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Eddie Mair | 15:25 UK time, Monday, 12 February 2007

On the programme tonight: news from London Fashion Week, and different views on the role of size zero models (actually British Size Four). If you have a view: post it here.


  1. At 04:37 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Mark Ford wrote:

    Too skinny. Give me a lovely curvy lass like Sophie Dahl any day!

  2. At 04:49 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Martin Long wrote:

    Well, either my refresh button's packed up or nobody has any views on this Eddie, since I seem to be the first. Or could it be a technical problem your end? As an occasional recipient of your e-newsletter (or rather a recipient of your occasional etc etc) I do know things teckie your end don't always go smoothely. But even so...

  3. At 05:10 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Valery p wrote:

    Mark - have you seen her lately? Apparently she's now a size 8 :o(

    At 6 ft tall, that doesn't sound too curvy?

  4. At 05:20 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Mark Ford wrote:

    Valery - Yeah, I know. Thought about that after I'd posted to be honest. :¬(

    OK: Give me a lovely curvy lass like Sophie Dahl used to be.

  5. At 05:28 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Phil Denner wrote:

    The US supported Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran with inter alia precursos chemical weapons, they send arms to their "friends" all around the world including currently arming Fatah in occupied Palestine to fight a civil war not in Palestinian interests, they interfere whenever they believe their interests are at risk. Why therefore, do their journalists and indeed most of our own, ask questions of Iran and other movements or nations as if interference to support national interests is an international crime? It is not just our politicians who twist morality it is the media as well. I hope you wouldn't Eddie.

  6. At 05:34 PM on 12 Feb 2007, kingcat wrote:

    size 0 models look great and they make clothes look great. have just heard a lot of rubbish from suzie orbach (fat herself) laying down the law and coming out with remarks about a parapalegic photoshoot which she said quote-it kind of wants to make you loose a limb they look so good.

    what a gross sick insensitive remark. it is a tragedy to loose a limb and an insult to disabled people to come out with flippant drivel like this.
    no-one wants to loose a limb or the use of a limb.
    orbach should mind her own business instead of minding other peoples.

  7. At 05:34 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Susan wrote:

    I wish the BBC would boycott all coverage of London Fashion Week (and all other Fashion coverage) until the fashion industry use larger models. That way the ordinary woman would not know about the size 0 models, as we do not attend such events. It has only come to my size 12 attention, thanks to the media.

  8. At 05:43 PM on 12 Feb 2007, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    This is my kind of model: (33"x22"x8")


    The just released Ultimate Collector Series Lego Star Wars Millennium Falcon.
    (Other toy building bricks are available)

    I have a bad feeling about the future state of my bank account.

  9. At 05:48 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Anna Rex wrote:

    Susie Orbach, how can we thank you?? She should be required listening. Eddie, her answer to your question of "how would things be different 20 years down the line" [if the changes she is calling for are brought to fruition] was so powerful. EDs are so often planted - utterly unintentionally - by mothers in their (usually) daughters, at such a young age, because they themselves cannot live at ease in their own bodies. The "don't eat that / don't eat too much / be careful" messages, played over and over again, bacome overwhelming, and, given enough other triggers, an ED is born. If today's generation of young women can learn to love their bodies (cf 'body hatred' - a phrase which cuts to the heart of what so many women feel, though mercifully at a lower level than can cause an ED for most - just enough constantly to feel dissatisfied - bad enough) then their children stand a chance of growing up comfortable in their own skin, able to listen and respond to their physical needs for nutrition. I can't help thinking this would reduce the incidence of obesity too - overeating is often just a different take on the use of food to manage feelings.
    Thanks, PM, for a sensible, sober item. Of course skinny models alone don't make girls anorexic, but the all-pervading culture of "thin=valuable" is corrosive.

  10. At 05:52 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Chris Rowe wrote:

    Fashion 'anorexia' is affecting male models too now ...

    See http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2258906.ece

    for more.

  11. At 06:06 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Alan wrote:

    I listened to the recent article with some interest. One point that I think needs to be considered here is what men think about size 0. I would be interested to see how many men (by age groups) prefer the thin look to the more natural look.
    When we think about how we met girls all the way through to marriage and kids - I would be suprised if the size 0 female form was at the top of the list.
    I for one will put my vote always for a natural, yes curvy lady. Lets stop this pressure on ladies to "be this thin" and get to the state where we can admire the feminine form in its natural form.
    I also wonder what percentage of the female population sits in the 12-16 size bracket comapred to the 4 to 8 !!! I know where my money is.

  12. At 06:06 PM on 12 Feb 2007, am wrote:

    that interview with the woman from the fashion week was uncomfortable listenig: she didn't sound as if she cared if young lasses get eating disorders or not just as long as they are well away from her.
    just the impression I got...

  13. At 06:11 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Joe Duggan wrote:

    Solve The "0" Model problem boycott the sponsors and amazingly the british government are supporting London Fashion week through
    The Uk Trade & Investment Co -UK Trade & Investment is a UK government organisation. who help UK companies do business abroad - and help overseas companies do business in the UK

    Evian Water
    Lavazza Coffee
    Evening Standard
    Moet Champagne
    Millennum Hotels
    Philips Electronics
    Renault Cars
    Tissot Watches
    Tony &guy
    Westfield (biggest Shopping Centre In UK - White City Opening Soon)


    The Uk Trade & Investment Co -UK Trade & Investment is a UK government organisation. who help UK companies do business abroad - and help overseas companies do business in the UK

    Kind regards
    Joe Duggan

  14. At 06:13 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Alan wrote:

    I listened to the recent article with some interest. One point that I think needs to be considered here is what men think about size 0. I would be interested to see how many men (by age groups) prefer the thin look to the more natural look.
    When we think about how we met girls all the way through to marriage and kids - I would be suprised if the size 0 female form was at the top of the list.
    I for one will put my vote always for a natural, yes curvy lady. Lets stop this pressure on ladies to "be this thin" and get to the state where we can admire the feminine form in its natural form.
    I also wonder what percentage of the female population sits in the 12-16 size bracket comapred to the 4 to 8 !!! I know where my money is.

