “real women have curves” (apparently being slender makes me a robot or some sort of sub human). I have been shamed and you know what, it sucks. I am insecure a lot of the time and abuse I receive for my body shape only makes that worse. Skinny shaming is vile. All body shaming is vile. But skinny privilege DOES exist. Fat privilege doesn’t.


So many of the Twitter users don’t believe skinny privilege is a real thing. But it is. I know because I benefit from it.

I do not need to look far in the media to find myself represented. Models, whilst slimmer than me most of the time, are my body shape. They’re slim with long legs and small boobs. Singers, actresses, everyone out there looks like me. If seeing someone who looked like me was rare I imagine I’d feel alienated from society, as though I mattered less because I wasn’t represented.

Shopping for clothes is easy. I can buy cheap clothes on eBay or in charity shops, I can buy designer clothes in high end shops, and I know I’ll be able to find my size. Not only will I find my size, but most clothes are designed AROUND my size. Mannequins and models for clothes are my shape, clothes are designed to fit them, then just made larger for a larger body shape.

Studies have shown that in the workplace, overweight people are routinely discriminated against, more likely to be fired, and less likely to be hired in the first place. They’re less likely to be promoted and paid less for the job they’re doing anyway. All because of their bodies. Not because of their work standard, not because of their abilities, intelligence, or personality. Not because of their minds or their words, just because of their bodies.


This was an odd criticism. I was told labelling body shaming, fat shaming, and skinny privilege is pointless and ridiculous, and things don’t need labelling. Once you start labelling people get outraged over nothing, if there was no label, nobody would care…

Whether this person realised the labels were created BECAUSE people care I’m not sure. That the labels help us talk about shaming directly, allowing us to quickly get to the point, and (in the age of Twitter) in fewer characters.


I was informed that feminists are whinging about body shaming but nobody else cares… and that feminists are all to blame for skinny shaming anyway.

Here’s the thing, body shaming is not top of feminsts agendas. Equality is. Respect is. Feminism is not a movement designed around making women feel bad about themselves for their bodies and their looks, and to suggest it is shows a complete lack of understanding about what feminists want.

The outrage is because we are sick of being told what to do with our bodies. We are sick of being told our bodies are our soul value. We are sick of being treated like inferior beings for not conforming to a beauty standard created by an industry designed to sell us things by making us feel bad about ourselves. We are sick of men dictating how we should look, feel, be.

So this was my response to the barrage of abuse I recevied on Twitter for standing up and saying no to body shaming, no to fat shaming, and no to abuse received for how our bodies look.


What matters is who we are, how we feel, what we want, and what we do.

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Going out for a night out when you’re a parent is a rare treat. When you’re a parent in love with another parent, it’s an even more rare treat, because you have to have two happily babysat children, enough money you’ve not spent on nappies, and enough energy that actually walking outside in the evening doesn’t fill you with horror.

Last night was that such evening.


I won’t lie, I felt good. I don’t get dressed up often, I don’t feel sexy often, but The Boy was very appreciative of how I looked and I felt good. We headed out into the evening, no nappies, Mr Men books or packets of raisins in our bags, and we walked to the restaurant.

“Put some clothes on, you slag” was shouted at me by a man driving past, and suddenly I didn’t feel good anymore. I felt embarassed and ashamed. In that moment I felt old, and awkward, and like I should just go home. Because some vile man felt it was his right to comment on my outfit, because some stupid idiot felt calling me a slag for wearing a short skirt was reasonable behaviour, my confidence plummetted and I felt wretched.

It’s outrageous. It is outrageous that a man who has absolutely no rights to comment on my body, my looks, my outfit or my sexual behaviour felt he had the right to make me feel like that. It is disgusting that a man felt it acceptable to shout abuse at me in public. It’s offensive that I could be called a “slag” for anything at all, let alone walking to dinner with my boyfriend in an outfit I felt good in.

What is perhaps more offensive and horrendous is that it’s not unsual. Ten years ago, when going out at night dancing and drinking wasn’t so unusual for me, I was used to abuse being shouted at me. My friends and I would regularly be called all manner of hideous things by passing men, simply because we dared be women, out in public, wearing clothes we wanted to wear. Abused for just being women.

