“I have nothing to declare but my greed.” When I heard Nigella Lawson say this while on a cooking show years ago, I instantly took a shine to her and her stance on food – that it was to be eaten and enjoyed, guilt-free. Anyone who knows me is aware of my fondness for cooking shows and what I always feel they lack is real appreciation for food that genuinely tastes as great as the ingredients used to make it – hence why I’m a fan of Lawson, who looks like she’d rather be eating, than cooking the food.
There’s no doubting that Lawson has fallen victim to sexist stereotyping that men in her field have not ever had to consider (there’s been a media obsession, certainly in Britain when it comes to her looks) – Gordon Ramsey’s accomplishments are at least written about before his temper is mentioned, for example. I’ve read articles poorly disguised as ‘reviews’ when all they really do is blatantly body-shame Lawson.
Now she has joined the airbrushing debate and admitted others have had qualms with her figure, soon after Jameela Jamil’s call for the practice to be put “in the bin.”
Jamil is a dedicated body positivity activist; running a social media movement entitled ‘I Weigh’ to encourage young women to denounce society’s intense focus on appearances. It’s part of an effort to reduce the number of eating disorders being diagnosed around the world, similar to the one that affected her as a teenager.
Related: Jameela Jamil’s good looks are irrelevant – what she’s saying matters
“I’ve had to tell American TV stations not to airbrush my sticking out stomach,” Lawson tweeted back to Jamil.
I’ve had to tell American tv stations not to airbrush my sticking out stomach. The hatred of fat, and assumption that we’d all be grateful to be airbrushed thinner is pernicious.
— Nigella Lawson (@Nigella_Lawson) 15 December 2018
“The hatred of fat, and assumption that we’d all be grateful to be airbrushed thinner, is pernicious.”
Social media were vocal of their appreciation for Lawson’s comment. She’s happy with her “sticking out stomach,” thank you very much, which feels like a radical statement to make so close to Christmas. As women, we are encouraged to indulge as much as we’d like during the festive season, only to be made feel profoundly guilty for doing so once new year hits. The influx of ‘new year, new you’ articles are, on the surface, there to encourage positive change, yet their undercurrents suggest we should feel ashamed to have to make these changes in the first place. The language, expectation and pressure we are put under in this regard remains a very big problem; alluding to the fact that happiness will arrive once you’ve made every effort to change your appearance. If this is for you, that’s fine, but the fact remains that many feel obligated to make changes because it’s expected.
Lawson’s stance is similar to that of actress Lena Dunham who similarly said she would no longer allow magazines to retouch her pictures, despite still wanting to get her picture taken from time to time. “Seeing the photo got me thinking about the real issue, which is that I don’t recognise my own f**king body anymore. And that’s a problem,” she said. Kate Winslet, Amy Schumer, and Kerry Washington are all fellow women who have spoken out against the airbrushing machine and in doing so, are working to help create a new “normal.”
Food is to be eaten and stomachs filled, which is about the only advice I’ll be listening to coming into 2019.