  15. At 06:14 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Yasmin Jones wrote:

    I've seen Erin O'Connor on the catwalk, and she's extremely elegant (and very thin) at size 10. I've been a UK size 4 (size 0), and now I'm a podgy 6-8. The difference is, I'm a foot shorter than the supermodel, who is over 6' tall, like many models. The trouble with this debate is that no one mentions height. Average UK female height is 5'3"-5'4", and average UK male height is 5'9"-5'10". Most models are taller than most men and thinner than most boys. Forget the catwalk designers, when most High Street stores cut their clothes for a height of around 5'7", the real problem of sizing is often one of height, not girth.

    Erin O'Connor fronts an M&S campaign, along with others of whom 5'7" Twiggy is the shortest by a long way. Yet I'm closer to average height than even Twiggy, let alone Erin. The real hypocrisy of the fashion industry is on the High Street.

  16. At 06:16 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Martin MacGibbon wrote:

    I would like to get in contact with the person that is protesting against the thinness of models and the way they are being digitally retouched in photography. I own a post production company and we believe in the natural and healthy look and I would like to know if there is anything we could do to help.
    Many thanks

    Martin Mac Gibbon
    Managing Director
    Cyclops Imaging Ltd.

  17. At 06:19 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Yasmin Jones wrote:

    I've seen Erin O'Connor on the catwalk, and she's extremely elegant (and very thin) at size 10. I've been a UK size 4 (size 0), and now I'm a podgy 6-8. The difference is, I'm a foot shorter than the supermodel, who is over 6' tall, like many models. The trouble with this debate is that no one mentions height. Average UK female height is 5'3"-5'4", and average UK male height is 5'9"-5'10". Most models are taller than most men and thinner than most boys. Forget the catwalk designers, when most High Street stores cut their clothes for a height of around 5'7", the real problem of sizing is often one of height, not girth.

    Erin O'Connor fronts an M&S campaign, along with others of whom 5'7" Twiggy is the shortest by a long way. Yet I'm closer to average height than even Twiggy, let alone Erin. The real hypocrisy of the fashion industry is on the High Street.

  18. At 06:21 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Rosalind wrote:

    rastus and kingcat: either it is plagiarism or you are the same person. I claim my prize.

    I heard Susie Orbach too and thought she had some intelligent ideas. Why not make us rather larger people look beautiful with gorgeous designs? It only means a change in vision. What is so difficult about that?

  19. At 06:26 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Bedd Gelert wrote:

    Following on from the Susie Orbach feature, I wonder what others make of the 'Dove' Campaign for real beauty ? Whilst superficially encouraging a different vision of women in advertising, as part of 'Unilever' I am sure other parts of the conglomerate don't take quite such an enlightened view.

    Like a lot of Corporate Social Responsibility or 'Environmental' initiatives, I cannot help think that this was conceived by their PR department, then sent to the Marketing department, and will be canned once it is no longer 'flavour of the month'.

  20. At 06:48 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Yasmin Jones wrote:

    I've seen Erin O'Connor on the catwalk, and she's extremely elegant (and very thin) at size 10. I've been a UK size 4 (size 0), and now I'm a podgy 6-8. The difference is, I'm a foot shorter than the supermodel, who is over 6' tall, like many models. The trouble with this debate is that no one mentions height. Average UK female height is 5'3"-5'4", and average UK male height is 5'9"-5'10". Most models are taller than most men and thinner than most boys. Forget the catwalk designers, when most High Street stores cut their clothes for a height of around 5'7", the real problem of sizing is often one of height, not girth.

    Erin O'Connor fronts an M&S campaign, along with others of whom 5'7" Twiggy is the shortest by a long way. Yet I'm closer to average height than even Twiggy, let alone Erin. The real hypocrisy of the fashion industry is on the High Street.

  21. At 07:05 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Frances O wrote:

    It's so desperately sad that teenage girls may - I don't say they all do - feel inadequate if they're not skinny.

    Given the fact that their bodies are rounding out anyway, simply because that's what nature does.

    And the consciousness of their bodies that happens at the same time; of course it does; AND noticing boys in a new way (again, I acknowledge that some girls don't).

    Insecurity, embarassment, probably fear; is it a wonder that eating disorders happen? And then there's comfort eating...

    Nigella Lawson irritates me. But at least I appreciate her curviness and the fact that she loves food. And probably other pleasures in life.

    OK, men: challenge.

    What do you think looks good?

    And to those of you in relationships with women:

    Here's your chance to say a bit about why she's gorgeous.

  22. At 07:36 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Frances O wrote:

    Beddgelert: all I can say is: good dog.

    (he'll understand)

    I do like that campaign. But yes; it's advertising and so I'm sceptical.

    But it's a wedge in the door, I hope.

    Even if it just makes a few women think: "Oh, she's my sort of shape and she's fine to be in magazines" etc.

    The majority of the human race isn't 'perfect'. And if I were a bloke I'd rather have a girlfriend who had a few extra round bits than one who lived on diet coke and fags.

