Thursday, April 3, 2008

We’re Here. We’re Fat. Get Used to it

We are making news again :-)

From the Independent in the UK :-)

We’re here. We’re fat. Get used to it

The backlash has begun, with a size-16 beauty queen and ’fat acceptance’ all the rage

By Susie Mesure
Sunday, 30 March 2008

A size-16 Miss England finalist; a new single from an over-sized girl band called Plus; and Coleen McLoughlin, not Kate Moss, lauded as Britain’s most influential fashion role model: an early April fool or a backlash against size zero? Well, neither, actually, but evidence instead that Britain and its retailers are finally waking up to the reality of life for the average woman.

From John Lewis installing size-14 mannequins to advertisers choosing real curves to sell ranges such as Katie Price’s new underwear line, the tide is starting to turn against an anti-fat bias that has dominated for generations. In the US the change has been dubbed the "fat acceptance movement"; over here advocates prefer to talk of "size acceptance". They are most vocal online, where blogs written by fat people have spawned a "fatosphere".

A UK web-based magazine, Just as Beautiful, which is aimed at plus-sized women, says it has a monthly readership of 30,000 just over a year after its launch. "There were no publications that cared about women who were bigger than a certain size," said the publisher, Ronnie Ajoku. "The only magazines out there featuring plus-sized women were to do with porn."

It was Just as Beautiful that launched a hunt last year for the first girl band with a difference: women had to be at least a size 16, the national average. Next month Plus release their first single – a cover version of Inner City’s 1980s dance hit "Big Fun". Hannah Lee, one of the band’s five members, said

she had abandoned her dream of making it in the entertainment industry until Plus came along. At just under 14 stone for her 5ft 6in frame, she made the cut for "just being normal, not majorly overweight".

Plus’s aim, according to the band’s publicist, Kizzi, is to "break down the prejudices that the music industry seems to have against people who are average sized". Hannah Lee added that she thought attitudes were starting to change, with "talent beginning to break through, not just size". She pointed to Adele, the teenage singer-songwriter who was Just as Beautiful’s latest cover star.


The message is more than just big is beautiful. Bloggers and plus-sized journalists dismiss the prevailing obesity panic, which decrees that being fat is akin to writing your own death sentence. Their mantra boils down to four words: health at every size. They point to research suggesting that the body mass index, which is based on height and weight, is flawed, or studies showing that fatter cardiac patients are more likely to survive hospitalisation and invasive treatments than thinner ones.

And fat is, apparently, the right word – so long as it’s used in the right context. Jo Morley of Big People UK, the British answer to America’s National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, said: "We’re fat. We’re not big boned. We’re not overweight. We’re fat. A lot of people find the word hard to say but it’s about empowerment if we use it."

Not that Chloe Marshall, the size-16 model who will compete to be crowned Miss England this July after winning her Surrey heat, calls herself fat. To her, she is "curvy ... beautiful, but not a size zero". Nor is Kate Dillon, the face of the Italian plus-size label Marina Rinaldi, fat as such, although some years ago she made a conscious decision to stop starving herself.

Monica De Bellis, fashion co-ordinator at Marina Rinaldi, said: "Kate was so sad when she was modelling as a size six or four but now she is so happy with her body. She transmits a very positive message." The Italian designer label is still one of just a handful of clothing lines designed specifically for the average-sized and above (from 12 to 26), although retailers are slowly waking up to the strength of the "plus-pound".

Too slowly, though, for Jo Morley who bemoaned her lack of options on the high street. Even a recent trip to Mark & Spencer’s flagship Marble Arch store confirmed to her that the store’s collections "just reinforce that you’re dowdy, fat and frumpy".

Fatima Parker of the International Size Acceptance Association added: "We’re not calling for people to be obese or couch potatoes. We just want people to recognise that you can be sexy or beautiful at any size. Our goal is health, not obesity."

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