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'Bingo Wings', 'Muffin Tops' and 'Cottage Cheese' Thighs: Stop Comparing Women to Food

26/01/2016 22:43 GMT | Updated 26/01/2017 10:12 GMT

Food and the female body have always shared the eternal job of 'perpetuating life'. It is therefore no surprise that language that objectifies the female form is often entwined with the flavour, shape and texture of food.

From Shakespeare's description of Cleopatra as a 'feast' that Antony's 'eyes eat only', to the minefield of "sweetie pies" and "cupcakes" that have littered many a work place, comparing women to food could at first be seen historically as a primarily male occupation.

Thankfully, things are changing. With the overtly chauvinist page three 'crumpet' on its last legs, the recent closure of 'lads mags' Zoo and FHM and campaigns such as #noangel and #thisgirlcan the way we describe women's bodies is shifting from objectification to validation of achievement and strength. It seems that everywhere we look the media are starting to find alternatives to the now increasingly stale recipe of women as high in sugar airbrushed snacks. Until, that is, you open a woman's magazine.

Why in 2016 are women's bodies still subjected to the humiliation of being likened to food by the very publications that claim to celebrate them?

Like most women I have navigated most of my life through a smorgasbord of insults and 'compliments' regarding my body - more often than not comments that somehow compared my body to food. I had to learn fast what food types it was ok to be and what were definitely not.

At the back of the school bus, each journey home was like some kind of culinary based judgement day where girl's names would be rattled off according to how attractive, promiscuous or overweight they were. Waiting for my turn, flushed and clammy palmed, I would try and crack the code of this dessert based bingo call. I was pretty sure that to be a 'cupcake' or 'sweetie pie' was better than being a 'tart' but that all of the above were preferable to the life destroying 'pudding'.

At 11, me and my friend Amy poured over Shout magazine's multiple choice quiz 'Which Body Shape Are You?'. We were presented with the unnerving prospect of inhabiting the shape of an apple, a pear or the even more terrifying banana silhouette. Despite the fact that in our pre-pubescence we were both still a couple of string beans was irrelevant, destiny had been set, we would do everything in our power to become the one shape that was not some form of comical fruit, the seductive hour-glass.

Now in my 30s I can happily say that I have become a part apple, banana, pear hybrid, a meal deal fruit cocktail if you will, and this is, by and large, absolutely fine. I am happy to have survived the cat calls of my adolescence and twenties. I got through the emotional torment of having 'fried eggs' for most of my teenage years only to wake up with 'melons' on my 17th year. But there is nothing like a woman's magazine to bring me right back to my string-beaned, sunny-side-up, insecure former self.

The critical eye of Heat magazine will happily provide 'circles of shame' that will point out any unwanted 'orange peel', 'bingo wings' or 'muffin tops'.

Like the worst best friend you ever had magazines provide an onslaught of 'advice' on how to get a 'juicy' behind, avoid 'cottage cheese' thighs and why that essential bikini wax will prevent that oh so unappetising 'fur pie' look on the beach.

We may have arrived at a post-sexual landscape where food comparisons are no longer used to compliment or seduce, but what effect is this vicious attempt to ridicule and chastise the female form having on our self-esteem?

With the New York Magazine calling Katy Perry a 'tasty nothing burger' our insistence on comparing the female form to food has evolved into something even more sinister: it's not just our physical form, but our personalities which are under this food-based scrutiny. Kim Kardashian is described as a 'smart cookie' for marrying Kanye West and graduating from 'Arm candy' to Wife, but Perry is criticised for being vacuous and more importantly unnourishing.

Such scrutiny perpetuates a fierce guilt in women to be of use to spouses, children, colleagues, friends and the wider world. So I'm saying to the media now: I am not food. I am not a consumable. It's clear that a change of language is needed before the self-esteem of women is well and truly resigned to the bargain bin.