Sometimes It’s Hard Being A Woman……

Did you know……

Over the past 30 years models in magazines have grown steadily thinner, so that now they tend to be about 15% underweight.

Twenty years ago, the average model weighed 8 per cent less than the average woman—but today’s models weigh 23 per cent less.

The average fashion model is almost six feet tall and weighs 130 pounds (9 stone 4 lb). In contrast, the average British woman is 5 foot 4.5 and weighs 143 pounds (10 stone 3 lb).

Most UK model agencies no longer have size 10 models on their books.

Researchers in the US report that women’s magazines have 10.5 times more ads and articles promoting weight loss than men’s magazines do, and over three-quarters of the covers of women’s magazines include at least one message about how to change a woman’s bodily appearance— by diet, exercise or cosmetic surgery.

Canadian researcher Gregory Fouts reports that over three-quarters of the female characters in TV situation comedies are underweight, and only one in twenty are above average in size.

When the Australian magazine New Woman recently included a picture of a curvier model on its cover, it received masses of letters from grateful readers praising the move. But its advertisers complained and the magazine returned to featuring bone-thin models. Advertising Age International concluded that the incident “made clear the influence wielded by advertisers who remain convinced that only thin models spur the sales of beauty products.”

At least 1.1 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder. As many as one woman in 20 will have eating habits which give cause for concern; most will be aged 14 to 25 years old.

These statistics worry me, but what really gets me riled up is when magazines and newspapers run spurious features on ’curvy’ celebrities (such as Kate Winslet, or Jennifer Love Hewitt), who are still much slimmer than the average woman on the street, or highlight the weight gain of a celebrity (Cheryl Cole being a recent one), when that weight gain is at most 3 or 4 pounds (and the article quickly added that she is planning to ‘trim down’ again with a rigorous diet and exercise plan). Or when a celebrity is applauded for their figure, (such as Angelina Jolie, who apparently has ‘enviably slim legs’, or Victoria Beckham, who was described, quite incredibly, in one magazine as having an hourglass figure) when they are extremely skeletal and emaciated.

Can you imagine the furore if a newspaper or magazine ran a spread on Famous Black Actresses? But it seems to be ok to run a spread on Famous Curvy Actresses (Glamour, for one). Of course, racism is a far more complex and painful issue, with far reaching implications. But, at a simple level, we have learned not to judge people by their skin colour, ethnicity, or origin, not to sterotype or segregate. So why is it acceptable to judge, categorise, and stereotype women by their dress size or weight?

Even when there are genuinely curvy women in the public eye, they seldom stay curvy for long. Sophie Dahl was loudly applauded as the first plus sized super model (size 16, although I must admit, she didn’t look a size 16 to me, but that was the official stats), but she soon slimmed down to a waiflike size 10 body. Crystal Renn, another ‘groundbreaking’ plus size model (although again, at 5’9 and 150lbs, she wasn’t really plus size, now was she?), has also lost weight as her fame has increased.

That brings us to another issue, the unrealistic view of what the fashion industry considers to be plus size. As the NWHN Health Network comment, plus size models are held to unrealistic image requirements just as much as thinner models. Plus size models must be 5’8” or above, and have a waist 10 inches smaller than hips and bust. Just like photos of thinner models, photos of plus size models are airbrushed to eliminate freckles, wrinkles, cellulite, etc.

Classifying someone like Crystal Renn as plus size sends the message to women that if you are a healthy weight, you’re too fat. And that beauty, at any size, has to fit certain criteria. Of course, the fashion/beauty industry focuses on the idealised, the perfect, and that has to be taken into account. But when the media zero in the plus size models and celebrities as being a sign that things are changing, that ‘normal’ women can now feel better about their bodies, well it’s simply not true. Recent studies have shown that using plus size models in advertising campaigns still made women feel unhappy with their own body size. The researchers concluded that this was because women don’t want to look like these models, they want to see a thinner version to aspire to. And thus advertisers continue to use super-thin models.

I disagree, very strongly, with this conclusion. I don’t think that the readers reactions were based on aspiration, I think they were based on shame. ‘I don’t want to see a plus size model advertising something because when I compare my body with hers, it makes me think that I must be plus sized too, or it makes me wonder why I can’t be hourglass shaped and cellulite free like she is.’ Personally, I would rather see a curvy model than a stick thin one, but the end result is the same: it makes me dissatisfied with my body, and ashamed. I believe that this is what drives the fashion and beauty industries -shame, not aspiration. I think that most women’s reaction when they look at a magazine advert for perfume, or skincare, or cellulite cream, is not, “If I use that product, I could look like that” but “I could never look like that, what is wrong with me? But I suppose I ought to try to do something about myself, so I’ll give it a go.”

