AnyBody member Susie Orbach writes in The Guardian, Tuesday 30 June 2009
Images of Beth Ditto's new collection for Evans: http://www.bethdittoatevans.co.uk/
We aren't taking the war on obesity seriously, claims a new study published by Nuffield Health; and large celebrities, such as James Corden and his Gavin And Stacey co-star Ruth Jones, Beth Ditto and Eamonn Holmes, are encouraging us accept being fat as normal. Apart from the fact that I can't seem to find the original research that this story is based on, which in itself is pretty interesting, I think we have to be wary of studies coming from a hospital that does gastric band surgery and thus makes money out of designating people as obese.
We are in a culture that is so fat-phobic you wouldn't have thought fat people could be any more demonised, but Nuffield's line seems to be that obese people in the public eye really should be. We've had - and continue to have - so many struggles about race and disability; but looking at the column inches that scrutinise fat and ageing people, both are heading the way of being illegal categories pretty soon. And if not illegal, then certainly worthy of disdain, contempt and commercial exploitation.
There has been a bit of public discussion about very thin girls and boys on catwalks and advertisements, but the style industries seem to have decided, in the end, that it's all in the name of art and design, and thus the tyrannous aesthetic of size zero doesn't really matter. That has left the devastating message that one size - skinny and tall - is good, aspirational and the passport to feeling acceptable. So it's quite interesting that we're uncomfortable when people actually rebel against the prevailing standard.
The Nuffield PR machine opens up the whole question of categorising people as fat and therefore somehow to be scorned, derided or unworthy - instead of fat being a description, a neutral one about adiposity. Such moralising categories don't address the serious underlying issues so many people have with bodies and food. You can be eating when you are hungry and be large, or throwing up into the toilet all the time and be within the so-called normal range. Meanwhile, you can be a world-class movie actor - a gorgeous one like George Clooney - and sit in the ridiculous obesity statistics as they are currently conceived. What we have is a population very, very troubled in its eating habits, a fact that is expressed in both visible and invisible ways. That's a public health emergency, not the fact that we happen to have a variety of shapes in public space.
- By Susie Orbach
I know it's a problem but it's my problem, thank you very much
The central tenet of this research is utter rubbish. People do not think its OK to be obese just because Beth Ditto is witty and talented. We are constantly reminded how wrong it is for us to be obese. There is more information available on the obesity crisis in the media than I can recall at any other time in my life. Paradoxically, the general pervasiveness of the perfect body in films and music and TV and advertising imagery is genuinely psychologically damaging and therefore an actual contributory factor to obesity. James Corden wobbling his gut in Mathew Horne's face once a week is not.
I have been overweight for most of my life and I have been aware that it's a problem. But it is my problem, thank you very much. I deal with it in my own way. I have never thought that my weight was permissible simply because I listened to Bad Manners or loved Jo Brand. My feeling is that if the popularity of Corden and Ditto can help to stop fat kids being picked on by their peers then they are performing a valuable service. A survey like this just sends people straight back to the fridge. The obesity crisis will only be solved by a radical overhaul of education, health and social policy, and certainly not by pin-headed inflammatory half-arsed "research".