Barely a week goes by when a female Lib Dem minister doesn’t pledge some new coalition initiative on ‘female body confidence’. The junior equalities minister Jo Swinson was at it again when she congratulated Debenhams for becoming the first high-street retailer to introduce size 16 mannequins. Ms Swinson said: ‘The images we see in the world of fashion are all pretty much the same. It’s as if there’s only one way of being beautiful. Yet nine in ten people say they would like to see a broader range of body shapes shown in advertising and the media.’
For broader range of body shapes, read fat, by the way. For nine in ten people, read nine in ten fat people. Because, of course, when Ms Swinson bangs on about ‘female body confidence’, what she means is the body confidence of fat women. I would hazard a guess she doesn’t give a flying éclair for my body confidence, or the body confidence of any other woman who happens to require size eight clothing. Our body confidence can go hang.
This is probably why, the other day, I had to go to three branches of Marks & Spencer to find a pair of knickers that would fit me. Row upon row of big pants in every shade and style imaginable and only the odd half-opened packet of briefs for a person who was not clinically obese. At the third store, on Oxford Street, I -mounted a stand for non-fat people everywhere. I became locked in a heated dispute with a sales assistant. I -pointed out that if I were a large woman finding myself devoid of choice because there were no comfortable bloomers for the fuller figure, I would probably have a case to take to the European Court of Human Rights. The assistant harrumphed. And then I noticed… oh dear, she was a large lady herself. I was probably about to be taken to said court by her. I cut my losses and left.
Let’s face it, if you are a slim woman these days, you may as well accept that you are in a minority that has absolutely no political or consumer power.
No one is the least bit interested in the non-fat community because all the money, the power and the glory is to be had in courting the lady couch potatoes. Or real women, as they like to call themselves. Real women have gleefully — confidently, one might almost say — let themselves have a good old chomp on the cream cakes, but because of the political correctness of our political class they now find themselves hallowed and grovelled before. Real women — size 14 plus, big hips, flabby tummy, thunder thighs, bingo wings — are on the march. Well, waddle. As their numbers and dimensions swell, they are becoming more powerful as a lobby, and ministers like Ms Swinson have to grovel more cravenly before them: ‘Have another Magnum. It’s good for your body confidence.’
Slim women who eat sensibly and take exercise, meanwhile, are denounced as neurotic obsessives who are foisting their fascist approach to body image on impressionable pre-teens.
Unsurprisingly, slim women are getting scarcer. Who would want to be such a pariah? And you can’t get clothes to fit, because the clothes have been made bigger to fit the fat ladies. This has been scientifically proved. All the research suggests the fabled size zero is now simply what a size ten was 20 years ago. Size ten is now the size 16 of yesteryear. So when Ms Swinson says it is perfectly super that the average woman is a size 14, she is really congratulating them for being a size 20.
And as a result of all this, people just go on getting fatter. You only need to look around you to see that an epidemic of thinness among the general populace is not our problem. The only eating disorder we really need to worry about in this country is the disease of overeating.
The director of Debenhams, Ed Watson, says of his new fat mannequins: ‘We hope that it will help people in some small way to feel comfortable about their bodies.’ Is he having a laugh? The problem is not that women don’t feel comfortable in their bodies. The problem is that they feel way, way too comfortable. If they felt a little less comfortable, a little less ‘body confident’, they might lose some of the flab.