These images are actually from Taking Shape UK’s twitter feed advertising their new campaign #skinnybirdwatching.
This is pretty clear evidence of a piss-poor understanding of social media, body-shaming, and and a failure to recognise the reality of violence against women and girls. Taking Shape UK are a clothing brand which specialises in plus size clothing. Their campaign features people sitting in a box on a road looking for women who are a size 6 so they can prove that size 6 isn’t that common.
Now, I’ve been that natural size 0 (4 in Canada). I’m pretty short but I still regularly got called chicken legs and accused of being anorexic. I was working in a bakery at that time where my diet consisted of free pizza pretzels, donuts and fresh bread. Completely unhealthy diet? Absolutely. Anorexic. No.
I was bullied for years at school and this shaming of my body for being naturally short and skinny was part of it. I’m no longer that skinny – not from having children (although I never returned to a size 0) after my kids. I’m now fat because I have been seriously ill for years with fibromyalgia and asthma. The steroids for my asthma made me gain weight, my fibromyalgia limited my ability to walk even short distances and I have an even worse diet because of comfort eating associated with depression.
I was once that object of shame for being skinny and am now an object of shame for being fat.
This is precisely the kind of campaign that makes me want to reach for those donuts again. It is body-shaming women who are naturally a size 6 – or those who exercise constantly to be a size 6 because we live in a culture where women are rewarded for it. Blaming women for trying to neutralise any possible “flaw” which could lead to abuse is pretty much the essence of internalised misogyny. It certainly won’t help women living with eating disorders like anorexia deal with their illness. Instead, it will make them feel more judged – and this is the very last thing these women and young girls need.
Taking Shape UK are objecting to the use of size 6 models during London’s Fashion Week by reducing women to animals to be judged like pigs at a country fair. Will we be judged on our plumage – acceptable as fat if we have great hair? Or, our skin colour? A quick skim through their catalogue shows only white women. Women are not animals and a clothing company which refers to its customers as animals has pretty much lost the plot.
What are they claiming is the perfect size? A 14? 16? 18? Do women only count who have ‘curves’? If that’s the case, I’m fucked as a short, fat woman notably lacking in curves. The language of the reprehensible ‘real women’ campaign by Dove is littered through this. That was nothing more than a cheap marketing gimmick too.
Why aren’t Taking Shape recognising that the obsession with ‘real women’ having curves just as damaging as the fashion industry’s obsession with size 6 models? All this campaign is doing is judging women for their bodies. It is the patriarchal fuckability test in action.
There is another side to this particular campaign which is troubling and that is the issue of stalking. Sitting in a box watching women is seriously fucking creepy. Likening women to animals to be hunted whilst sitting in a box is even creepier. Setting up to monitor women with binoculars with the intention to draw images of them (as it says in their press release) buys into a deeply misogynistic construction of women as objects to be owned and surveilled. This is precisely the type of abuse that stalkers engage with when they target women.
All in all, this is a disgraceful social media campaign and Taking Shape UK have seriously fucked up. No woman deserves to be judged for their body type and women are not animals to be monitored in the streets.
This campaign is pretty much the essence of misogyny. And, the images below – well, Taking Shape won’t be getting my custom anytime soon.