An open letter to Tanya Gold

Dear Tanya

Well this is weird, I feel like I am writing to myself.  Maybe I should explain, or at least introduce myself.  This is an open letter to you, Tanya Gold, from me, a woman who shares the same first name as you but I fear that might be where the similarities end.

I had the misfortune to read your latest piece in the Telegraph this week that sat under the headline “Obese mannequins are selling women a dangerous lie“.   Now, granted you may not have written the headline but bugger me you wrote the rest of it and I would like to know why.  Why on earth would you think that Nike producing mannequins that represent the average British woman would equate to selling us fatties a dangerous lie?

It absolutely isn’t.  Surely it is the exact opposite.  It is showing us that we can walk into Nike and buy clothes to exercise in.  That the 47% of British women over a size 16 can wear stylish clothes to a yoga class or to the gym.  That, shock horror, not all “obese” people spend their entire existence sitting on the sofa eating biscuits.

Though that is exactly what your article made me do.   You see, I am an emotional eater.  Fed by childhood bullying in school, I eat emotionally.  Because I am sad.  When I am happy.  Especially when I am frustrated.  Just because I am bored.  After I have read an article declaring that I am hefty, obese, gargantuan.   You name it, I can find an excuse to eat.  I am finally taking steps to address this (something that is none of your business right now so I am not going there in this blog post.  But, Tanya, I would have thought somebody who has talked openly about her own addictions in the past might have been a little more empathetic.  How wrong was I).

Being picked last for sports teams, seeing people eye roll as they realise you are on their team, sticks.   Having to run in the 800m on school sports day knowing that you won’t have finished the first 400m circuit by the time everyone else is home and hearing the crowd cheering, not because you are running, solo, eventually, towards the finishing line, but because you aren’t in their “House” and therefore the lack of points your efforts have achieved won’t impact on their ability to win the cup for most house points.

Is never forgotten.   It was 35 years ago.  I can’t remember what I was doing 35 minutes ago, 35 days ago, certainly not 35 weeks ago, but I can definitely remember that June day 35 years ago.

So what I really don’t need now is you standing in judgement of me now.   Have me thinking that should I decide that I might want to get fitter and buy new clothing to celebrate that change of mindset I might be met with people like you, once again, judging me.   THIS is exactly the kind of thing that made me write “Why I will never join a gym” two years ago.   Why when my husband suggested I go on a yoga retreat a year ago I refused.  Again and again until three days later I relented to shut him up.   Was I comfortable in my over sized baggy t-shirt that fell over my face when I did a headstand?  No.  I flashed my stomach to the other women there who didn’t bat an eyelid but cheered I had done the unthinkable and balanced on my head.

All that good feeling undone though when I read, again, stuff like you have written in the Telegraph, Tanya.

I was sent a link to this campaign from the university of Birmingham last night by lovely Tara Cain that demonstrates how people feel about their own bodies.  How there needs to be an end to body shaming of any sort.   You really should read it.   They have called it Everyday Lookism and I think it is superb.  Tanya, you can find out all about it here and see what articles like yours can lead to, not just for the 50 year olds you mention in your article but also to the younger generation too:  #EverydayLookism

Really?  Seriously?  “She cannot run”?  Can’t she?   Go to a Park Run on any weekend.  I guarantee you there are women of a similar size running.  In fact walk up to me with a spider and I will run faster than you have ever seen Usain Bolt get out of the blocks.

(c) Nickie on Instagram

My good friend Nickie who has been running for years, championing that ANYONE can start running, recently wrote about “Coming Last“.  The fact Nickie came last didn’t really matter to her, to her it was about the fact she had done it at all.   Nickie gave me this quote:

Even though I’ve lost 2 stone in weight in the last 12 months, I still see an overweight, almost 50-year old woman, when I look at photos of me running. HOWEVER, I know that I’m out three times a week, covering around 12-15 miles a week in my trainers and it’s helping me feel healthy. Having clothes that fit, don’t restrict and don’t flap around whilst running really helps and it’s great that Nike had a mannequin to demonstrate part of their range although there are much better quality and design from other suppliers. For me, as always, the brighter the better (as many of my running leggings prove) because I’m proud to be out there running and and not conforming to a media-based ideal “package”. Plus, running an extra couple of miles means that I can drink all the gin at weekend!

And that pretty much nails it for me too.   “Not conforming to a media-based ideal” sums it up totally.  Why does the media portray thin as fit?  It is not necessarily the case at all.   In fact your quote, Tanya, that because somebody is obese they are more likely to need a hip replacement is incredibly misguided.  My granny needed one in her 40s, she was 5’1 and a size 10.  Many of the responses to the Telegraph’s tweet suggest that thin people are, in fact, more likely to need hip replacements.

What your article is,  is fat shaming.  Again.   It isn’t about any kind of cynicism.  It is fat shaming.    Five years ago I wrote this piece (Fat Shaming) in response a piece written by Mrs ClickBait herself KT Hopkins, a name I can no longer say without wanting to punch something, where she claimed she hated fat people as they had made her get fat for a TV programme.  Please.

It happened again two years ago when Giles Coren talked about “tattooed fatties” in a beach cafe.   I was so incensed I wrote an open letter to him too:  Dear Giles Coren   Though it wouldn’t be the last time he would appear on my radar as he went on to say, and I quote: “I don’t care what my son is, as long as he isn’t overweight“.

For fuxxake.

You want to know why all of this is so damaging?  You want to know what the really dangerous thing is?  It isnt the idea that Nike are selling us some kind of lie by producing clothes to fit us, it is people like you sitting in judgement on other people.   You might think it is just words, Tanya, words that you can bash out so you can justify your pay cheque this month or to try and suck up to an editor who might be looking for a person to fire in the next round of cuts, but let me tell you it isn’t.    It isn’t just words.   Reading things like this hurts.  Sticks.  Gets remembered.  For years and years to come.  Decades.

The idea of going for a jog along the roads near my house fills me with dread because in my head people like you are laughing.   Telling me I can’t run.  Telling me I am going to die fat.  That I am not worthy of some posh exercise clothing and that I am kidding myself if I think otherwise.

That only thin people are permitted to exercise.

That six years after writing “Being a big fat failure” that is how I feel the world still sees me, despite what I wrote in that post.

I mean, seriously, how screwed up do you have to be if you think that only thin people can go to a gym, have nice exercise gear, that rest of us are too “hefty”, “obese” and “gargantuan” to even bother.

Would I have ever gone to the Nike store before?  Nope.   Same reason I won’t go to Top Shop.  Nothing fits.   Would I go now?  Probably.  Something fits and therefore if I ever found myself in a position to do a headstand again I might be able to spare other people’s blushes buying wearing something from Nike.    Though to be honest I am more likely to go to to Tesco and grab something from the F&F range since they have been selling fitness clothes in bigger sizes for months ( I do wish companies would stop with the “plus size” stuff but that is another blog post) and they are only up the road.   But I applaud Nike for taking this stance.

It is shame that you don’t too, Tanya.  You say that advertising bullies women.   No.   Women like you bully women.  Women like you.

Yours sincerely

Tanya

PS Tanya, have you forgotten about the two articles you wrote for the Daily Mail that have been linked in the comments below?  One of them you bemoan the fact that designer brands don’t do larger sizes as you are a size 16 and can’t find anything to fit.     An uncharitable person might call you a hypocrite or a bit dim.  I am not that person.

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