In matters of size, we are too quick to point the finger at fashion editors, skinny models and gay designers, when we're partly to blame ourselves, argues Celia Walden.
Picture the scene. A clutch of women in a Tube carriage are bent over magazines. The younger ones are reading Glamour; the thirty-and-upwards have Vogue, Harper's and Easy Living; and in the midst of them all, one bounteous-looking female – curves scarcely contained by her arm-rests and gussets wheezing – is reading Just As Beautiful, a new magazine for women sized 14 to 20.
An unlikely scenario? Of course it is. This isn't because "larger women" don't exist, but because women are aspirational creatures, favouring dreams over reality. If that weren't the case, Madame Bovary would have resigned herself to her pathetic excuse for a husband. ("I suppose he does look rather sweet when he falls asleep on the sofa," she would have reasoned.) Ingrid Bergman would never have given Humphrey Bogart a second glance in Casablanca. Jane Eyre would have "learned to love" St John the drip, and Lady Chatterley would have bought The Joys of Tantric Sex and been done with it.
In matters of size, we are too quick to point the finger at fashion editors, skinny models and gay designers for "imposing" impossible expectations on us, when we're partly to blame ourselves. Women have always striven towards the impossible; we're physically ambitious where men are physically accepting. We need to believe that change is possible; it motivates us daily. Show me a woman who is happy with her body and I'll give you a cheque for a year's subscription to Just As Beautiful. Stick those diet-packed, twig-filled, digitally enhanced dream-manuals on the top shelf if you will, but women will keep reaching up ever higher to get to them.