  23. At 07:41 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Gillian wrote:

    I have a 16-year-old daughter who has always been petite (unlike her mother who is just short and dumpy). She has never been a faddy eater, even when growing up, but has only ever eaten small quantities of food. She has always been very fit and healthy. As a ''good'' mother I have always encouraged her to eat more, finish everything on the plate, and so on, because I hold the view that it is possible to be too thin. In my daughter's case this is her natural state. You can therefore imagine my horror when, a couple of years ago, she asked me what she could do about her ''fat'' thighs! She had noticed (as we all have) that they spread when she sat down, and wobbled when she moved. In spite of being a size 8,(she is 5'3'') she was genuinely worried about her size and shape. Thankfully, this was just a passing fancy but my sympathies go out to those whose notion of themselves remains negative. I am pleased to say that just last night she commented on how she manages to eat bigger meals now, but I will always worry whenever her appetite appears to diminish. I wholeheartedly support any effort that is given to boosting a woman's self-image and self-confidence, and quietly celebrate whenever I see the Dove commercial.(Though I still think they should use women who have rolls of fat like mine!)

  24. At 08:55 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Valery p wrote:

    Mark - didn't mean to be snippy, I just happened to see a tv programme last night which mentioned her. Watched said programme with my teenage daughter, for a documentary which her group is making for Media Studies. Eye-opening.

  25. At 09:51 PM on 12 Feb 2007, madmary wrote:

    For most of my life I was one of those women whose BMI was on the too low side. I was never anorexic. I have always eaten well and never been fussy or frightened of food. However, I hated my body. It was too thin. Great in clothes but horribly bony without.

    Now at 51 I have delevoped body fat. It's much nicer.

    I love the DOVE adverts not just because they celebrate a different shape but they show older women as beautiful.

    Let's have a fashion world that appeals to beautiful people of all shapes and sizes.


  26. At 09:55 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Ruth V wrote:

    I'm so glad this is a theme here! I read an article about it on the train this morning and may have deeply troubled a man travelling to Walsall by my reaction. The quote? Some designer or other saying that (I paraphrase) "clothes look better on skinny people" Argh! Surely, in that case, the skill of the designer is greatest when they make people who are not skinny look good? And aren't showing off one's skill, and eye for style, kind of the point?

    (oh, and sorry if I sound somewhat annoyed. I'm not crazy really :)

  27. At 10:33 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Annasee wrote:

    I'm afraid I view the models the same way as I view the clothes they exhibit - as something from another planet in which I have no interest. I didn't even know it was London Fashion Week, til I heard someone interviewed on Radio 4 going on & on about it several times yesterday & today. To me, both the clothes and the models are simply irrelevances to real life, both quite removed from anything I know or am interested in.

    It's a good job the fashion industry isn't relying on my buying power to make ends meet, isn't it? Likewise the glossy magazine industry. Oh, and the small luxury hotels. And the pamper-yourself spas.
    I could go on, but I'll only get even more boring...

  28. At 11:43 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Anna Rex wrote:

    Ros (14) - darn, I wanted that prize ;-)
    Glad you could hear beyond Susie's surface too; I am disabled and didn't take offence at (actually didn't notice!) Orbach's comment about losing a limb. I'm sure Kingcat aka Rastus is trying to be sensitive, but really Orbach does much more good than harm. Try to hear beyond any perhaps apparently careless comparison, and hear her deeper message. She speaks wisdom.

  29. At 11:47 PM on 12 Feb 2007, Deepthought (John W) wrote:

    Madmary (17)

    I was once accused of being anorexic by a woman. I'm a man. I did not take kindly to this (while I know men can be), especially as I thought I ate (but also exercised) well. I just happened to be 6' tall and 8st 11pd. When I challenged all the women I knew, as a result of this challenge, to a weight comparison, it was strangely silent.

    I now weigh as much as my father ever did, am taller than he ever was, and think myself wildly overweight.

    But I certainly do not approve of/fancy/like these size zero models.

  30. At 12:11 AM on 13 Feb 2007, Valery p wrote:

    Ruth V - not crazy at all! Surely it's the people (us!) who are supposed to look great, NOT the clothes?

    (If this posts first time, I'll eat my hat, stylish or not)

  31. At 12:14 AM on 13 Feb 2007, gossipmistress wrote:

    I didn't hear tonight's show, so this may have been dealt with but 2 points:

    I heard that the fashion industry only makes their 'samples' in one size - a size which has become smaller and smaller. If models with a dangerously low BMI were banned (as per some other countries??) they would have to make bigger samples and use bigger models. How difficult would that be? Not very.

    And....we are simply obsessed by size - the glossy mags are more than half full of items on diets, body image and which celebrity is half a pound thinner or fatter than last week. The fashion industry can't be held solely to blame.

    But I expect I am behind the times and this was probably covered earlier! :-/

  32. At 01:21 AM on 13 Feb 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Agh! I've just finished typing something and lost it!

    Just wanted to say that this is my area of expertise but my passion for my subject can quite easily make me very cross with statements such as that made by Kingcat (6) in his/her opening sentence, so I won't say too much.

    Anna Rex (9) -- odd choice of name -- is correct. These images may not make young people unhappy but, at that very difficult age, they show those who are unhappy that the way to happiess is through body image. The fashion and diet industries exist to make us feel disatisified with our appearance and thus spend our money (and time and energy) on chasing the impossible goal of looking like air-brushed "supermodels".

    I'll stop here because you don't need my thesis on body image in capitalist societies, or the related matter of sexual behaviour, self-esteem and dress.

    The average UK woman, by the way, is 5'5" and size 16.

  33. At 07:03 AM on 13 Feb 2007, mark tole wrote:

    Designers say their clothes look better on thin models. That's not design, or if it is, it's bad design! Architects don't say their houses look better with thin people inside them. Design should be functional. They're confusing design with art.

