Real Quick: The Sun wants your n00dz!

By | June 24, 2011

The original cheesecakey Claire Richards photo

Blah blah blah controversial provacative blah blah

Ladies, gentlemen, readers and friends of all genders, gather round, as The Sun wants to tell us a story. It all started when former UK pop star Claire Richards gained some weight, and decided to commemorate her unhappiness with her body by… posing nude in a magazine.

Claire told Closer magazine about her yo-yo weight: “I’m obviously disappointed that I’ve put weight back on and I’d be lying if I said I was more comfortable being a size 16, but I’ve got to stop beating myself up.

“For me, staying thin is like a full-time job.”

All right. I’m all for realism. The Sun — is The Sun a tabloid? it looks like a tabloid to my American eyeballs, but I’m not sure what the standards are in the UK — decided to use this opportunity to get three of its “big but beautiful” readers to copy the image. So the Sun can then exploit their feelings about the experience for a provacative fluff piece! Oh, good times.

“Big but beautiful” here means wearing a UK size 16, and the article reminds us about seven million times that over half the women in the UK wear a 16 or larger. A UK 16 equates to roughly a US 14, for reference.

First up is Rebecca, who’s recently lost some weight. She says:

“…[A]fter seeing some holiday pictures I realised I needed to do something about my weight. I really wasn’t happy with what I saw in those photos.

“Initially I tried to crash diet and even spent three days nibbling my way through just one can of tuna.

“But I quickly realised that I couldn’t diet as I love food far too much.”

Dear, that’s not a diet. That’s an eating disorder. I know, what’s the difference, right? Joking aside, being unable to stretch a couple ounces of tuna over three days does not mean you “love food far too much”. It means it is really difficult to starve yourself. And you know what? It’s supposed to be. Wanting to eat more than a single can of tuna in a 72-hour span does not signal weakness in the face of an overwhelming love of food, it rather signals the human body’s persistent instinct to survive. And damn, thank the maker that instinct exists, because some women’s brains sure are failing to logically process the idea that starvation is unhealthy.

I don’t want to kick Rebecca too much, as she does seem to be the most confident of a dubious bunch:

“I felt wonderful posing naked for these pictures, just as I feel great lying by the pool in a bikini.

“But if you don’t have any self-confidence, no matter what size you are, you will never feel content about the way you look.”

It’s great that Rebecca is happy with her food-lovin’ body. Nevertheless, the fact that the Sun reports her can-of-tuna comment as though it is totally normal? That’s horrifying.

Next we have another Rebecca. Really, Sun? You couldn’t find three chubby-lady readers with different names? Other Rebecca says of her diet history:

“Last year I dropped two dress sizes on a protein shake diet and felt great about the way I looked. I felt people accepted me more and I enjoyed getting dressed in the morning with a slimmer body.

“But unfortunately I couldn’t keep it up and my love of carbs, especially bread, kicked in. Now I feel disappointed with myself and uncomfortable in my own body.”

Poor Other Rebecca. I don’t want anyone to feel disappointed with themselves over a really horrible and unsustainable diet, nor do I like the idea of people ever being uncomfortable in their own bodies. But again we’re seeing an inability to starve oneself framed as an individual lack of discipline. Other Rebecca couldn’t keep to a liquid-only starvation diet — keep in mind, this is the same kind of diet that even OPRAH FUCKING WINFREY, diet queen of the universe, has condemned as evil and blamed for her apparently-destroyed metaoblism — but she credits her “love of carbs” for her failure.

Generally protein shake diets amount to as few as 800 calories per day, well below the World Health Organization’s threshold for starvation (and even below the average caloric intake of a concentration camp victim during World War II). The thing is, you crave bread when you’re starving because carbohydrates are most quickly processed into energy to keep you alive. Body fat is actually quite slow to break down into useable fuel; it’s intended for long-term storage. Other Rebecca may indeed “love carbs” but one can argue that every human “loves carbs” when they are being starved, because carbs will keep us alive.

Other Rebecca won’t be looking at her naked pictures, as she really hates the shit out of her body. Which is a shame, as she looks lovely.

Finally, we have Alice, who provides a comment that serves as this article’s coup de grâce. Alice is mostly cool with her size, though she worries about her long-term health. That’s not all she worries about.

