I grew up with a very healthy attitude to my weight.
I never watched my mother diet or try to be extremely slim. My mum was an athlete so we were encouraged to eat well and build strength.
Even though I’m not tall like my mother, I did inherit her Amazonian strength and am usually the go-to girl when someone needs a jar opened.
I went to an all-girls secondary school and couldn’t get over the pressure teenage girls put on themselves to lose weight. Many of them would go all day eating nothing but a low-fat yoghurt.
I think even more shocking was how this attitude to weight didn’t change when I entered the workplace. At one job, a female member of staff disclosed to me that the week coming up to a special event she consumes nothing but coffee because it makes her stomach feel sick and stops her wanting to eat.
A couple of months ago my two kids were playing, when my daughter (who was ten-months-old at the time) tried to snatch her brother’s game out of his hand.
He got annoyed with her and told her to go away and that she was fat.
I was floored.
Not only was it out of character for him to behave like that with his sister, but to call her fat as an insult was particularly shocking.
I gave out to him for what he said to her but he seemed confused as to why it was so bad. He told me the boys in his class are always jeering at the girls and calling them fat and that it was just a joke. I then asked if the boys ever call each other fat and he said no.
And there lies the problem.
The little girls in my son’s class are six years old. Already at this extremely young age, they are already being told that being fat is the absolute worse thing that a woman can be. Not being mean. Not being ignorant. No, being fat.
Young women for the longest time have been taught to value themselves not on how qualified they are or how witty they are but how thin they are.
The worst period of my life watching women torture themselves over their weight was when I worked as a model.
In my teens and early twenties, I worked as a commercial model for adverts and catalogues, but I always had the line that I would not cross. No matter what I would not starve myself to get a job.
This was not the case for the other girls I worked with.
I sat at castings with girls with 20-inch waists who had been told by their agencies to drop a few pounds. Many of them would smoke cigarettes rather than eat and I even met one girl who used to eat tissue paper to trick her body into thinking it was full.
During one photoshoot I was working on the other model collapsed and we had to call an ambulance. It turned out later on that she hadn’t eaten all week so she would have a flat stomach for the shoot.
These emaciated young women would then be photographed and have their image plastered all over social media and magazines where other young girls would see them and think they needed to emulate their tiny figures.
I know of at least one case of a model I worked who had a complete nervous breakdown due to the pressure and had to be admitted to hospital.
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Body positivity is something I want to encourage with both of my children, but I’ve always felt like it may be a harder journey with my daughter and my son’s comment has only strengthened that belief.
I don’t want her to feel like she ever has to be ashamed of her body, no matter what size she is when she gets older.
I’m not as slim as I was pre-children but that doesn’t stop me from wearing my favourite swimsuit with the cut-out sides or form-fitting clothes, which really seems to surprise some people.
Yes, I’ve got a little overhang around the top of my of my underwear and my ‘mum-tum’ likes to make an appearance every time I sit down, but that isn’t going to stop me hitting the beach or enjoying clothes like I always have. It’s just a little extra bit of me to accessorise.
I ended up having a long chat with my son about why it is never a joke to make fun of someone else’s appearance and that just because you may see other people doing it, doesn’t make it ok.
We all come in different shapes and sizes and that’s what makes us who we are. The world would be a pretty boring place if we all looked the same way, there’s even a song to that effect so I’m obviously not the only one who thinks so.
A year away from 30, I’ve learned a lot about how I view myself and one thing I’ve given up on being is perfect.
Being flawless in my experience leaves you with nothing. No opinion of your own, no style of your own, you’re just constantly trying to please everyone else and are left with nothing of who you actually are.
It’s also pointless. As Dita Von Teese says ‘you can be the juiciest peach and still find someone who doesn’t like peaches’.
Perfection is boring. Quirks and uniqueness is everything. Love yourself first and the rest of the world will follow.
Before the school year starts up again I’m probably going to have to have another chat with my son to make sure he is not partaking in any name calling but I think for now the message is clear with him.
As his mother, I want to make sure that I raise a man who respects women and always views them as his equal.