Women who are fat or too skinny should not be on TV
This weekend, the women of television show The X Factor came under the spotlight, but not in relation to music. Host Caroline Flack was inundated with cruel jibes about her appearance and weight by Twitter trolls while some users of the social media site have branded X Factor judge Cheryl Fernandez-Versini as too skinny.
A 2015 report commissioned by Beat estimates more than 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, eating disorders are 7 to 10 times more common in women than in men. Another example is that 90% of people with the eating condition Bulimia are female.
You may be wondering why I am listing statistics on eating disorders when neither Flack nor Fernandez-Versini have stated that they are suffering from one. My purpose is to highlight the fact that those suffering from eating disorders are predominantly women, and we must question why?
The answer, I believe, is because women’s bodies are always in the public space. In fact, I am going to go so far as coining the term ‘super-public’ because social media means we are constantly hyperbolically in the public sphere and consequently becoming further objectified; the situation with Flack and Fernandez-Versini signifying that.
Let me give you another example. Women are constantly categorised. We may call one woman a ‘career woman’ while calling another a ‘housewife’. One woman is confined to the work space while another to the domestic. Did it ever occur to people that they don’t have the authority to box another human? Self-labelling is empowering because it means you have authority over yourself to self-identify. But when another labels you as something you do not identify with, they consequently and simultaneously objectify you.
The Twitter trolls in effect were saying that women on TV should not be fat or too skinny. Do you know what? Let’s not put women on TV at all. It only took hundreds of years and thousands of women to finally achieve women’s rights to be recognised – and the fight, particularly in the Arts, continues.
In my opinion, X Factor is representative of the beautiful plethora of shapes and sizes that exist in society. So when we are constantly seeing ‘real’ women in society, where have we gone wrong with the few that are the Twitter trolls? Where has the notion of what is ‘perfect’ come from? Why are women’s bodies always in the super-public space? And how can we reclaim rights over our own bodies?
I am a television presenter and constantly under the spotlight. Like Fernandez-Versini, I have been called ‘too skinny’. I have also learnt to reply ‘thank you’ and am met with the reaction of shock. Yes, shock, shock, horror, horror, I am happy with my body weight and with how I look; particularly why I am always adamant to #nofilter my Instagram pictures.
We need, I believe, to stop selling young girls the ‘perfect’ size from magazine covers, and to start selling the notion of being healthy and self-confident. Also, industries should take example from The X Factor by not discriminating against women for weight, or even age which is another common problem in the Arts industries in particular, in comparison to men whose careers have greater longevity. Let’s start celebrating realness and diversity.
Women: stop making it harder with your hard words for the rest of us and think about the path you are paving for the future generation of girls and women.