“A decade ago I was a size 18 and couldn’t find jeans that would fit me. So while my friends were looking fashionable, I was wearing trousers that my mum had to make for me. Although this was awful, it made me lose weight and realise that I shouldn’t be that big.

“But now, some High Street stores stock clothes sizes up to 32. It makes it easier to be overweight, which isn’t right.”

Y’hear that, kids? It is WRONG for fat women to have clothing they can wear. By Alice’s reckoning, we should abolish plus size clothing altogether, because the undeserved convenience of covering our nakedness is morally suspect because it enables us to be fat. Long we have wondered why so many fat people exist, and lordy lordy this young believer has SEEN THE LIGHT: we are fat because of plus size clothing.

This is an ancient argument. When Torrid first arrived on the scene, there was  an absurd amount of handwringing over whether the existence of plus size clothing aimed at young people would “encourage” teenagers to be fat. The argument fails on a million levels. For example, if the sizes in which trendy clothing is available dictate the size teenage bodies are, wouldn’t the majority existence of tiny trendy clothing mean all teenagers should be skinny, even now? Also, the implication that a manufacturer of clothing who has never met you — indeed, that isn’t even a person you can communicate with — could somehow intuitively know how big you are “supposed” to be, and transmit that knowledge to you via their available size range? I am dubious, kids.

The sum total is that Alice seems to think being fat should be more difficult than it is. Given the cultural loathing already heaped on fat bodies, I’m hard-pressed to come up with ways that might happen. Maybe the beating of fat people on UK public transport should be compulsory and not just optional. It’s a start, anyway.

What makes the Sun article unfortunate is that it could have been an interesting conversation about body politics and self-esteem. Instead it’s exploitative as fuck, rounding up women with distressing diet histories and lukewarm (if not antagonistic) relationships with their bodies simply for the purpose of putting them on display and manufacturing controversy, with no criticism and no commentary, and certainly no productive discussion. The only purpose this “article” serves is to document the sad conflict millions upon millions of women feel in regard to their bodies and their relationship with food and eating. What is the point? It tells us nothing; it only underscores the existing shitfuckery that is body culture, with a side of naked plus-size women, because plus-size women must always be naked when represented in media. Hooray. Good going, Sun.

At least there are naked fat ladies in it. Look at the pictures. Just don’t read the words.


26 Comments

Christine on June 24, 2011 at 12:43 pm.

Well, at least the pictures were lovely. I didn’t realize this was the standard naked fat lady pose. I’ll have to practice up for use later tonight. Who knew?

Reply

Christine on June 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm.

Also, I get that they were copying the pose…but the whole thing came off…i dunno, weird? Weirder than the usual weird?

Reply

Sarah on June 24, 2011 at 12:54 pm.

Oh, God, yes, the Sun is a tabloid. It has some incredibly witty sub-editors and such working there, but yes, it’s a tabloid.

Their article is a mess, too; what are they trying to say? It’s contradictory and awful. But at least the pictures are pretty.

Reply

hannah byun on June 24, 2011 at 12:56 pm.

Um, it’s obv why fat women must be naked in those mags….you wouldn’t want pictures of them wearing fashionable clothes that fit nicely because then someone might think being fat is “OK” and maybe even “ATTRACTIVE.”

Reply

hannah byun on June 24, 2011 at 12:59 pm.

Also, I second that those pictures were lovely. I didn’t check out the article until after I read this and left my comment. Their beautiful stomachs made me feel warm accepting feelings toward my own, which is usually an object of my scorn!

Reply

Melissa Dollman on June 24, 2011 at 12:57 pm.

You know The Sun is a notorious rag.

Reply

RosemaryRiveter on June 24, 2011 at 12:58 pm.

The sun is absolutely a tabloid! When I was growing up (not sure if they still do it) page 3 of the sun always featured a topless photo of a glamour model. The “page three stunner”. Classy, no?

I lost count of how many times the article and the women interviewed used phrases like “piled on the pounds”. For a so-called body positive article there sure is a lot of fat shaming in there. Growing up, I was a UK 12 and I still thought I was fat, my family assured me I was too. This is probably the reason I occasionally feel the urge to send the family a bikini photo of my size 24 self with the caption “I am fat, deal with it”. I don’t though, because they would interpret it as self hatred.

