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Big-boned in Berlin

The Local · 25 Jan 2010, 18:12

Published: 25 Jan 2010 18:12 GMT+01:00

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It is a curious fact that men only read women’s magazines when they are in pain. Waiting for a tooth to be extracted or a stomach ulcer to be examined, you catch up with Brigitte and cannot help noticing that something very strange is happening on Planet Woman.

The popular German magazine is offering a special calories table "for your purse." No surprise there, of course – it's January, the time when women are urged to become skinnier after gorging ourselves over the holidays. But, wait, isn't Brigitte launching a revolutionary "no models" campaign to use women that do not look like Dickensian street urchins?

Sure enough, the pages are full of normally-sized, attractive women – a teacher, a caterer, a sales clerk – who are conveying a rather different political message from the free Brigitte caloric-intake tables: namely that women should not have their body shape dictated by the fashion industry, or diet doctors, or plastic surgeons, or makers of anti-ageing cream. Strong women are not afraid of a few additional kilos or wrinkles.

Confused? So am I. The editorial logic of Brigitte, should surely be to persuade women to start a diet to gain weight. It cannot simultaneously urge supposedly fat women wanting to lose weight so that they can fit into a size 38, while championing women who don't want to to lose weight because they refuse to be manipulated by Glamour Inc. The whole paradox of female self-image is tucked into the magazine's pages, between the advertisements for Dove and the slim-girl ads for Otto’s mail-order pseudo-leather skirts.

Now I have nothing against Brigitte, which is a good read even when you have tooth ache. Its tangled thinking simply reflects the whole discussion of feminine body image since the 1950s. In those days women’s bodies were lighter-framed than nowadays: they were about three centimetres shorter, their waists were more slender, their bones less heavy. Yet the most desirable women of the age were stars like Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe, neither of them particularly thin.

Thin was poor. Well-fed women were healthy, potential child-bearers with milky breasts. The body mass index of Playboy playmates has dropped on average from 19.2 in the 1960s to 17.6 now, while the BMI of real women over the same period has risen from 22.2 to 26.8. Men lived a similar paradox. Fat politicians were potentates; it was unusual to find successful businessmen weighing in at less than 90 kilos. Now fat men are seen as losers.

Brigitte and other campaigners against size zero models argue that we have to restore a balance between what we see in the mirror, how we are seen by others and how we are told to look in the media. They seem to believe it boils down to the salesmanship of fashion companies and their advertising muscle on the media market. Their power has to be broken: if women stand up and demand large-sized clothing, the companies will have to surrender, to bow to demand – and remove the anorexic waifs from the catwalk.

But this is making things too simple. Fat people are treated with disdain nowadays because they are seen as endangering their own health, either out of weakness or out of some inexplicably self-destructive act of free will.

A recent survey showed that a large majority of people do not want to sit next to a fat person on an airplane journey – not just because they take up space, but because of an aesthetic repugnance, a sense that there is something wrong with a person that has let him or herself become fat. This is a primitive reaction as irrational as Islamophobia. Fat – though not obese – people often live longer than thin people; they live happy fulfilled lives.

In America, where two thirds of the population are officially overweight, they have a Fat Pride movement and a National Association to Aid Fat Acceptance. When Brigitte hires a fat columnist and profiles successful fat businesswomen and promotes fat celebrities, then I will start to believe that it really is trying to change popular perceptions rather than just rolling out a marketing gimmick.

As for me, well, my jeans are getting tighter, probably because of washing them at too-high temperatures. One of my first expeditions after Christmas was to Nike sporting temple in central Berlin. Surrounded by athletes and hard-core joggers smelling faintly of embrocation cream, I bought a pair of training trousers. Not just baggy-Harz IV-I-don’t-have-a-job-to-go-to trousers, but a proper black training uniform with zippers at the bottom. They do, however, have an elastic waistband.

Story continues below…

"For use at the gym or for jogging?" asked the attentive sales assistant.

