Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Vagenda, June 2013
I have been called ‘too thin’ and ‘too fat’, a fraud and a bore… I actually, wonderfully, liberatingly, no longer care! The truth is, I’m not the only woman who has starved herself skinny, or tried to. I’m one of many who has felt guilty or... greedy or worthless, who has calculated what they will and will not eat; who has struggled with control and self-control, and wondered ‘if I eat whenever I’m hungry, will I ever be able to stop?’ The Ministry of Thin is not about me, it’s about us. I remember what Doris Lessing wrote in The Golden Notebook, that ‘writing about oneself, one is writing about others’. And that has proved to be true...

Monday, 10 June 2013

Changing Our Body Language: Psychologies Magazine June 2013

As well as our negative inner monologue, we’re surrounded by linguistic reminders that we are at war with our ‘excess’ flesh. If we aren’t engaged in the ‘battle of the bulge’ we’re being urged to ‘conceal’ and ‘correct’ flaws; to ‘attack problem areas’ and ‘fight the flab’. The language of male bodies focuses on building strength, sculpting muscles and boosting endurance, whereas women must reduce, slim down, disappear…

So... are we going to spend our whole lives like this, feeling the wrong shape and the wrong weight in the wrong skin?


Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Grazia magazine lists 'The Ministry of Thin' as one of their 10 Hot Things To Do This Week...

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Observer review of The Ministry of Thin, June 2013

Writer and TV presenter Emma Woolf's The Ministry of Thin is about "how the modern obsession with weight loss, youth, beauty and perfection got out of control". Woolf sets her stall out with brio.

"Welcome to the Ministry of Thin. All members are welcome and there's no charge – in fact you're signed up automatically at birth." While Woolf is not advocating obesity, she points out that "thin rules" are no longer the sole preserve of people with food disorders (Woolf detailed her own 10-year battle with anorexia in her previous book, An Apple a Day, and also in a newspaper column). Women routinely place weight loss above all other goals – in one study, one in six women would rather be blind than obese. Woolf describes the Ministry of Thin as an "internal policeman", observing: "There is still a consensus what women should look like; a near-universal acknowledgement that a thinner body is a superior body. How can we be so strong and yet so idiotic?"

From there, Woolf (great-niece of Virginia, whom she quotes a couple of times) makes her way through the other "ministries": food, fat, diet, fashion and beauty, gym, sex, surgery and more. The picture she paints verges on Orwellian – with everyone (but mainly women) governed and dominated by internal and external pressures to conform. Woolf studies the morality we attach to food choices, the influence of affluence, what I'd term the fiction of perfection that permeates the average female life.

Occasionally it's as if nothing is allowed to be good news. Even the female athletes from the Olympics are fretted about as "impossibly perfect in their own way". (Let us remind ourselves that Jessica Ennis got fit to win, not to make other women want her glutes.) Elsewhere Woolf is uncharacteristically catty about Alexa Chung: "That high fashion Alexa body – all ribs and hips, without an ounce of flab – probably works better dressed than undressed." (Miaow!) No sign here of the Woolf wistfully imploring women in the concluding chapter: "It's a cliche, but we are stronger when we are together." Erm, quite.

However, such snipes are random occurrences. Woolf is robust on a range of issues, not least normal women ageing into "invisibility", juxtaposed against the relentless "surveillance" of famous females.

Elsewhere, she rails against modern plastic surgery ("violence disguised as choice") and the disturbing new trend for "vaginal tightening" and "labia correcting" inspired by porn. After a young male acquaintance turns out never to have had a sexual partner with pubic hair, Woolf recoils at the relentless "pornification" of the female form. "An actual woman's body is more exciting – more challenging and erotic – than the airbrushed pornified version ever could be."

Throughout the book, Woolf's anorexia looms large, a veritable "dark passenger", filtering through many issues, ranging from ageing and self-image to sex and fertility. Woolf readily admits to being full of contradictions, frequently unconfident and unsure, which (digs at Alexa aside) steers her safely away from hectoring, superior and priggish towards a more appealing, human questioning tone, that only occasionally falls down the rabbit hole of woolly and meandering. Is there much that is genuinely new in The Ministry of Thin? Perhaps not. However, Woolf's skill in is in adding intellectual and emotional ballast to the debates that interest her. In its best moments, this book emerges as a hypnotist's finger-click signalling women to wake up. As Woolf asks: "If being thin is the answer – what is the question?"