  34. At 08:45 AM on 13 Feb 2007, witchiwoman wrote:

    I missed the prog and for soem reason my post disappeared last night...

    Anyway, as someone recovering from an Eating Disorder I have to say that seeing these models doesn't help me at all; I am an 'unhealthy' weight, they are deemed to be 'desirable'.

    I know I don't have to subscribe to this viewpoint, and neither do other women, but unless you entirely disconnect form fashion/media representations this is very hard.

    The fashion industry must accept the dangerous power and influence it wields. It makes me so sad to think of the lives effected in striving to be 'perfect'. This may not lead to an eating disorder but a life filled with pressure to be other than one is, to be constantly perfecting ones body, to be entirely taken over by the pursuit of physical nirvana.....it ain't living is it?

  35. At 08:53 AM on 13 Feb 2007, Simon Worrall wrote:

    I could get really grumpy about this topic. Like that would be a new thing for me on any topic.....

    I like women who look like, .... well, erm, women! Oddly enough. Not stick insects, all sharp angles and bones. But with suitable lumps and bumps in all the right places.

    I once heard a news item, sadly lost in the mists of time where it was I heard it, the synopsis of which was thus;

    It generalised that since most designers are gay men they design clothes for the body form they prefer, other men, generally speaking young-ish men (which is not to be taken as implying that gay men are paedophiles, so nobody start jumping up and down please).

    That means a body form with a more slender figure than the 'average' woman, especially in the hips, and taller than the average woman, which Appy tells us is 5' 5".

    So the clothes they design are for a person of that kind of shape, slim-hipped, small chest, tall-ish. And would you believe it that most catwalk models fit that description, what a shock. I would guess that the original snippet stuck in my mind because it seemed plausible. At least as plausible as any generalisation can be.

    If true, then designers do NOT design clothes for a large proportion of ladies. And lets face it only a tiny minority of women are ever going to buy the kinds of outfits you see on the catwalk. Most of them are hideously expensive, or too outlandish, or both.

    Of far more interest to the populace at large would be a fashion show which included the likes of M&S, BHS, Evans, Top Shop, Next, River Island, Monsoon and so on. After all that's where almost all of us spend our hard-earned brass.

    I wonder just how talented these designers really are? After all, a real talent would design and make clothes which could be worn by the majority of us, not only by the select few who can afford them.

    And why do the media, and by inference we the viewers, pay such interest to a tiny sector of the rag trade? Of what interest are the salons of Milan, London, Paris and New York to 99.9% of us?

    Relegate this kind of item to its proper place, back on Page 94 amongst the small ads, and let's have something interesting to listen to / read about, like the wholesale price of teabags. It's got more relevance to the lives of most of us than this has.


  36. At 09:30 AM on 13 Feb 2007, madmary wrote:

    I agree Simon Worrall!

    And Deepthought I have been accused in the past on more than one occasion of being anorexic. It's so hurtful. One woman who commented (a stranger) was taken to task by me. I queried whether she would be so free with her comments if she was going to tell me I was grossly overweight? That shut her up.


  37. At 10:23 AM on 13 Feb 2007, Belinda wrote:

    Warning - personal splurge below:

    I'm in the 'carefully middling' weight range now, but until about 10 years ago, I was anorexic for a number of years (post-teenage years). This was nothing to do with trying to look like a model, was not a result of media pressures, but simply the only way I could find of gaining control over a life which had gone haywire.
    Physically and mentally I was a mess: I exercised for 4 hours or more a day, yet could not climb up a flight of stairs without stopping, exhausted, half-way up. I could not open doors, could not sleep properly, could not concentrate through a conversation, I scuppered the chances of having children and all but destroyed many of my relationships with the people around me.

    It has taken my many years to get back to some semblence of health, and even now I am still aware daily of the long-term ramifications of only eating half a carrot a day for a number of years.

    I guess my point is this: Banning Size 0 models will not stop the development of anorexia, nor will it significantly dent the figures. Eating disorders are much more complicated than simply wanting to be thin. On the other hand, these models are not healthy and for that reason alone, should be allowed to put on weight. Like someone said above, if the clothes that they are modelling look bad on size 8 and above, then they are not worth the material that they are cut out from.

  38. At 10:52 AM on 13 Feb 2007, witchiwoman wrote:

    Belinda - good comment.

    EDs spring from a number of causes; looking at models didn't make me think 'ah yes, looking like that will make me happy', it was a control

    There is also a dangerous thin = healthy 'thing' happening.

    We live in a very immediate society and long term damage physical damage is an important part of this debate too.

  39. At 11:12 AM on 13 Feb 2007, Valery p wrote:

    Belinda & Witchiwoman - thanks.

    Si - as usual I agree with so much of what you say. However, even within your sentiment there is a little sting in the tail which I'm sure you didn't even notice?
    "But with suitable lumps and bumps in all the right places"

    I'm not trying to start an argument, but that statement is exactly what triggers body-image problems (right Appy?), if we were able to "control" our lumps and bumps, and ensure that the healthy regime that we follow culminated in the curves being the "right" size in the "right" place, then problem over?
    You see - who decides what's "right"? Look at different desirable body shapes down the ages, Goyaesque to Flapper etc etc, Who Decides?

    Bit ranty for me I know, but something I feel passionately about.

  40. At 12:30 PM on 13 Feb 2007, Simon Worrall wrote:

    Val (39);
    Regarding "lumps & bumps";
    I didn't specify what size they should be, or anything else. I deliberately left it vague. What's right for one person isn't for another. Some peoples are larger than others. Or if you prefer, smaller than others.