Reply

Arwen on June 24, 2011 at 1:42 pm.

Recently I was getting some info on fetal developmental stages for a woman, and found the phrase “packing on the pounds — at the rate of about an ounce a day”. Erm?

Reply

RosemaryRiveter on June 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm.

YES! I saw this too on a friend’s pregnancy updates on facebook. Though one of the other updates provided me with the awesomely awful term “womb piggy” to describe a fast-growing 3rd trimester fetus.

There’s a lot of questionable “YAY the baby is putting down important layers of delicious subcutaneous FAT…but MOMMY must watch what she eats and not gain tooooo much!” back-and-forth in the automated updates she’s posting.

Reply

holizz on June 24, 2011 at 1:20 pm.

the Sun article … could have been an interesting conversation about body politics and self-esteem.

I think you have misunderstood the situation, Lesley. This is the same newspaper that last year ran a story about a special live episode of a soap opera being the target of a terrorist plot by Al-Qaeda (as you would expect, the entire story was made up).

To put it into US terms, it’s Fox News in a tabloid newspaper format (they’re even owned by the same man).

Reply

Lesley on June 24, 2011 at 1:46 pm.

Hahahaha. I admit my context here is not as informed as it might be!

Reply

JessDR on June 24, 2011 at 1:37 pm.

SIGH. The normalization of obviously disordered eating was really hard to read. My own ED came about gradually, as I found sources that normalized and rationalized taking my “perfectly sensible diet” “just a little further”. So it makes me angry to see even “moderate” diets (much less this kind of stuff) touted as completely normal behavior. They aren’t normal. They set you on a destructive path, and even if you don’t go far down that path, they still screw up your head and your metabolism.

But I did like the photos. They made me think happy thoughts about fat bodies. I’m half tempted to talk to my friend the painter and see if she’s still doing nudes…

Reply

Katy on June 24, 2011 at 1:43 pm.

The Sun still does have page 3. At least they only accept stunnas with all-natural assets- I guess that’s something. And they also have the “News in Briefs” which is fantastic- where the Page 3 topless girl is given a quote such as (genuine example) “Rosie, 19 from Essex – Rosie is not suprised that the British Euro-Millions winners beat odds of 76million to one: “As followers of Pascal have found, everything in the Universe has a non-zero probability except for absurdities. And absurdity is a phenomenon without a valid mathematical relation.”
The News in Briefs will invariably be the most intellectual section of the paper, as the rest of it is written to a reading age of 12 (true not snark).

Reply

siouxZQ on June 24, 2011 at 2:40 pm.

The first thing that struck me was the provocatively posed incredibly sexy picture; then the realization that she looked wonderful and healthy – but definitely not what I would call “fat”.
At 5’7″ and 118lbs. when I left my first husband, I lived with his comments on my “fat” body. Imagine … 118lbs! Since then, I quit smoking, am living a wonderful life, married a fantastic man and gained 200lbs. I am “fat”, but happier than I have ever been.
Observers need to look beneath the body … the skinny girl may be starving herself to stay thin, the fat girl eating to cover her misery … OR … they may both be very happy in their bodies, not caring what others think. No one knows – and, in fact, it is no one else’s business!!
I won’t be defined as a “fat” woman … I’m a happy, healthy woman, living a healthy, happy life … and the fact that I may be bigger (or smaller) than someone else has no bearing on anything.

Reply

gostephaniego on June 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm.

This may be totally OT, but this post reminded me of this article: http://www.parentcentral.ca/parent/familyhealth/children%27shealth/article/1011284–canada-s-youth-face-obesity-epidemic
It made me incredibly distraught because I WAS the girl in the article not many years ago; same height, weight and age. I just want to reach out to her and tell her that she CAN have friends, she CAN dance, she CAN wear cute clothing and date and go on road trips. I did, even though I was anxious about being stared at and teased at every step. So the Star takes this very young woman who is dealing with a huge amount of self-loathing and disordered eating, and illustrates the article with dispassionate and dubious statements about how much her very existence is a burden on taxpayers. How goddamn irresponsible is that? And no one thinks it’s remotely oppressive.