Either way, body dissatisfaction works – for the advertisers and promoters. Whether it inspires change, or evokes shame, it motivates, it sells products. I honestly don’t see that this will ever change. Fashion, beauty, skincare, haircare, cosmetic surgery, weightloss, these are multi billion industries. They will continue to work with the media to influence womens’ body image and concept of beauty. The only thing that we personally can do about it is to try to change our own view, to see beauty in diversity, to applaud other women for their style, their grace, their shape, their strength, their warmth – whatever it is that we can see that is truly beautiful about them. It’s more than just refusing to buy into society’s narrow view of what is beautiful. It’s about actively searching for the beauty in every individual woman, and openly appreciating it. Not comparing (I’m sure her thighs are fatter than mine), judging (her hair is nice, but really, isn’t she a bit old for long hair?), or quantifying (she’d be so pretty if…..).

And as always with any change, it has to start with us. If I asked you what three compliments you would like people to say of you, what would you choose? And why? Are they reasonable, possible, within your control? If you want people to see you as young, when you are hitting 50, thin, when you have always had a weight struggle, or tall, when you are petite, then you may be buying into society’s ideals of beauty, instead of building your own ideals, based on your personal strengths and characteristics. If your choices include words like, stylish, unique, feminine, strong, quirky, and so on, then you’re heading in a better direction. You have some control over these kind of goals; they are flexible and much more attainable.

After all, every single woman is different. Some are naturally skinny. Some are plump. Some are petite, some are tall and gangly. Skin colour varies, hair type varies, eye colour varies. The real danger arises when we allow beauty to only exist within a very narrow perimeter, and expect to be able to squeeze ourselves into that mould by any means possible. Be you. Let other women be them. Find beauty everywhere. It can’t be defined, quantified, dictated to, or predicted. It’s not a scientific formula, or a doll like pattern. There are many kinds of beautiful, and many sorts of charm. We just have to be willing to see them.

Shop Update 29.05.11

We’ve put together a big beautiful update for you this week, to celebrate the bank holiday weekend! We’ve got some of the yarn bases that we don’t stock regularly, such as Esme and Jeannie, as well as old favourites.

I must say, for the first time this week, today was incredibly bright and sunny, which is lovely but makes my job of photographing very very hard. It tends to desaturate the colours, even though I take the photos inside a filtered photo cube, and use my own studio lighting to control the light. I had trouble with quite a few of the brighter intense colourways, as you’ll see when you check the written colour descriptions. But I hope you know by now that if anything, our colourways are deeper, more saturated, and more complex in real life than when seen in the photos. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed when you see these yarns in the flesh – I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but when I look at the yarn on the shelves this week, I think it’s one of the best updates we’ve ever done.

Enough of the chatter, the shop preview is now up, and here is a screenshot of all the yarn……..

Labelling

It is a tendency of human nature to like things to be recognizable and predictable. We want to slot people into neatly filed pigeonholes, and keep them there. The ones among us who really don’t do that are few and far between – I know that I do it myself, although less now than I used to. It’s really not a helpful habit though, and it’s one worth working hard to shake off. Nobody likes being labelled, or expected to fit other people’s expectations. After all, we are all works in progress. Who is the exact same type of person at 50 as they were at 20? Life shapes us, squeezes us, breaks us, rebuilds us, and just a few years can work a substantial transformation in who we are. 

In many ways, society has made great strides in recognising and accepting mental illness, as well as other illnesses and disorders that weren’t recognised in generations past – chronic fatigue syndrome, learning difficulties, for example. But still, misunderstandings and stigma cling to them. I’ve spoken before about the misconceptions and stigmas surrounding clinical depression, but they are even stronger about some other illnesses and disorders. Talk to anyone who has been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or ME) and they will tell you of friends, family, sometimes (sadly) even doctors, who refuse to believe their symptoms, tell them ‘it’s all in your head’, suggest that if they just got out of bed and did some exercise they would be fine, and so on.

