Glossy Talk: Who's take on body image
So, generally I think what Nicky Briger and the Who magazine team pull together each week is a quality glossip magazine. All things considered, the reportage is less reliant on hearsay than other titles, less bitchy and the human interest element keeps it from being overly superficial.
But when I saw the cover of The Body Issue, on sale today, I wanted to throw it against a wall. While not nearly as grotesquely offensive as the National Enquirer's '50 Best and Worst Beach Bodies' cover, putting airbrushed Jodhi Meares and Jodi Gordon on the cover, albeit with a glowing Vanessa Amarosi and muscle-bound Tom Williams, to my mind, is not a great thing for women. It's irresponsible.
Meares in particular is problematic. Having given up her job running Tigerlily, she tells the magazine she now exercises for at least three hours a day: "I probably exercise for about three hours a day during the week, more on the weekend. What else are you going to do? Go to lunch? That's just sitting around, and I get bored with too much conversation. I'd prefer to be moving around."
Now, how Meares chooses to spend her days is not my business. When I was in the doldrums of eating disorder, I spent more than a few unproductive hours taming my anxiety beast with workouts and didn't particularly enjoy talking to anyone. But (alarm bells!) this is a lot of time to spend killing calories when you're a non-athlete and already very slim.
Unfortunately, this sort of obsessive exercising is so normalised now – by the likes of Madonna, Gwyneth, Jennifer Aniston, all those muscle-bound actresses in Valentine's Day and shows like The Biggest Loser – that we barely blink an eyelid when someone confesses to such a regime of body maintenance. But no one mentions the side-effects of what this does to your body – infertility, osteoporosis, repetitive stress injuries, etc. – let alone the stress it puts on your relationships and your inability to progress in other areas of your life.
Sometimes we sigh with relief knowing just how hard these people have to work out; but other times we feel peeved because, with them in the media spotlight representing "women", how are we ever to live up to these ideals when we have, you know, jobs, families, house work, jury duty, social engagements and other things to attend to? As Tina Fey put it so wittily to Vogue: "Maybe it just starts a shame cycle: I'm never going to look like that model, so…Chicken McNuggets it is!"
I'm not angry with Meares. I feel sorry for her. I can relate to her. But I am miffed that Who is putting her out there as someone for women to gaze at and aspire to – particularly ones in her age group (she is 39) – when her lifestyle and her body is clearly unattainable for most.
No, women aren't stupid enough to think that they HAVE to look like her. But let's not ignore the evidence, either: The magazine's own body image survey revealed that only 23% of women are happy with the way they look, most are "insecure" about their bodies and women are three times more likely to avoid sex because they feel fat. What part does Who play here?
Girl With a Satchel