It is not an over-reaction, though to many men it would be called that. Abuse of women is a sliding scale, starting with being called a slag in the street, and ending in violent rape. The fact that the top of that scale is not only accepted by society in general, but even expected, is an example of why sexual abuse on the whole is so prevelent in our society. Because we don’t say no from the start. We don’t as a society condemn this disgusting attitude immediately. The more we accept, the more we expect, the more it can happen and the worse it can get.

We need to start recognising that verbal abuse is the first step towards physical abuse. That normalising verbal abuse is the first step towards tolerating physical abuse. It is not acceptable. It is not okay. Men can walk around in anything they want without women leaning out car windows and shouting abuse at them, so women should universally be given that same right. We do not accept it anymore.

Words have power. His power that evening was to nearly ruin my night, nearly make me go home, and he made me doubt myself. But he didn’t ruin my evening, I didn’t go home, and I soon felt fine again. My vengeance was that old “living well”. The Boy and I ate dinner, whilst he offered me reassurances and anger on my behalf, then in time I shrugged off my sadness and we headed to town. We went to a bar, we watched live music, we drank, we danced and we met old friends and new people. I felt good again, I had fun again, and that guy didn’t get a chance to ruin my evening again.

“Put some clothes on you slag.”

Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!

Men seriously think that is acceptable. They think it’s appropriate. They think it’s funny.

It is not funny. It shows you up to be the immature, sexist, mysoginisting adolescent you clearly are. So next time you’re passing a woman in the street and she is committing the most offensive crime of wearing whatever she damn well chooses try and remember this; we will not stop. We will wear what we want, we will go where we want, we will have sex with who we want, we will be what we want. We will claim the right to do all those things just like you have the right to do all those things, and one day we will be able to do it without abuse, and the path to that day is now. Then it will be you who is made to feel like shit for the choices you make, because my choice to wear a short dress was nowhere near as deserving of abuse as your choice to abuse me.



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Realising Vulnerability

Recently I went shopping at my local Tesco, a sleeping two year old in the buggy, and on the way home I was followed. At first I wasn’t sure. I was distracted by balancing the bags of shopping hanging fron the buggy and the sleeping child, and merely felt creeped.

We passed him as we crossed the road from the supermarket onto the path home. As I passed by him I heard him grunt something, then make a strange moaning sound. I assumed I’d bumped him and quickly apologised, then kept walking. He stayed behind me and the strange noises continued, but I just concentrated on what I was doing.

Then I realised he was still there. I had been walking for a good five minutes and he was still about eight feet behind me, still making noises. Occasionally talking under his breath, mostly grunting. I looked over my shoulder, he met my eyes, I kept walking.

He stayed exactly the same distance behind me for some time until I sped up. For a while he kept pace but, fortunately, he began to fall back but for quite some time I could still hear him making noises.

When I got to the turning up my road I waited and looked behind me. He had followed me so far I didn’t want him knowing the street I lived on. But he didn’t come, or at least I didn’t see him, so I hurried home. I got us inside and locked the door and felt like crying.

I don’t feel vulnerable most of the time, I live in a nice place with a gentle man and have loving and supportive people around me. But equally so I have the weight of knowing what men can be like when they’re not gentle always weighing on my shoulders. I know that, despite everything, I am not always safe. And not only am I not always safe, I am with my baby girl.

That man may not have been following me, I could have been paranoid or been over reacting. He might just have been walking at the same pace as me, and he might have just been going in the same direction down the same streets. His noises and mutterings might have been due to an illness or maybe he was talking on a phone I couldn’t see. But that’s sort of beside the point. The point is, in that moment, at that time, I felt threatened.

It is a cruel reality that a woman walking alone is more vulnerable than a man walking alone. There is no doubt that men are attacked, men are raped, and that women are capable of violence against men. But it is also a reality that women are far more likely to be victims at the hands of men than men at the hands of women. Whether I was over reacting to feel threatened at that time I don’t know, but I felt it. I felt unsafe.

It sucks, quite frankly, that that is the world we live in, the world where women are constantly reminded that there is danger all around and even a walk home from the supermarket carries risk. It makes me angry. It upsets me. Who that man was, I don’t know, and I don’t know why he followed me. But he did, and in that simple act he caused me fear that I didn’t need, didn’t want, and didn’t ask for. I simply walked past him.