"For McDonald’s," I replied. Sometimes we fatties have to make a stand.

For more Roger Boyes, check out his website here.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:28 January 26, 2010 by dbert4
"Sure enough, the pages are full of normally-sized, attractive women"

Yeah and what size is "normal". Suddenly there is this campaign to make fat girls the new normal. The body ideal is being changed to accomodate McDonalds and Burger King, how nice.
16:17 January 26, 2010 by germinator
Hey Dbert. Get stuffed. Chunkettes rule!
19:22 January 26, 2010 by joeschafe
If you're calling the three babes in the photo attached fat, then sign me up- Yum! I'd rather have those curves ANY day than some heroin-thin Twiggy wanna-be.
19:25 January 26, 2010 by lordwilliams629
You always have to blame things on american fast food such as Mcdonalds or Burger King. I'm sure those big german fraulein's spent many days and nites slurping down shnapps and hogging out on sour kraut and big over sized veiner schnitzels.
23:43 January 26, 2010 by wxman
All three of these women are beautiful with proportional bodies. So much better than the anorexics on the fashion runways around the world. Each of these ladies is hot!
14:39 January 27, 2010 by berlinski
Wouldn't throw any of them out of my bed, even if they were eating chips.
21:03 January 27, 2010 by Yontrop
Roger Boyes should get a clue. There is no contradiction with the policy at Brigitte. Publishing an article to help women who just may be a bit overweight and declining to use anorexic models is healthy on both counts. If Boyes can't figure that out by himself it's not my job to explain it to him.

What I don't understand is how he can be so dense and keep his job at the Times when I have to scrape around for translation work. ...and what's with that title (My Dear Krauts) I find it offensive and I'm not even German. He isn't even writing this column for Germans.
21:28 January 27, 2010 by So36
Man, the last time I experienced such a virulent fit of grumpiness like that I was in Brandenburg. Everyone just pissed off about everything. You must fit in perfectly out there.
23:24 January 27, 2010 by BR549
I think the 3 girls in the picture are"just right"! I like curves and a little "cushion for the Pushin" ;-)
02:13 January 28, 2010 by Yontrop
Grumpy? Well maybe, but at least I didn't call him a bloody limey. I also didn't label everyone in Brandenburg as being "pissed off about everything". Just maybe not everyone in Brandenburg is the same. I actually find most of my neighbors insufferably cheerful.
04:51 January 28, 2010 by PhotosByStephan
Some women are built for comfort. Some women are built for speed. If you plan to spend a lot of time on the 'Autobahn', it is best to pick the one built for comfort.
09:44 January 28, 2010 by zanb
Got to admit I prefer my ladies with a little bit of cushioning. and they have a better sense of fun.
10:36 January 28, 2010 by dbert4
The,"high speed, low drag" models are much more fun to drive, better handling.
13:29 January 28, 2010 by joeschafe
At the risk of sounding obssessed with these women (which would be a fair enough accusation), what is equally attractive about these women is their smiles: maybe skinny people are apparently so focused on staying skinny that they can't enjoy life? Which leads to my next theory: lite beer is some sort of communist plot!
13:49 January 28, 2010 by danceswithgoats
"This is a primitive reaction as irrational as Islamophobia"??? I think having a phobia of fat people is irrational. I don't think having a phobia of Islam is. I am afraid of Islam and what is contained and taught from the Quran when it comes to non-believers, women, homosexuals, etc.
17:59 January 28, 2010 by Henckel
German women seem, for the most part, to have comrpised two sizes -- tiny and full-figured. At least that has been my observation, as a historian, of German immigrants in the USA. The same could be said of German generals, at least in the past. Compare photographs, for instance of Hasso von Manteuffel (tiny) and Paul von Hindenburg (portly).
17:10 January 29, 2010 by richard_vijay
Perhaps they should have those very lovely English women to pose. Even when fat an Englishwoman can still a man's libido.Imagine if German men start bedding the Englander Rosen Frau.
17:24 January 29, 2010 by Customs_MP
"19:25 January 26, 2010 by lordwilliams629

You always have to blame things on american fast food such as Mcdonalds or Burger King. I'm sure those big german fraulein's spent many days and nites slurping down shnapps and hogging out on sour kraut and big over sized veiner schnitzels."

