19/12/2013 06:41 GMT | Updated 17/02/2014 05:59 GMT

Jennifer Lawrence Is Right: Reserve the F-word for Fatties or Risk Women's Health

Poor Jennifer Lawrence. For revealing, de facto, on the Barbara Walters Show how much she and many other actresses and women in the public eye smart at being called "fat" she has stirred a storm of accusations of "PC thinking gone mad".

Because when Lawrence, the slender, fit, healthy star of - pause for irony flash - "Hunger Games" says it should be illegal to call someone fat, she doesn't really mean (or I don't think she does) that it should be illegal to call someone 20-stone overweight fat. What she means, I believe, is that by labelling women such as her, a toned size 10 or 12 "fat", we are distorting in a dangerous and potentially fatal way, the reality of a desirable body weight for other girls and women; commentators who describe these women as "fat" are sending the message that anything above a size 6 is "fat", when in fact sizes 10, 12 and 14 are - or certainly should be - normal.

Personally, I think that Lawrence should be cheered very loudly for resisting the temptation to turn into a "lollipop", the Hollywood phenomenon where women shrink so much that their heads look huge.

The problem is that, because of the magazine images we see all the time, we are all gradually becoming habituated to the idea of hyper-thin women. And while many of us are savvy enough to know that the models/actresses frequently look this way only because they have been digitally enhanced, there are insecure 14 years olds - and clearly 24-year-olds and 34-year-olds - who don't understand that, even if they lived on nothing but slices of cucumber from now till 2016, they could never achieve such a body.

The bodies we see in magazines are, for much of the time, unattainable because digital enhancement has made them look not just thinner but also taller. All the bumps, blemishes, uneven skin tone and - God forbid - cellulite, have been digitally excised; jawlines has been etched more sharply; cheekbones made more angular and skin tone enhanced to look more perfect.

So when the model or actress steps on to the Red Carpet, despite Spanx and the best make-up artists in town, they are real women, not size 4 avatars. To achieve the level of slimness that digital enhancement has endowed them with is totally impossible.


Suddenly, the cameras see the reality, and the reality is a real body that - without sometimes near-fatal consequences - cannot be starved or pummelled or "trained" by even the most high-profile celeb PT to look the way digital enhancement makes it look. So we - and a hyper vigilant media on hair-trigger alert to notice an ounce of spare flesh - point and say "ooh, she looks fat".

I suspect that what Lawrence wants (and it would benefit the rest of womankind, too), would be a less critical and more realistic media that reserved the f-word for women who are clinically obese. Instead, they should be pointing to Lawrence and other actresses who have avoided turning into lollipops, and praising them as role models who exemplify healthy, fit bodies.

In the UK, around 165,000 people - mostly girls and women -have eating disorders, with anorexia and bulimia the most common. Ten percent - or 16,500 - die as a result. By positively reinforcing Lawrence's real body - and that of others like her - we may reduce the number of eating disorders and deaths. If it means making media think twice about using "fat" where it is wholly inappropriate, she will have achieved something better even than an Oscar nomination.

Jan Shure is co-founder of, the style and shopping site for grown-up women, where they try to avoid digitally enhanced images