Sunday, March 19, 2006

Obsessed by weight

One of the debates in The Times at the moment is about how women loathe their bodies. It cites an article by Candida Crew (BMI less than 20) where she describes how fat she is and how most women are somewhere along the scale of body loathing.

While she may have a point in Western society, with its obsession on looks and the perfect figure, what I'm wondering is if women elsewhere in the world are assailed by the same doubts. Do women, swathed from head to foot in a black chador, for example, agonise about their bodies as much as a shorts and tee-shirt clad lass from Basingstoke?

I remember not really being aware of how I looked until I met my future husband, aged 24. He, being French, told me exactly why he liked my body, and insisted I wear the sort of clothes that set it off to its advantage.

My generation was brought up to fear being labeled as a slut and not to draw attention to our femininity. I stomped around in Liberty gathered skirts and a Barbour rain-jacket. I can't say I experienced self-loathing of my body, just a suppressed awareness of the fact that I was female.

It's taken me 40 years and a divorce to fully accept my femininity. I was obliged to confront the issue when the safety net of marriage was pulled away from under my feet. Was I still attractive enough to please another man? I feel that women need male input to convince them of their attractiveness, and that it requires much repetition for women to continue believing what they say.

I'd be most interested to hear what others make of this, and from those with experience of other societies and the women within them.

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