It’s sad, but it’s not too difficult to understand. Up until the latter few decades of the 20th Century, all mental illnesses were labelled as madness or insanity. Even epileptics were usually diagnosed as being either demon possessed, or mentally retarded. We’re talking centuries of belief here. Your parents, or your grandparents, grew up in a world where people who were mentally ill (from depression to schizophrenia) were feared and shunned, and possibly destined for an asylum. Society and the medical profession has made immense strides in understanding, diagnosing, and treating, mental illness, learning difficulties, immune system disorders, and so on. Hopefully the next generation will be so well educated and familiar with these problems that they shed all the misconceptions and stigmas that they can still evoke.

In the meantime, we have to do our personal best to treat others with the compassion, curiosity, and kindness that we hope to see in them. Instead of giving people our own personal labels, ones that blame and shame, let’s try to find out more about why they are the way they are, and give them extra support. Essentially, people are good, and try their hardest in life, whether we can see that on their surface, or not. Let’s try hard, not to label someone as lazy, stupid, a misery, crazy, selfish, or anything else that sums up their character in one negative characteristic, one that may be a symptom of an illness, and is more than likely something that they fight against every day. Calling someone by a negative label is one of the harshest things we can ever do, because it causes so much pain, and makes their every day struggle even harder. It never, ever helps or motivates. No child in school is going to improve their learning because a teacher calls them stupid or lazy. No one responds to that kind of negative poking in a positive way. All it does is, at best, leave us with a chip on our shoulder, or at worst, cause us to stop trying because it seems so hopeless. 

Most important of all: when a loved one, friend, colleague, work or school mate, tells us that they have depression, ADHD, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, dyslexia, Aspergers, or anything else that provokes a negative or sceptical response in us, be accepting, be compassionate. Don’t think – or worse still, say – “oh you’re just…… insert negative quality of your choice“. They will almost certainly already think negatively about themselves, and you confirming that will hurt and alienate them even further. Believe in them. Show that you sympathise, and that you have faith in them, and will do whatever you can to help them overcome their challenges, and live as full and happy a life as possible. Show your faith in them – people respond far more to that than to cynicism, criticism, and abuse.

And to do that, start with yourself. What negative labels do you give yourself? When you struggle with a task, or fail at something for some reason, what do you say to yourself? “I’m so stupid. Why am I so lazy? I’m such a loser. I’m a failure.” STOP! Fight those voices. Defend yourself. If we all get into the habit of doing that for ourselves, maybe it will be easier to do that for loved ones and friends.

Because nobody should have to walk through life with a huge LOSER/IDIOT/WASTER/WEIRDO label around their neck. Every one of us is worth far more than that. Let’s live up to our potential, and give others the dignity to live up to theirs too.

Bake-a-holic

One of the hardest things about being sick was that I had to hand over my oven gloves to Tony (symbolically, he doesn’t actually bake!). I love to cook. I didn’t feel like a woman, not being able to cook a meal for my husband at the end of a day’s work. I’m old fashioned like that.

Since getting better, I’ve been cramming in an insane amount of cooking. On Friday I was cooking up cinnamon buns with cream cheese frosting for the Posh staff, and baking bread, while taking the week’s photos. It got a little crazy! I love baking for people. It only takes a little time, and people’s faces just light up when you hand them something fresh from the oven. Try it and see. It’s addictive!

I had one of the cinnamon buns on Friday, and a slice of spelt bread, and then rediscovered how sick wheat and spelt make me. Urgh. So yesterday I tried making a batch of gluten free bread for myself. I used the gf flour from Doves, and just followed the recipe on the packet. I was extremely dubious when it was mixing, because it looked more like cake batter than bread dough, but it came out pretty good.

This may be the first – and last – loaf of bread that I ever sliced well!!!

The bread was too sweet and too eggy, so I think I’ll make some tweaks next time, use less eggs and sugar, and add some xanthum gum to help it rise. I’ll let you know how it goes. But already this bread is better than the stuff you can buy in supermarkets.

That’s the thing about baking – it is always better than shop bought baked goods. That’s why people love home made cakes and bread and cookies. And yet so few people take the time to bake any more. Such a shame, because as well as fantastic results, it’s very therapeutic. It makes the house smell wonderful. It’s calming and soothing. A cook shop is almost as much fun for me as a yarn shop. Cookie cutters! Piping bags!! Silicone mats!!!

I’m Dee, and I’m a bake-a-holic.

This was a cherry pie, baked for a dinner with two good friends who just got engaged! I made cherry & Amaretto ice cream to go with it.