Call a man fat, but don’t call a woman thin.
An interesting but little known fact that emerged from a minor controversy in Parliament this week is that there exists an All-party Parliamentary Group on Body Image. This is a properly registered group of 20 MPs, eight Tories, two Lib Dems, and ten Labour, 14 women and six men, whose purpose is “to conduct an inquiry and monitor on an ongoing basis the causes of body image anxiety” and “explore what steps can be taken to promote body confidence.”
To go back one step in the narrative, the trouble started when the Labour MP Keith Vaz, tweeted that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, is looking thin. He wondered if the cause was a “new diet or pressure of work.”
This brought forth the Tory MP Caroline Nokes, who chairs the all-party body image group, who told the BBC: “If we were talking about a male Home Secretary who had lost a bit of weight I’m sure that no MP would comment.”
Unfortunately, she then rather spoiled her own case in a later interview, on Radio 5 Live, when she described the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, as “a jolly, fat man.” She blames the interviewer for ‘conning’ her into saying it.
As Caroline Nokes told the Commons yesterday, there are literally millions of people in the UK, most of them young, who have eating disaorders. She is trying to get this problem taken more seriously, but I don’t think that getting into a silly discussion about a silly tweet about a Home Secretary who, I am pretty sure, has not got bulimia or any such condition, does not help.
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