    It's a general point really, that ladies are generally curvy and I happen to like that. Another bloke would have a different view to myself, and that's fine too.

    And fair enough, I probably wouldn't take too well to a female version of the Elephant Man. That's hardly an earth-shattering statement either.

    I could turn it backward and look at myself. Frankly I'm amazed that my SO likes being seen in public with me. I'm not particularly handsome, I'm overweight, my sense of humour is sick-to-lousy and there is always too much month left at the end of the money.

    Given the context of this thread I would point out that this is not the result of a negative self-image, I don't dislike what I am. It's a fairly sober and balanced assesment. I am dissatisfied a bit with my weight and losing some of the excess slowly. Aside from that I quite like myself really. I feel no pressure to change myself into something else.

    One thing that never fails to amaze me is just how high a percentage of all the ladies whom I have ever known well is displeased with something about themself, to the point that they want to change it. I will probably never understand why so high a proportion of women are unhappy with the way that they are. It has to be mental, not physical, because in many cases I hear what they say and think that they've lost the plot completely.

    I used to have a lodger, many years ago, who was a student Mental Nurse. Physically she was a goddess. Stunning red hair, figure that many women would have envied, fit and healthy. But she also was desperately unhappy with herself. More than anything she was convinced that she had a 'tummy'. She had what was pretty much a washboard stomach. She ran, rode a bike, worked out and rowed in a boat crew at weekends. She had barely an ounce of fat on her. But she was convinced that she had a 'tummy'. Insanity.

    I have never seen anything that has convinced me as to why so many women are like this, probably because I have a Y chromosome!

    I think that it's a dead-end to blame the fashion industry for all the ills felt by women regarding weight, size, etc. Hollywood may be more of a causal factor here. 40 years ago we had actresses like Monroe, Mansfield etc as role models. Now it's Julia Roberts, the 'Friends' girls, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Connelly and others. I'd reckon that on average the modern leading lady is two to three dress sizes smaller than her counterpart from the Sixties and Seventies. In our televisual age that's got to count for something.

    And I'm sure that peer pressure also weighs heavily here. Kids and teens can be very cruel to someone who doesn't 'fit in'. And being a different shape makes you a target (N.B. not the 'wrong' shape, just different).

    I'd have to finish off by saying that for all the fuss about what (primarily) women look like and the negative feelings they have about themselves, the sexiest thing about a person is what's between their ears. Not what is in front of, or behind, them. And you see it in their eyes, hear it in their conversation and read it in their body language. There's nothing more attractive, to me, than an intelligent woman with an enquiring mind.


  41. At 01:59 PM on 13 Feb 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    I really, really need to not get sucked in as I will be here for weeks, but I have to come back on a couple of things:

    Belinda and Witchiwoman - I wholeheartedly agree that eating disorders take hold due a complicated and varied set of reasons and that "thin models" are not the sole cause. They are, however, symptomatic and indicative of a society with a capitalist agenda and which operates using stealth control -- pushing ideals through a variety of media (yes Simon, Hollywood, definitely, but more, so much more). The majority of the population are distracted from consideration of power and inequality by bombardment with issues designed to make us feel inferior and inadequate and thus to concentrate upon "fixing ourselves" rather than partaking in "fixing the world", because the latter would threaten the comortable positions of the powerful. Accumulation of consumables (no pun intended), sexual behaviour and body "perfection" are three of the major arenas that we are given (and yes I do mean "given") in which to to act.

    Simon, your outline of the theory about gay male designers is true and relevant, but it is largely sympotomatic and arising from the vogue for thinness rather than being a seminal factor. You say "I will probably never understand why so high a proportion of women are unhappy with the way that they are," and I applaud you for that -- so many people think they have "the answer" when of course it is a complicated, economic, political, sociological and psychologcial issue, comparable and intertwined with, for example, the medicalisation of depression and the changing norms of sexual behaviour. To simplify this issue and to look for just one or two sources of "blame" would be an attempt to reduce its importance. I'll stop here but, as I said, I could go on and on.

    One thing -- lest anyone should think that I come to this from a purely academic perspective, I would add that, at 5'9" and size 12 I had terrible body image problems as a teenager, despite being much taller and slimmer than average. It took me until my 30s to realise how beautiful I am (and I wish that all women could feel this way) -- and how utterly unimportant that is in most spheres of life.

  42. At 02:14 PM on 13 Feb 2007, witchiwoman wrote:

    Si - 'There's nothing more attractive, to me, than an intelligent woman with an enquiring mind'

    I'm sure there are many many men like you but you don't see that on the front of Lads Mags do you?

    I think a lot of women are confused about what/how to be these days. There is a drive to be independent etc but also an insecurity about how to do this. I would argue that my generation, brought up to believe women can do anything also sub consciously think that women should DO everything and BE everything....wife, mother, business woman, thin, curvy, natural etc etc Therefore we look to society to guide us and genearally finding this guidance, or signposts, in the media which in one breath say 'thin is best' and in th next 'be yourself is best'; I think insecurity comes from confusion.

    A bit rambling and not quite fully fledged as a theory but for a moment I felt quite inspired, so thanks for sparking that!!

  43. At 03:55 PM on 13 Feb 2007, Penny Hart-Woods wrote:

    May be controversial but in view of the recent plea by the home secretary for judges to review their sentencing policies should part of this not now be the return of Capital Punishment. Having just listend to yet another appaling report of a sexually abused and murdered child, this time a two year old girl in Leeds perhaps its time we sent a clear message to what seems to be an incrasing number of depraived and worthless people. Please anyone tell me why these individuals derserve the right to live. I am not suggesting a blanket policy of Capital Punishment for all murders but there are instances where proof is irifutable ie Peter Sutcliffe, Myra Hindley etc. Death by lethal Injection would be my suggestion.

