— Amy Whitehead contributed with this report
“Real women aint a size zero, real women have curves” — the name of a Facebook group that now has almost 70,000 members.
Mounting pressure for thinness has caused backlashes in the media, surfacing through many outlets. From Gok Wan’s “How to Look Good Naked” to the numerous Facebook groups promoting body confidence, the media is constantly reminding women how desirable curves are.
Reports about size zero modelling have flooded the fashion industry over the past four years, and deathly thin catwalk models have been criticised as being unhealthy role models, to avoid them becoming girls’ perceptions of normality. As a result there are now constant reminders that real women have bums and boobs, and that curvy figures are desirable — especially to the opposite sex.
Few women are naturally a size zero, and those who are not should therefore not aim to become such a size. However there is a minority of women who are naturally thin and small framed. So is it detrimental to a woman’s self esteem to hear that what men want isn’t skin and bone, but curves in all the right places? Should these naturally slender women aspire to be a curvy size 14?
Jayne Cox, a body image expert, is a professional coach to women worldwide, promoting body confidence. She advises that criticism of any body shape can be harmful: “Women often feel under pressure and either too large or too thin, both feelings can reduce self-esteem and create body image issues. I’d like to think that we are more body accepting today, or at least heading that way.”
Heather White, an 18-year-old student at the University of Cheltenham, feels there’s too much pressure for girls to have the ideal body, saying that it is considered abnormal if a girl does not have big breasts.
Emily Wilson, a 20-year-old beauty therapist, agrees. She says: “I’m a petite girl and I’ve always been very conscious about my body. You’d think people would die to have a skinny body, but it’s sometimes the opposite. Being branded as skinny is as bad as being called fat.”
Most women feel discontent with their body at times, but the recent increase in negative attitudes to slimness creates more room for low self esteem. Slender women can feel de-feminised by comments about how a woman should have curves, and this may be a factor in the dramatic rise in breast enlargement operations in the UK — the number of breast augmentations performed in the UK rose by 275% in the space of 5 years, according to The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.
Promoting size zero as healthy is not responsible attitude, but neither is criticising any woman who is less than voluptuous. Surely what is needed is a happy medium. Cox suggests reflecting the majority, without criticising the minority.
“If an average woman is size 14 plus then surely we want to see this reflected in the media and on television. This doesn’t mean women who are smaller are no longer attractive.”Tweet