Reply

Berdawn on June 24, 2011 at 3:07 pm.

They had to share a pair of shoes?

Reply

RosemaryRiveter on June 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm.

I am so glad I wasn’t the only one thinking that!

I guess they were mimicking the celebrity’s photoshoot – right down to the gladiator stilettos and bangles.

Reply

deeleigh on June 25, 2011 at 1:11 pm.

Can I just say “amen?”

Reply

Catherine on June 25, 2011 at 2:11 pm.

I was about seeing red at the plus size clothing comments. I am 6’0 and a size 18. I have been 6 foot since I was 14 and since no store seemed to understand that women could be taller or heavier than 5’5” and 120 trying to fin clothes growing up was hell. Today, I still hate shopping because they JUST DONT MAKE TALL CLOTHES and tall plus clothes in most stores HA you might as well search for the Holy Grail as you would have better luck.

Reply

Bridgie on June 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm.

If you don’t mind shopping online, sometimes I have luck browsing through the tall section on one stop plus. There is a lot of fug, but occasionally good or at least workable pants. I’ve also been known to go the “what is a dress on another person is a tunic on me” route, especially since I have a big belly and like longer shirts. Good luck out there fellow tall fatty!

Reply

Heather on June 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm.

Big and Tall gals represent!
Also, hello Sun, it’s “big AND beautiful,” not “big BUT beautiful”!
(Or maybe they meant to write “big-butt beautiful”? Mm probably not.)

Reply

Heather on June 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm.

(shoot I messed up the HTML tags, only meant to italicize “Sun”)

Reply

thirtiesgirl on June 28, 2011 at 1:18 am.

With regard to the 600 calories per day diet, I just heard a report on the news tonight about a British study to “cure type 2 diabetes” by limiting the people with diabetes in the study to a 600 calorie per day diet for 8 weeks. The study claims that if people with type 2 diabetes exist on a 600 calorie per day diet for 8 weeks – below the World Health Organization’s threshold for starvation, and fewer calories than WW2 concentration camp victims consumed, as you indicate here – their diabetes will be cured. All I can think is: what the hell?!? More information here: http://blisstree.com/eat/8-weeks-of-calorie-restriction-can-cure-type-2-diabetes/

Reply

Chulupa Cabra on June 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm.

Lesley,

First off, it is my birthday (yay me!) and while at work, I stumbled across your article about the cancelled TV show “HUGE”. After reading it, I was curious and, after a couple of clicks, I found myself here. After reading more of your posts and writings, I want to say “THANK YOU!” for [most likely] one of the best birthday gifts I’ll receive today (no pressure to my husband.. haha). From a plus size girl who has grown up with similar weight issues and a constant anxiety of having to squeeze into society’s box (not just weight-wise), it’s so refreshing to read your point of view. You make so many great points while also showcasing your personality in your writing. You inspire me to be me. :)

Thanks, again, for “representin’” and I look forward to following your blog and other articles in the future.

Reply

Fatshion Hustler on July 7, 2011 at 1:40 pm.

Great post, as always. Your writing style brings a smile to my face.

The really sad thing about The Sun (a tabloid, as those above me have pointed out) is that it’s the most-read newspaper in the UK. I listened to a podcast once where one of the blokes said that reading The Sun is like the current generations’ illiteracy. I kind of agree.

I also can’t forgive them for posting the most horribly inaccurate and downright offensive article on the situation in Tokyo just after the earthquake.

Reply

redskingirl on July 28, 2011 at 2:48 am.

This is the first time I’ve commented on this site, so first of all– YOU ROCK MY SOCKS. Seriously, I’ve always been fat and only recently have I found this blog and it really has made me so much happier.

On another note, I was happy to see the photo since that woman is incredibly beautiful– but then was disheartened upon further examination seeing that her upper arms and her right thigh (the one thats covering her belly) are photoshopped, as well as her belly button. This is so frustrating because it reaffirms the idea that there are only certain body types that can be considered beautiful when fat, and all others should be shunned. I guess the photoshopping is to be expected from what I’ve read about this magazine, but its still so ridiculous.

Reply

Leave Your Comment

Your email will not be published or shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>