  44. At 04:01 PM on 13 Feb 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Witchiwoman (42), yep, with you completely.

  45. At 04:01 PM on 13 Feb 2007, Simon Worrall wrote:

    Witchi (42);

    Talking about confusion is a whole different ballgame to models and eating disorders.

    Most men are confused too. A young lady of my acquaintance recently complained that she was single (approaching 30) and never gets asked out by a chap. She was fairly shocked when I suggested that many men are intimidated these days, afraid of making a move in case their advances are unrequired, mistaken and cause grave offence to the lady in question.

    I'd hate to suggest that life was better when 'men were men and women knew their place'. So I won't do that. But I think we all function better when we understand our place and role in society, it gives structure to us all. We all need to understand what our purpose is and where our opportunites lie.

    Right now I think we are in transition. The Victorian/Georgian standards, alluded to above, have gone, swept away by female emancipation after World War 1. The role of women in society has changed beyond all measure in less than 100 years.

    That's creating instability in society, because we haven't yet reached a new understanding, where we can rest and draw breath. Men's role is changing too, because the new opportunites for women are forcing that change along unwanted, which can be viewed from a perspective as a threat to a long-established ordering of things.

    So us chaps no longer know what is required of us, what we are expected to be. The old certainties are gone. And women encounter resistance in places, for instance the boardroom or the golf club. A resistance built on male fear of the unknown, of where we will end up when the dust settles. Of being usurped and diminished in some way.

    So we turn to the lads mags, which feed a certain image of 'manliness' or perhaps 'laddishness'. Fast cars, gadgets, attractive young ladies in bikinis, jokes, features, all of which are designed to appeal to aspects of the way many men would *like* to think of themselves.

    One might expect that these things will eventually build a new society. It might well happen, but it will not happen overnight, and the debates surrounding, especially, womens participation will go on for quite some time. To enable this quantum change in the order of society to come about the old structures will need to be removed.

    That's one possible explanation for the current breakdown in society, lawlessness, drug-taking, crime. People who are confident of themselves and their abilities, their place and how they relate to society do not need drugs. Only those who are full of fear need them, to escape from the uncertainty of life. Ex-addicts who proclaim that 'Drugs don't fix anything' are telling the truth, they merely postpone reality. The moment you start to come down and reality intrudes you realise that nothing has changed, so you do it again to keep on putting off your contact with the real world. And no, I've never taken any drugs. I merely observe one possible truth.

    I happen to be optimistic about all this. I believe in true equality, in as far as it can go, given reservations about physical capacity. Meaning that men are generally stronger, but only women have kids, that kind of thing, the basic differences between us all.

    I also believe in a true meritocracy, where each rises to their level of achievement, irrespective of who or what they are. Where the state operates with a light hand and its purpose is not to interfere in our lives and direct them, but to frame a structure and then enable us all to run our own lives free of interference. It's a Utopian ideal really. We may never get there, but there is certainly no harm in hoping for it.


  46. At 05:39 PM on 13 Feb 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Sorry Si, but that last part sounds rather more sinister than Utopian to me.

    As for "the new opportunites for women (that) are forcing... change along" -- I contend that these are not opportunities but expectations disguised as oportunities. There is a lot of talk about women having more "choice", yet I know of no woman who can "choose" to leave employment upon engagement/marriage and devote herself to homemaking, as would have happened half a century ago. The way women are forced to live now may be more appealing in many ways and even allow more freedoms of a certain kind, but it is not about individual choice: The economy needs women earning and outside of the home sphere so that is what is potrayed as 'the norm'.

    The economy also needs two people working to support a home and children, so again, that is portrayed as the norm. Now we hear women are "choosing to put their careers first" and not having babies young enough. This is said in an attempt to promote younger parenting in this generation. Why? -- the ecomony needs it, the "pensions time bomb" being the obvious factor, although there are others. Men's roles may be changing too, but it is not as a consequence of that having happened to women -- both are as a result of the changing priorites of the powerful few in the economies of the "western world".

    Oo. I've just read that back and I feel like I ought to end with "We're all doomed!" I didn't mean that -- honest! -- but it is a serious point.

  47. At 09:15 AM on 14 Feb 2007, witchiwoman wrote:

    Si and Aperitif - good points both!

    And yes I admit that confusion and eds/models are two different ballagmes...bit of tuesday pm stream of consciousness happening.

    I too feel we are in a transition period, and I am hopeful of the outcome though I don't expect to witness it!!

  48. At 10:44 AM on 14 Feb 2007, HelenSparkles wrote:

    I tried to post 3 times, am I being moderated? I try so hard to be offensive!

  49. At 10:44 AM on 14 Feb 2007, Gillian wrote:

    ''.....it wouldn't do any good for ladies to get their ambition and look like somebody's fourteen-year-old brother,
    Because, having accomplished this with ease,
    They would next want to look like somebody's fourteen-year-old brother in the final stages of some obscure disease,
    And the more success you have the more you want to get of it,
    So then their goal would be to look like somebody's fourteen-year-old brother's ghost, or rather not the ghost itself, which is fairly solid,but a silhouette of it,
    So I think it is very nice for ladies to be lithe and lissome.
    But not so much that you cut yourself if you happen to embrace or kissome.''

    From ''Curl up and diet'' by Ogden Nash

  50. At 10:46 AM on 14 Feb 2007, Simon Worrall wrote:

    Appy (46);
    Hmmm, food for thought here...

    I'm not sure why a meritocracy is sinister?

