bethditto.jpgAmber McNaught asks if bigger really is better...

Ever since The Gossip singer Beth Ditto mooted the idea of designing a fashion line for Topshop, magazine editors across the land have been falling over themselves to write about how fabulous it would be to see a "real" woman (because thin women aren't "real", obviously, didn't you know?) like Beth become a female role model, putting all those skinny-malinkies firmly in their place.

They're not just talking about Beth's quirky fashion sense, either. No, the real reason the media loves Beth Ditto at the moment is because of her 15 stone body. At a time when the Size 0 backlash is at its height, women like Ditto are big news - literally. The problem with this, though? Well, at 15st, and standing just five feet and one inch tall, Beth's not just "curvy", and she's not just pleasantly plump either, is she? No, let's make no bones about it: Beth Ditto is overweight, and would almost certainly be classed as obese. So my big question for today is this: is she really such a great role model, in terms of size at least? And do we really want to encourage women to believe that being overweight is somehow "cool" or desirable?

First magazine certainly thinks so, anyway. In an editorial this week, editorial director Jane Johnson writes: "At 15st, 25-year-old Beth admits that food is very important in her life... And now, it seems, she is passing her body image views onto super-skinny Kate Moss. So let's hope that the world's most famous waif takes her advice, puts on a few pounds - and becomes a role model for curvy women. Then we will known the size 0 backlash is well and truly in full swing."

Oh, I think the "size 0 backlash" is well and truly swinging, Jane - no worries there. What does worry me, though, is the way that "super-skinny" models seems to be being replaced by overweight women as the nation's role models. Don't get me wrong: it's certainly refreshing to see a woman like Beth Ditto, who's clearly happy with her body shape, and I'm all for things that help women feel more comfortable in their own skins - just not when it's at the expense of their health. And while I'm as happy as anyone else to see the media finally clock onto the idea that anorexia is not a good look, I worry that by replacing skinny role models with overweight ones we're just exchanging one unhealthy "ideal" for another.

Yes, big can be beautiful, and there's no doubt in my mind that someone of Beth Ditto-proportions can be just as beautiful and stylish as someone smaller. But actually, the "size 0 backlash" as it's been dubbed has nothing to do with beauty or fashion - or it shouldn't. No, it's all about health - which makes it all the more puzzling that while size 0 models are (rightly) being called unhealthy, their overweight counterparts are currently being applauded for their "body image views". Surely the best role model would be someone whose weight was in proportion to her height - and surely being too fat is just as unhealthy as being too thin?

Which brings me back to the big question: do you think women like Beth Ditto are healthy role models for women, or have we just gone from extreme to the other?

Amber McNaught is a freelance journalist and Shiny Media contributor. She is very much a "real" woman, thanks very much.


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