Nigella Lawson Feels Bad About Her Body

Illustration for article titled Nigella Lawson Feels Bad About Her Body

Some people love food writer and TV host Nigella Lawson. She's bright, successful, forty-something, and loves food, unapologetically. But some people — who have been commenting on the BBC website — think the British star is a "porker" who sends the wrong message, reports The Times of London. "What sort of an example is she setting with her weight and her appetite for high-calorie sweets and cream?" one reader asks. Nigella tells Times writer Shane Watson: "Maybe I have put on weight, or maybe it's a bad camera angle. But in real life, this is normal size. Everyone is so critical. All must be sacrificed to the great god of skinny. You must say no to everything." Ms. Watson claims that the "god of skinny" has dethroned the "god of beauty." She writes, "Beauty without a slim body is now almost pointless."

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Nigella has her own theories about why we live in a society that would target both herself and women like Beyoncé — who is gorgeous and talented, but was recently described as "erupting" out of her dress at an awards show. "I think it is a fear of flesh," says Nigella, "maybe of vulnerability and softness. I do think that women who spend all their lives on a diet probably have a miserable sex life: if your body is the enemy, how can you relax and take pleasure? Everything is about control, rather than relaxing, about holding everything in."

Plus, since Nigella's mother, sister and husband died of cancer, thinness is not something she aspires to. "I associate thinness with dying," she says. "When [my mother] had cancer, she said, 'This is the first time I have eaten without worrying,' and that is chilling."

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The worst part? That women are doing this to other women. "In my experience, the weight thing is an almost totally female problem. I never feel bad about my weight around men, only women," claims Nigella. And, according to Watson, we're in a battle over our bodies:

The underlying issue is becoming clear. In the fat camp are those who represent the forces of goodness and womanliness, or indulgence and ill discipline, depending on where you stand on the scales; in the skinny camp are the savvy, fit, modern girls, or the life-deniers - if you're not so thin yourself. The size you are is a statement of your entire life philosophy, and the gulf between the two camps is filled with fear and misunderstanding. It is war, ladies, and it is our war. We are making enemies of each other on the basis of body shape.

How did we end up here? Why are women so critical of other women? Why is it not enough to be smart, talented, successful or even pretty anymore? Opines UK writer Vanessa Feltz, "Nobody ever says, 'Handsome is as handsome does, and so what if she's put on few pounds - she's still fascinating.'" How the hell did this happen, and what can we do about it?

The Big Issue [The Times]

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DISCUSSION

jennasauers
Jenna Sauers

@lolly71: I think you got it. A woman who is considered past her sexual prime because of her age is allowed to be fat; nobody will comment on Paula Deen's weight because she's got grey hair and looks grandmotherly. But a young, desireable woman who's fat is threatening.

Lawson speaks to this issue with more intelligence than any celebrity I can bring to mind (hardly surprising considering her background as a literary editor, Oxford graduate, etc).

It gets up my nose to see women whose employment and expertise does not rest in their looks criticised for their appearance and body. She's a chef — how she looks has nothing to do with her recipes. It's infantilising and insulting, and the fact that women so frequently generate and perpetuate these kinds of attacks makes me sick. Undermining quislings the lot of them.