Jamelia is a pop singer from over a decade ago and now a host on Loose Women. I am a Radio 1 DJ and campaigner for women feeling confident at every size.
Jamelia is (deservedly) in the shitter today because she made some socially ignorant comments on the telly, displaying absolutely no compassion towards people who sit outside the "normal" range of body mass.
While she claims to be an advocate of people loving themselves as they are and all people being able to wear nice things... she thinks anyone under size six and over size 16 should not be allowed to find their size on the high street as it is "facilitating" them.
SIT DOWN JAMELIA.
Firstly, I am willing to agree with her that extreme body sizes aren't often a sign of the best health. But they exist for a reason. Those reasons far transcend what they can and can't find on the bloody high street. Many weight issues stem from illness, be it physical or indeed emotional. And a large portion of people who sometimes struggle to maintain a "healthy" weight deal daily with their own self esteem crises. THE LAST THING THEY NEED IS TO BE OSTRACISED AND SHUNNED FROM SOMETHING THAT WILL BOOST THEIR CONFIDENCE.
Jamelia suggests that they should have specialised stores off the high street. Perhaps Jamelia is not aware of what she is alluding to... but the word we are looking for here, is one of the most damaging words in the human psyche... Shame. By sending people who are "too" small or "too" large to specialist clothing stores, we are shaming them. We are ensuring that they feel different and like outcasts when they are looking for fashion. It's the ultimate... "YOU CAN'T SIT WITH US."
This concept is outrageous, and the sort of thing you expect to hear Britain's biggest disease, Katie Hopkins come out with. We are all different shapes and sizes for our own reasons. Food or the lack there of can at times be coping mechanisms for people. While this isn't the best approach to good health, it's a part of people's realities. And it is nothing to be ashamed of. Perhaps addressed, but not bloody ashamed of! People not being celebrated enough is what often generates the tendencies towards harmful eating habits.
Why should a size 20 or 30 girl not be able to go out and buy the same clothes that her size 10 friends can? What good do we expect to come from it? We have had specialised plus size clothing stores for over a decade now. Has the world buckled and conformed to traditional healthy BMI standards? NO. Is the situation actually worse than ever now? Apparently so. All it did was make a large portion of society feel less enthused about shopping as they felt embarrassed to have to venture into these specialist stores, a lot of which didn't exactly provide high fashion for women over a size 16... and therefore... a lot of women who were plus size ended up dressing in a way that was dowdy and unflattering. This can often then further lower one's self confidence, which can further desiccate someone's eating habits. What is being achieved here?
Not to mention what if someone has just had a baby, or has a hormone problem, or has been on anti depressants... or like me last year... on steroids... What of them? While they are dealing with serious ailments that actually matter, they are to be hurried into weight loss to avoid social stigma?
It's passive bullying. We used to only let black people eat in separate establishments and use separate entrances to white people. How does Jamelia feel about that? At the core... it is a prejudice and an attempt to make human beings feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. And it's fundamentally not ok. Ever.
We are all beautiful and we are all special, and we deserve to feel that way every day. Why don't we spend more time replacing the disgusting fast food chains that are smothering Britain's high streets, with health food stores and lovely clothing stores that are inclusive of everyone. Surely that's a smarter campaign. Why don't we teach more about nutrition in schools. Why don't we teach about self love and mass acceptance in schools and encourage it in the workplace? Why don't we stamp down on bullying rather than find a passive aggressive way of dealing with someone who stands outside the parameter of "normal."
I know that when I was unhealthily thin, and when I was unhealthily large, the one thing that guided me towards a better body image and actually a slightly more favourable BMI from a medical perspective, was feeling good about myself regardless of my size. By wearing beautiful clothes that made me feel special. Those were the days I didn't feel shy and embarrassed. Those were the days that I made better choices for myself. Those were the days I was active rather than shy and hidden in my house.
I wouldn't want to be Jamelia right now, and I also really really don't fucking want to be confused with her right now, because we stand on very opposing sides of the spectrum here. I believe in promoting love and acceptance, with understanding and education. A shame free approach to self esteem.
Whatever your age, colour, shape and size, you can come sit with me.
This post first appeared on Jameela's personal blog, and can be read here