Happy 2014, ladies! You’ve probably overindulged a bit this Christmas, I know I have. I had to go to bed early last night after eating so many Quality Streets that I missed out on the exciting sugar rush and just had bad stomach ache instead. So I’m feeling a little bit below my best and wondering if there will ever be a time in the near future when I can sit up again without going “oooooh” accompanied by a pained expression. Thank god that Now magazine has just the tonic:
I mean, if this cover doesn’t cheer you up I don’t know what will.
Here we have, in 2014, a mainstream weekly that has taken no less than 21 pictures of women in the public eye, in their bathing suits, and deemed them unfit for purpose. Purpose, of course, being to look runway-ready at all times.
(Sorry, I seem to have referred to the images above as women, when they are in actual fact, as Now magazine screams from its front cover, just “bodies”.)
One of the “bodies” is a new mum, one is a supermodel just turned 40, one is an actress deemed too fat, another too thin. And the accompanying tagline is that looking at these images will make you feel “normal”. The whole thing is too horrific to know where to begin. It’s like something out of a sick satire; but this is actually being displayed in the magazine aisles of shops up and down the country. This ‘feature’ was brainstormed, written about, OK’ed, and published by real people in the media industry.
I have history with these sorts of magazines, and know that they can be damaging. I bought into their philosophy of what’s “normal”. When I was in primary school I was quite skinny, I never ate lunch but only because I was one of the world’s fussiest eaters and never liked what was being served in the dinner hall. When I started secondary school I was allowed to take in packed lunches – the dream! But I started developing quicker than many of my friends, and I was eating more and I suddenly became conscious that I was getting bigger.
The thing is, I was never fat. I was very aware of my body, though, as by this point I was swimming training nearly everyday with dreams of being the next Ian Thorpe. I tell you, there have been so many occasions over the last ten years when I wished I had stuck with a sport where you get to keep your clothes on. I was too young to appreciate that I was training my body to do things and continue for distances that not many others my age were able to do. I was too focused on the fact that my hips looked bigger than they should and my thighs met at the top.
I started buying these magazines, like Now and Heat, and cutting out pictures that I then kept in a scrap book. It was around the time that Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie were everywhere; when the media pretended to be horrified by the tiny sizes these girls had shrunk themselves down to, all the while glamorizing and even encouraging them. Kate Moss was heralded as ‘the perfect size 8’. It was the era of the society girls, who had time and money to eat nothing all day and party all night. These were the sort of pictures I was cutting out of magazines.
These publications are obsessed to the point of distraction by women’s body weight. What message are young girls supposed to take away from these articles? That women have nothing to offer, nothing else worth mentioning, than their number on the scale? Why was I made to think, at age 13, that a picture of a nearly emaciated woman, with her tracksuit trousers hanging off her body, was what I should aspire for?
The women on the cover above all appear to have been photographed without their knowledge, and whatever their own feelings with regards to their own bodies, they look happy in the moment. The photos are unstaged, un-airbrushed, and actually, Now magazine, what I think they show is 21 versions of normal. How dare Now think they have the right to make anyone feel less than they are, by slapping irresponsible taglines over intrusive pictures and zooming in at the merest hint of un-taut skin.
In the ever-contradictory world of the weekly glossy, the latest edition comes with the headline “Screw the Diet!” and three more women, in their swimsuits, talking about how they’re happy to be carrying a bit of extra weight.
Is it wishful thinking to hope that, at some point in the 21st century perhaps, women will be judged on something other than their waistline?