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Adult Time

When you’re in the company of children for the majority of the day, and your time away from them is rare stolen moments when they don’t follow you to the bathroom to watch you poop, by the time the evening gets here you crave adult time. Time when you can drink a glass of wine, use the bad words, watch TV shows about things other than idiotic talking pigs, and sit still. Time where you’re not asking someone not to eat books, not to tip yogurt on the carpet, and you’re not trying to avoid getting stuck in their collapsable tunnel. Time to just be the grown up version of you.

I carefully cultivated Miss Rose’s bedtime to allow me that adult time. When she was a baby it was so I could get into a hot bath, wash milk out of my hair and vomit off my shoulders. When her father left it was so I could drink, obsess on the phone to my friends, and watch bad TV whilst swearing sporadically just for the sake of it. Soon it became so I could have boyfriends round, time indulging my newly developing singleness, and now it’s to develop my new sense of coupleness and be alone with the man I love.

Being in a relationship takes a degree of work and, for me, that alone time where we are focussing on one another and one another’s needs, rather than focussing on parenting, is essential. I crave it, long for it, need it. It makes me feel connected to him and like I’m a woman not just a mother. That I’m desired for more than my speed nose wiping. I get to talk to him about him, about me, and about us as a couple. Plus we get to watch Daredevil on Netflix whilst eating chocolate buttons and drinking wine, and seriously there are few better things.

On nights where we have just Miss Rose that is pretty much guaranteed. She settles to sleep quickly, and stays asleep, even if not for the whole night (at some point inevitably sneaking into our bed for early morning cuddles), long enough for us to truly indulge in “coupleness.” On Z nights we don’t get it and I find it takes a toll. Z doesn’t like bedtime, often taking a long time to fall asleep, and regularly waking more frequently than the length of a TVshow. He’s a night owl and in a transition phase, which obviously is difficult and requires parenting and patience. However much I understand that though, and however happy I am to work with it and allow this phase to pass as he learns and develops, I don’t half wind up needing chill out time. Adult time. Time to just be us.

Being “us” rather than “mummy and daddy” is very important to me and when I don’t get it I miss it. But it’ll come again. It’s not forever and it’s far more important that children get their parents than we get each other. But wine, chocolate, and Daredevil calls me, as does time with that man.

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Stop Selling Me My Body

As I stood in the shower shaving my legs, shaving my bikini line, shaving my armpits and washing the make up off my face, I had a realisation. All these things I do to my body, all the changes I make to how I naturally look, are expensive. I have to buy razors, lots of them because I am from a rather hairy clan of people, I have to buy lotions and potions, powders and paints. I have to spend money to change how my body looks because to leave it alone, let it just be, is socially unacceptable.


Women’s bodies are a commodity, and we treat them as such. Men’s fashions are far more accommodating. Short hair, long hair, hairy chest, waxed chest… basically if you are a bloke and want to change your body or leave it as it is, you’ll be accepted. Even the widely criticised back hair has not come between The Boy and an array of women. If in my youth I had ventured out with my natural leg, pubic and arm pit hair has freely sprouting as his back hair, I almost certainly wouldn’t have had even close to the popularity with the opposite sex as he has, nor what I had from assorted ways of ripping it out or shaving it off.

Women’s bodies are sold and they are sold to us as women.

We are creating fashions cosntantly that tells us our bodies, as they are, are not acceptable. Your hair needs to be bigger, you buy extensions and boosters. Your eyelashes need to be longer, you buy fake ones and mascaras. Your breasts need to be larger, you buy water bras or pay someone to cut you open and shove silicone into them.

Why? Why do we do this to ourselves?

Are our bodies genuinely so hideous when we leave them alone that we have to spend money on causing ourselves physical pain or discomfort just to conform to a societal standard that tells us we just aren’t good enough? That tells us without suffering we are not beautiful?

And once you’re a mother it just gets worse. Stretch marks, hideous. Post breast feeding boobs, revolting. The fact our bodies change away from the pert twenty year old models we are told we are supposed to look like is something society, men, struggle to accept. But again, why?

If we didn’t make babies they human race would die out. Making babies is something not only beautiful on a personal level, it’s essential for the survival of our species and yet once we’ve done it we are treated with contempt. Told more and more that what we have naturally, how we look, is not good enough.

SPEND MONEY. CHANGE YOUR BODY. Suffer for beauty, suffer for what you are told is beautiful. Suffer to make yourself fit into whatever fashionable look is in, whatever men are telling us we should look like to be beautiful and sexy. Suffer. Be a woman. Suffer.