A few points, "Lord":







17:24 January 29, 2010 by richard_vijay
Sorry for the bad grammar in my first post. What I mean is they should get those lovely Englishwomen to pose. Mind you even a fat Englishwoman can still stir a man's libido. Ahhh...the Englander Rosen Frau. German men should then read Brigitte more, tooth ache or not". Its time to teach Island Monkeys like Roger Boyes to look at the Germans as human beings and not stock figures of comedy. Belive me...I have slept with a number Englishwomen,,,fat, slim,,busty,,,,they are a horny lot.Imagine German men bedding them .
21:32 January 29, 2010 by lordwilliams629
Customs_Mp, yea I didn't capitalize on those words, so whats your point. You understood my point so thats all that matters right. Or are you just another self centerd arrogant european showing your jealousy for american exellence. Oh I'm sorry I didn't put a capital on the word american oh gee.
03:36 January 30, 2010 by arnuxii
I think it is women who like very skinny girls, in mens magazines they are not that skinny.
18:28 January 30, 2010 by lordwilliams629
I'm sorry Customs_Mp after a day of thinking about it, I relized that not all of us love skinny females, and like you their are many men out in this world like you that like big german lady's with hair under their arms. I know it was more my insensitivity to your love for fat women as opposed to my poor grammer that drove your comments. So therefore I do appologize for my very mean and cruel response, I mean fat women need love to and I should be more sensitive to men like you who are willing to give big fat women that true love that they also deserve.
18:05 January 31, 2010 by germinator
I, for one, like chunky girls with hair under their arms -- and with pubes. And I'm not ashamed to say so.

Amazing, that of all the stories they post on The Local this one seems to have generated the most comments. Who knew there was such a controversy?
22:34 February 1, 2010 by wenddiver
McDonalds is solving world hunger. According to the movie "Super size me" we feed 46 million people a day, thats more than the whole country of Spain!! It is also one of the geatest blue chip stocks in the world (MCD)!! People are voting with their Euros/Dollars as to their vision of the world.

Besides big boned German girls and beer have always been a more popular male fantasy date than skinny French chicks and a lefty political rally. Put a vote down for girls with a little bounce.
12:45 February 7, 2010 by Fredfeldman
Give me chicks that look good too. Its a buyers market,
13:07 February 15, 2010 by vanilarama
I feel like barely anyone here (ESPECIALLY the author) even bothered to look at the new Brigitte. The models aren't even overweight a good portion of the time- they're just not size zero. I mean, come on, this is a woman's magazine, not a fashion mag, and it makes more sense to have women with some muscle tone and a bit more weight. It's like when the magazines Shape or Self in the US has size zero models- it doesn't make sense.
20:30 February 18, 2010 by businesswoman
As a successful fat businesswoman, never once has weight been an issue in my career. I meet a lot of fellow female executives and we are all getting fatter. I don't care about wearing skinny ladies clothes, i wear suits everyday even when I'm not working. My tailor is happy to see me getting fatter as soon as i stop being able to squeeze into suits i'm back to them for new ones. To conclude serious businesswomen are getting fatter. Soon orgs will hire fat ones as they know we won't have the energy to move away from our desks :)
12:15 February 23, 2010 by tollermann
I am very fit, however I like real women, not some airbrushed media image!
00:58 March 9, 2010 by Fredfeldman
The ladies in the photo seem like nice girls but not particularly exciting. Good solid peasant stock. It would be a barren world without the salt of the earth like these folks around. That said I find elegance sexy and the ladies above exude none of that. Perhaps in corsets and high heels? :-p
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