    Of course anyone can choose not to work. A woman may, in many cases, be a housewife/homemaker if she wishes. But if that means a reduction from two incomes to one then it will probably entail adapting to a different style of life. That is a choice. Who 'forces' her to return to work against her will?

    I accept that in some households there may be mental, even physical, pressure to return to work, rather than accept the alternative. But there IS always an alternative, even if it is unpleasant.

    There are always choices in every part of life. The essence of what defines us as being human and not animal is the concept of freewill, the ability to weigh up priorities and make rational decisions based on personal criteria. *What* you are plays a key role in this. What influences your decisions defines the person that you really are. They can be financial, physical, moral, spiritual, ethical, selfish, greedy, altruistic, the range is without limit.

    Women in the early part of the last century fought and even died for the right to have the same privileges and opportunities as men. Today they have largely achieved them. There are still 'closed shops', but their numbers are reducing. Men used to have the sole 'privilege' (or is that 'burden')of providing everything for their wives and families. Now women share in that, in large measure. It sounds like you resent these hard-won rights and want to wind the clock back to a bygone era of male ascendancy? But I can't believe that of you, so I'm unsure what you would really like to see?

    The economy does not 'need' women earning. But it needs someone earning, or there would be no economy at all. We could enact laws to bar women from working and force them back to the home. We could import the men we would then need from other parts of the globe to do that work instead. Men from low-cost economies who will work for even lower wages. Ever looked at who is serving in your local fast-food joint, or behind the counter at the petrol station? It's already happening.

    Or look at Robert Peston's BBC blog today. A generations-old Scottish haggis manufacturer is importing ox intestine from Uruguay and it's workforce from Poland. It can't source that ingredient from most of the EU, thanks to BSE and Health & Safety regs. There are local people unemployed who could take the jobs. But the Poles are hard-working, diligent and have a good attitude to their job, in apparent contrast to the locals.

    And what would the effect of all these extra migrants be? Further pressure on an already over-crowded island which doesn't have enough decent homes for the populace it has today. Inter-racial ugliness against 'them' for 'stealing our jobs'. It doesn't bear thinking about. And who wants to dictate to women that they are to be returned to the second-class as citizens anyway? The ability to earn an income independent of a spouse/partner is the greatest empowerment that women have gained.

    Again the economy doesn't demand that both parents work. No employer could really give a damn whether you do that job, or a migrant in your stead. They do not demand YOU or ME. But they demand someone.

    The reason that so many women feel the pressure to work is the cost, specifically, of housing. With the cost of an average house this week having climbed above £200k more and more people need double-incomes to get a mortgage. And they are extending themselves beyond all sane reason to get that house.

    Again, no-one 'makes' them buy that house. Owning a house is not compulsory. But we all feel the urge to own. We all want to stake out our own little piece of territory. And quickly now, before the price rises even higher still. It's the pressures of population in a restricted space that creates this insatiable demand for housing. And importing workers, as referred above, would increase that further. I don't know what the figures are, but I suspect that (barring enclave countires like Hong Kong, Monaco, San Marino, etc.) the U.K. has the highest house prices in the world.

    And why is it so expensive? The cost of land is the single prime factor. Overcrowding again. But look at the modern house. Do we *really* need en-suite bathrooms? Downstairs loos? Fitted kitchens, fitted wardrobes, fitted carpets? Think what all this adds to the cost of buying a new house. And we are not talking the most expensive 'Executive' houses. Most new houses will incorporate some or all of these features.

    The reason why women are putting off child-rearing is to help pay the debts incurred in house-purchase. Yep, the pension time-bomb exists. If more of us live longer and the ratio of workers to pensioners continues to change unfavourably then the state pension will become unaffordable. It already is doing so in some West European countries, notably France, where the retirement age is generally lower than in the U.K. I see no strategy to combat this so far.

    It all comes down to basic economics really. Supply and demand. With so many dual-income households we are cash-affluent as never before. So we spend our money on things we deem necessary to our improving lives. Like DVD players, iPods, cars, long-haul holidays, designer clothing, computers, widescreen flat-panel TV's. We covet these things, we desire them, we want them. So we buy them, and we will enter into serious debt to get them if need be. But you have to realise that nobody makes us do it. Nobody. We do it because we want to. Because we can.


  51. At 12:38 PM on 14 Feb 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Hi Si, Hi Appy,

    Just a few thoughts to add to your discussion.

    I've just come back from helping out Stepdaughter No. 1 with childcare, and her tale illustrates some of the points raised between you. She married her childhood sweetheart some eight years ago and has two lovely children aged under 7. Husband holds down a modest job as a car mechanic, Stepdaughter works reduced hours to fit around childcare. Money is very tight, covering just the mortgage and immediate outgoings, but crisis looms every time an appliance breaks down, and holidays which involve any expense are strictly off limits. Over time, credit cards have been used to bridge gaps, so there is some debt around beyond the mortgage, though fortunately not too enormous.

    As they cannot afford any childcare and there is no reliable support network to cover daily help, Stepdaughter switched to evening work, meaning that for four nights a week husband looked after the children. Very rarely they were able to go out together as a couple. Tensions have built up over the years and, preferring not to fall out completely, they have now separated. We all hope the situation can be retrieved, but the stresses and strains of managing on low incomes don't auger well.

    SO and I do what we can. We don't have a great deal of spare cash ourselves, and there are three stepdaughters - we all know how difficult that can make it when wanting to help one child. Needless to say, we do try to contrive ways to give her extra help without the other two becoming too aware and therefore resentful.

    Unfortunately, they live about 60 miles from us and we cannot, in the short term at least, see a way to moving nearer to them to be more on hand to help in a practical sense. Hence our 'tooing and froing' on a very regular basis - which has it's toll on us, of course.