I would like to claim I fight that force but I don’t. I shave my body hair, I apply the make up. I don’t add hair or lashes or nails, I haven’t had surgery on my tiny little boobs, but I won’t lie and claim I haven’t put consideration into all of those things.

We are beautiful just as we are. If we WANT to do those things we should, because our bodies are ours and how we want them to look is what matters. What is not acceptable is being pressured and controlled so much we feel we HAVE to do those things to be beautiful. We are beautiful. Nature has given us bodies that look a certain way and there is absolutely nothing wrong with them.

More fashions that require us to spend money will keep coming out. More men will invent reasons for us to change how we look, think of things we can remove or change to be beautiful. When are we going to call time on it? When are we going to say no? No I will not let you tell me that what I look like is not good enough, no I will not give you more money to change how I look, no I will not conform to the ridiculous standards of beauty that are stuck out there to make us all feel so rubbish about ourselves that we spend even more money?


At some point we will have to just say no.

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I’m No Angel

The Victoria’s Secret Angels are images of “perfection”. They are supermodels. Effectively they are super human because no ordinary woman has a body like that. That’s fine because they aren’t employed because of their ordinary looks or ordinary bodies, they’re employed specifically because of the extraordinary way they look.

Lane Bryant have recently launched an alternative campagin. The #ImNoAngel campaign focusses on how women who aren’t super human look in beautiful lingerie. Women in different shapes and sizes, all beautiful, but much more likely to represent the ordinary woman.

I have read a lot of arguments about this but one that resonates with me is whether the Lane Bryant advert could be considered as “Skinny Shaming”.

The ad campaign features only women who are significantly curvier than the average super model. By making an ad campaign focussing on how all women’s bodies are beautiful but missing out slimmer women, it is not representing all women. It only represents curvy girls, not slim or athletic girls, suggesting they are not beautiful.

I am very anti skinny-shaming. I am also very anti fat-shaming, but as a slim girl and having been heard and read some truly vile things about women my size I don’t believe that body shaming of any type is helpful. Accepting and loving curvy women for who they are is not done by making out slim women are stupid, vain, slutty, anorexic or unattractive (things I see quite often). Accepting and loving curvy women for who they are is done by accepting and loving all women for who they are.


At 5″7 (172 cm) and a UK size 6-8 (US 2-4) I am much more widely represented in media images than most, specifically because I am taller and more slim than most. I am not “average” shape and whilst I am certainly no supermodel, I am aware that my shape is what is more likely to be seen in ad campaigns, even if it’s women who are taller, slimmer and have significantly larger breasts. The fact Lane Bryant haven’t included a woman my shape is irrelevent. If I need to feel represented I can look at almost all other ad campaigns and see a woman of my body type.

Women bigger than a UK 10 don’t have that priviledge. And that is what it is, a priviledge. In the fashion industry, if you’re shaped like me you’re treated better. You’re not called “plus size” (anything over a 12, I mean honestly, how ridiculous) and you’re used in all campaigns not just the unusual ones.

Once women of all shapes and sizes are considered beautiful and advert friendly, then if one shape is missed out then perhaps this argument could hold water. Until then if an advert says all women are beautiful regardless of their shape and doesn’t include an image of a slim woman it does not count as skinny-shaming. It counts as representing the under respresented. Respecting the marginalised and bringing the more regularly shamed and insulted into the lime light and giving them the kind of attention and treatment they deserve and don’t often get.

I have a great deal of respect for Lane Bryant and honestly I believe it should become the norm. The fact this ad campaign is getting so much attention for being unusual is depressing. The women featured are beautiful. Some bigger, some smaller, but all beautiful and all representing the average woman far better than the incredible, stunning, leggy creations that strut down the Victoria’s Secret catwalk in angel wings.

You do not have to look like an Angel to be beautiful. I’m No Angel and, I assume, you’re no angel. But we are beautiful and we deserve to be represented in the media. Equally. I don’t deserve more representation because I’m tall and slim, but I don’t deserve less than someone who is short and curvy. What we should see is women who are healthy and beautiful representing us for who we all are. We come in all shapes and sizes and that’s wonderful. Without Lane Bryant taking the lead other companies won’t follow suit. So I tip my hat to them. I hope this starts a trend that proves diversity sells, women want to be represented for who they are, and that beauty is not limited to Angels.

Posted in Body Image | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments