Fat is a Female Issue

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Chanteuse Adele says she is not that bothered about being size 14-16. Why would she be?  Blessed with a divine voice, poised, a superb lyricist, eyes which sparkle more brightly than jewels, her silky skin, big, red hair styled with panache, who has millions of fans worldwide, who co-wrote and sings the theme song for the latest Bond movie Skyfall, why, the hell should she care about mingy and talentless, body watchers and snipers? Do her tormentors think this is real work? It isn’t but it gives them untold power over the minds and insecurities of female stars.

The very few who try and hold out against the image harridans, seemingly lose the fight. You should see how many blogs, sites, tweets and articles swill around nastily picking on big female names with bigger bodies than is allowed in the witch’s manual of female torture. Or even those who conform. Gorgeous Victoria Beckham can’t escape their vicious arrows. Their orders are she must stay thin, ageless, lifeless, like a mannequin. They are watching. This is woman upon woman cruelty and that makes me doubly mad and sad.

Dawn French seemed totally comfortable in her body and then emerged several stones lighter earlier this year- all fine ,if it was her own choice or for her own reasons. Now she has put on weight again and instead of being the multitalented actress and writer, all the focus is on her body. Nigella, bright and beautiful,  who seduced us into thinking flesh was erotic, has shed that flesh. Pursued by fashion cacklers she appears to have succumbed. As have Sophie Dahl, Fern Britten, Anne Diamond and star actresses and singers. Again,  I can’t blame them at all. I looked at eight glossy magazines this weekend to see if any of the fashion shoots were with women who didn’t look like coat hangers.  Only two did, but then their readers are homely, sensible and practical.

I have never been thin and have never dieted. And so I am round like an apricot, as my mum was. Though not a size 8, wear nice clothes, have always found men to love me, to flirt with, to make me feel attractive. Except for a minority- like the ghoulish Karl Lagerfield who criticised Adele for being ‘too fat’- men in general, are not repulsed by flesh on a woman. Quite the opposite.  In the fab, ultimate feelgood,  new film The Sapphires, about an Aboriginal girl group in the sixties, their manager played by Chris O’Dowd, falls in love with the chubbiest of the singers. In real life, Adele has a good man too and sensibly says she will lose excess fat if it affects her health or sex life. She is already slimmer than in her earlier days.  I hope she can stay strong. For all our sakes and those famous women ground down by body harpies.

Published in the Independent, 12th November 2012