    As has been observed recently, our society is now able to afford gizmos which, in the past, would have seemed inconceivable but which, due to the influence of the Far East markets, are now cheap. But the big essentials, such as housing (whether buying or renting) are very expensive. Food costs are relative high for pensioners and low earners. Energy is expensive, public transport likewise, etc., etc. It isn't easy for many people on low wages and this is why so many women now feel obliged to work and there is no real choice to be exercised.

  52. At 06:08 PM on 14 Feb 2007, hamish collin wrote:

    Having had an anorexic 15yr old daughter who went down to 41/2 stone and was eventually hospitalized but now thankfully recovered , I feel that any attempt to disperse the idea that thinness is good should be pursued vigourously. I accept that some people are naturally slim but some achieve unnatural thinness thro starvation and bulimia. You can see these as models in the fashion magazines like Vogue. Having been sensitized to the appearance of unnatural thinness I can identify it very easily. The arms are like sticks and show no curves and the legs are thinner at the thigh than the knee joint. These models are unnaturally thin and in my view should not be used as clothes horses on the cat walk. Their use can be easily prevented by the fashion magazines and the fashion pages in the papers not publising photographs of them. I am not saying that the fashion industry is totally to blame. I am suggesting that they must take a share of the responsibility. Spain and Italy have done.Its time the UK did so.Hamish Collin

  53. At 11:46 AM on 15 Feb 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Hi All,

    Si, I didn't say a genuine meritocracy was sinister -- I just felt that your description (prescription) of what it should be like seemed that way.

    You've made a lot of other points -- I'm guessing that most of these are not in response to what I said. Most of the tangent I went off at was not in repsonse to what you'd said, but inspired by where I started from. However, a couple of things bother me: You make it seem like everything is about individual choice (typical Tory ;-)) -- my argument is about society as a whole (please don't do the "no such thing" -- I know you are nothing like Maggie -- I wouldn't talk to you if you were). It's about was is aspired/adhered to by the majority (I don't say that this aspiration/adherence is right or wrong -- it happens, so we must deal with it).

    The line "women are putting off child-rearing" offends me -- although I don't suggest that you meant it to. I know of know woman who has made that concious decision alone -- men do still have something to do with it!! And it is women of my generation (I'm in my 30s) who are the focus of this right now. Even programmes like Woman's Hour deal with it in this way, so you are not alone. Women's TV, radio and magazines are employing strategies -- whether you have seen them or not -- they are begining to discuss, blame women and to implore us to 'change our minds and get on with it'. This makes me somewhat angry: My friends and acquaintances have had/not had children to date because they have/haven't found the right partner; they have/haven't been able to conceive; and/or child rearing at a young age (i.e. under about 25 to 30) was propagandised to us (as teenagers) as immoral and a sign of failure (I am not exaggerating). iagainst a climate like that and when they do they are usually stigmatised and even ostracised. Furthermore, there is no way the females among us could have grown up expecting someone else to support us while we raised children: we were taught that we must do it all ourselves, marry for the sake of love and only have children if we could (financially) afford it.

    Personally, I have tried to step back and see the effect that this indoctrnation has had and will have upon my "life choices" and to consider other options. I was lucky in that I met Mr Right when I was 24. I wasn't ready to have children then (not due to financial concerns) but we always thought we would when we were married, just a few years later. I was was widowed three months after our wedding so we never got the chance. I use my own example by way of illustration that all kinds of shit can happen -- so little of life is genuinely about choice. I see this in so many ways among my peer group and among those of other generations too.

    The societal climate and the interests of the powerful do shape our lives even more than we can shape them oursleves, especially among those of us who are less aware of it. They own the media and thus employ the programme makers and editors who employ the hacks who write/talk about what they want them to. They have the ear of our governments, whether we like it or not. The have the resources to shape our perceptions and our norms. Thin models are just one small aspect of it; one that is more transparently harmful than many others.

  54. At 02:17 PM on 15 Feb 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    Thanks for that. Strong thinking, especially last paragraph. Money is power and corrupts absolutely. Sorry for your loss.

    Love and Peace (much of both)

  55. At 06:45 PM on 15 Feb 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    And I would add to Appy's thoughtful posting that there are some women (and I am one) who have had cr*p relationships in early life, were responsible enough not to start a family with their unsuitable partners, and find themselves unable to have families later on in life.

    It isn't always about choices.

  56. At 11:13 PM on 15 Feb 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Thanks Ed, Big Sis -- I went off on one of my tangents again!

  57. At 12:20 AM on 16 Feb 2007, Valery p wrote:

    Appy - you do good tangents.

  58. At 01:45 AM on 16 Feb 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Thank you Valery. You too are very kind.

  59. At 09:13 AM on 16 Feb 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Appy: Are you a geometrician?

  60. At 10:11 AM on 16 Feb 2007, RJD wrote:

    Big Sis - Are you insinuating that Appy approaches things from the wrong angle or that she is obtuse? I think her responses are almost always a right angle, never a reflex and she can be acute . . .

  61. At 11:06 AM on 16 Feb 2007, Valery p wrote:

    Big Sis - Lol!

  62. At 05:33 PM on 16 Feb 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    RJD: Well, I agree, Appy does avoid circular arguments and seems far from square.

  63. At 09:28 PM on 16 Feb 2007, Humph wrote:

    BigSis (62) If you are saying that Appy gets straight to the point then I would certainly agree!


  64. At 01:39 PM on 17 Feb 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    I have decided to assume all of that is complimentary, although I confess I don't understand the premise -- Big Sis, am I a geometrician? Why? Is there something telling in my particular choice of tangent? :-)

    Cheers guys.

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