Wednesday, 22 February 2012

the wobble and the soft

I've been losing weight for a long time. And I hit a bit of a wall and needed some inspiration. Something to stick on the fridge. It's a hackneyed old tactic but it works. (I wouldn't normally consider people on looks alone but for these purposes I sort of have to.)

But I couldn't find a picture of anyone I would ever want to look like.

I don't aspire to have visible ribs, legs that don't meet in the middle or muscle-y Madonna arms.

OK, she's a pretty extreme example
The fashion mags were no good. My legs will never look like that. And the models don't smile.

Then there was Women's Fitness and its ilk. But they weren't right either. They made me feel worse about myself. No softness, all harsh angles and muscles and tendons and more judgement than in Vogue, because of the mags' single-minded focus on THIN.

I couldn't put my finger on it. It was more than the "all models look the same, aren't media representations of women awful?" thing.

I was offered one choice - well - two: visible ribs, or visible muscles. Preferably both, though.

Then I went to see the new Muppets movie. In this movie is an actress named Amy Adams. I don't think I'd ever heard of her before.

Here she is in the film

Image source 

She looked not just relatively normal-sized (still thin of course - this is Hollywood) but also healthy and happy. Glowing, soft. Yeah yeah, make up, the movies, etc. Her character's awesome vintage wardrobe perhaps helped too.

Seeing her made me realise what I wanted to look like and what I was looking for. It's this: some sort of softness. Some sense that you have thighs and that's OK. What do I want? I want to glow and bounce a little.

it made me think of 1980s/early 90s music videos.

Stick with me.

I saw the Spice Girls Wannabe music video the other day. Doesn't Emma Bunton look healthy? Doesn't she look normal? Yes, Ms Bunton's thighs are slightly wobbly. I wonder if she tortured herself daily.

They all look good, really. Victoria Beckham is probably a stone or two heavier than she is now.

1980s and early 90s music videos. There's another shocking eye-opener. Dancers look like normal people! Normal people with backsides and legs that have muscles and flesh on them.

The only person in modern life that looks anything like suitable is Beyonce. But she only escapes public criticism because she is clearly dancer-fit and could kill a man with a single kick. There is barely an article written that doesn't mention her 'curves' though. SHUT UP.

Whenever I see a magazine with 'before' and after bikini pics, where a normal sized girl is now concave, I always, always prefer the before pics.

I prefer the 'old' Kate Winslet. I prefer the non-thin and angular Sophie Dahl. Even Crystal Renn, the model who was celebrated for being gorgeously fleshy is now a size six. And people celebrate that, even while knowing she has a history of eating disorders.

But I generally feel like I'm in the minority here, to have a problem with the 'single option' of aspirational body shape.

The fact that I'm having to virtually travel back in time to find more than one person that I want to look like is distressing. I admire people's flesh, not their bones.

Soft, feminine, healthy and potentially ever so slightly wobbly people in public life who aren't beating themselves up. That's all.


  1. Firstly, YES YES YES.

    Secondly, no no no, you are not alone in thinking like this. You really *do* have to go back in time to find photographs of women who are soft and curved and well, womanly (I find the thin, gaunt looking models disturbingly young girl/pre teen like) and celebrated for it. Desired, too.

    I've made the mistake of looking on Tumblr for inspiration before, and yeah, the coveted thigh gap and collar bones are just so depressing. The whole 'strong is the new skinny' thing going round is sort of an anti bones thing, but still it's all about flat stomachs and defininition EVERYWHERE.

  2. Ah yes... the lovely Amy looked fab in that movie (and I want her wardrobe so much!!) As someone's who's been on the edge of too thin (well too thin for me) in the past, soft and curved is much, much happier. Also I think it's easier to have a genuine smile when you're not starving too! (Obvious but very true!!)

  3. I think soft is good, but not every woman is naturally soft. I had a good friend at school who was bullied for looking "anotrexic" but she was just thin. I think we need to embrace a range of shapes and ways of looking and stop saying any one type is correct. I know I personally tend to get very muscular (you should see my legs! They are like table legs!) and I think this is okay too. But yes, picking your role models is right, when I used to do the Sky Sports aerobics I tended to look at the short muscular woman with short legs and a long body as she was the person who most resembled me!

  4. Thank you for all your lovely comments

    @ Siobhan - I'm definitely not saying that we need to embrace just one body type - just the opposite in fact. And if you're naturally thin or muscular, there are no shortage of women out there for you to admire. All sorts of people are beautiful, but I think we're excluding anyone slightly soft or wobbly from that definition at the moment.

    It's more about how now, there is barely any visibility for the alternative and that nobody is saying that soft is nice. Muscular and thin are well-represented but that's the extent of the spectrum, with people like Christina Hendricks considered outliers.

    @ConvoPieces - very very true. It's easier to look glowing and healthy when your stomach isn't gnawing at your insides. I read this quote from Marcia Cross (Desperate Housewives) and it really stuck with me:

    "I always talk about the food I want to eat and then don't eat it. [...] Not to eat is a constant struggle. It's like they pay me not to eat. When you're at home, you have your fat pants that you wear when you feel a little chubby. Here you don't have that. I always have the same size pants and I need to starve in order to fit them."

    @Laura - it's a controversial view but I actually want to be a size 12-14. Preferably a 14. I have been a 10-12 before and it did not suit me. But you're not meant to want to admit that. If I can fit into a size 14 and run for 45 minutes without feeling like I'm going to pass out then I consider myself in a good way.