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Op-Ed: I am not qualified to frame this debate, but neither is Jamelia

Let’s defer all our questions about body Image, obesity, health issues, trendy clothes & acceptance to celebrities. #Jokes

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Jamelia has recently sparked controversy with comments she made on long running lunchtime show "Loose Women". If you haven't seen it, it's a 2.8/10 IMBD rated ITV daytime show in which a panel of four or five B-list-at-best celebrities from all walks of life, including journalists, singers and whatever Sharon Osbourne is, pad out the daytime airwaves with inane chat, blind agreement with each other and the odd bit of fawning over their often considerably more A-List interviewees. Up until Judy Finnigan's wildly misplaced view of harm in a rape case, it was really the last kind of show you would expect to hit this kind of controversy, but it has, and if you haven't seen the comments made, I've included a video below:

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com / Via youtube.com

Now, as you can see here, for reasons unbeknownst to possibly thousands, the question actually posed is "Should teenagers be able to buy clothes; trendy clothes, whether they're large or not?"

Immediately bypassing the agonisingly cringeworthy usage of the word 'trendy' by somebody's mum, this kind of question either reeks of idiocracy or is emblematic of a fourteen year old show exhausting and beating the dead horse that is, getting a set of women to talk about body issues in an attempt to find a new way of framing a debate they've probably already covered seventeen times in its history. This is more the kind of topical question we've come to expect our local home-time radio shows to resort to.

"What's the strangest thing you've seen your neighbour ever bring home from a car-boot sale? — call us now on 0300-I'm-So-Bored".

Jamelia, most well known for some of the catchiest R&B pop hits from the early 2000's, Coleen Nolan, of the Nolan Sisters and genuine journalist and broadcaster Janet Street-Porter were therefore clearly the best suited to answer such a question.

View this video on YouTube

Jamelia, Crichton, / Via youtube.com

Sadly, neither Coleen Nolan nor Janet Street Porter made an appearance in this video.

Before Jamelia has a chance to chime in, Janet Street Porter takes to the issue stating this:

The reality is very different, I think we're all really hesitant to talk about it because it's one of those subjects that people will be really on our case if we say anything critical about an 18 year old who's a size 20, but it's got to be said, that girl who's that morbidly obese at that age. Can she run around with her children? Can she walk up and down stairs? Can she participate in life 100%? And when she's older, will she not have heart problems brought on by high blood pressure? Will her knees not give out? I mean, will she be comfortable? Will she have any energy? So I don't want to demonise these girls, but at the same time, I don't want to normalise being morbidly obese.

Practically forwarning Jamelia to be careful about how she phrases her opinion here, Janet puts forward some pretty normal arguments and in the age old tradition of attempting not to offend anybody; sits on the fence and answers the question with an onslaught of further questions to which she has no answers, therefore shirking liability for any logical conclusions drawn from them. This is pretty run of the mill Loose Women up to now. Jamelia however, throws caution to the wind, speaks her mind without clarification and single-handedly shapes the debate around obesity for the coming weeks.

I am all for celebrating people as they are, I think everyone has the right to be comfortable in their own skin, I think everyone should have access to lovely clothes, but I do not think it's right to facilitate people living an unhealthy lifestyle...

I don't believe that a size zero should be available, it's not a healthy size for an average woman to be… In high street stores, you're catering for the average woman, there's a healthy range and I don't believe they should be providing clothes for below that range or above that range. I'm not saying that nowhere should. Yes have specialist shops, but I do think that you should feel uncomfortable if you're unhealthy.

Outrage has ensued, obviously. People with opinions have crawled out from every nook and cranny and it appears that I've been dragged along for the ride. Personally, whilst I have a fairly clear idea that this is an issue where my own seemingly controversial thoughts could also be easily taken out of context, I don't think I could ever have gone so far as to fuck up, alienate and completely misunderstand an entire debate to the degree which Jamelia has. If I struggle, I can see glimmers of merit in what Jamelia is trying to state, but the way in which she has gone about it is completely ridiculous.

Firstly, in saying what she has, Jamelia has erroneously stated that businesses should actively practise losing out on profits and not provide stock to quite literally, a large section of the paying audience they already serve, and in contrast have 'specialist' shops which cater to these supposedly unhealthy sizes. (So that the rest of us don't have to shop around the fatties and know where they'll all be if we want a good laugh.) This is silly, I think we can all agree, and whilst specialist outlets do exist and have cropped up to cater especially for humans who probably don't conform to Jamelia's unfortunate yet liberal use of the term 'Average Woman' (Jacamo, Long Tall Sally, Big & Tall and endless petite sections), I can't possibly agree that whatever these 'high street' shops Jamelia has targeted are, that they should suddenly stop stocking their X-sizes for the good of humankind. Granted, I will accept that the question posed itself largely missed the boat on where the focus for our debate on 'health' and body image should be focused, but neither of the other panelists managed to really nail being out of touch quite as well as Jamelia did.

Further to this, shortly after Jamelia's petition to Ofcom for more daytime complaints operatives, Janet Street Porter raises the only really genuinely interesting point of the piece, questioning how society is lately extremely accepting of people who weigh more whilst simultaneously treating those who have lost weight with equal admiration.

I'm not quite sure how you encourage young girls to understand that losing weight is ultimately going to improve their life.

She gives the example of nationally respected comedienne Dawn French's famously self-content body image and subsequent advertising of Terry's Chocolate Orange, juxtaposed with our admiration for her weight loss only months later; something French herself has only attributed to wanting to see her daughter grow up more.

When you're over 50 you have to pay attention to your health a bit, [but…] I still refuse to dislike my old body.

There is a real conversation somewhere in this issue, as there is with so many issues radically taken out of context, blown out of proportion and marginalised to fill column inches, anger eyeballs and give us angry opinionated people something to do, but if we are to find a pragmatic and realistic solution to the problems we have in this country when it comes to body image and health, we should not get caught up and frame them within the controversial soundbites of a pop-star on daytime television.

Society has huge issues with changing conventional and ideal standards for 'beauty' across both sexes. The modelling industry has come under waves of attack in the past few years, and rightly so, not only for using dangerously skinny models, but in doing so, literally wearing blinkers when it comes to the size of the general population. We have to come to terms with what the term 'plus-size' actually means, and whether 'unrealistic expectations' are actually healthy or not. I'm not agreeing with Bethany Rutter when she states that "if scientific opinion now states that overweight people live the longest, surely it's in everyone's interest to be overweight" but there's a conversation to be had between whether our societal ideal is a ubiquitously perfectly healthy society or to accept a society in which the people who live in it are allowed to be happy with the choices they make. This isn't a question I have an answer to, but it's a damn site better than the one posed in Tuesday's Loose Women.

We're in real danger of allowing celebrities to shape real debates about real issues from off the cuff soundbites blown out of proportion in the general media. If we actually let the Katie Hopkins' of the world shape our immigration debate, the Jamelia's shape our body image debate and god forbid we allow the Farage's to shape our European debate, there will be no escape from the agenda they have the ability to set.

To get a head start on the commenters here, I also don't feel myself qualified, but as I laze away in endless unemployment, leeching off the government, not paying taxes and spending my days shepherding Romanians into the country and conning old people out of their pensions, I have the spare time to waste writing about this shit in the vein hope that I'll get a Like or a Retweet out of it. Generally though, when not being sarcastic, I prefer to be upfront about my ability to empathise with interest groups. Since birth I have never been considered fat, or overweight. I was at one point quite underweight, I was at one point very fit and currently I feel slightly chubby and would probably desire a return to fitness, yet never have I truly been in a position to empathise with the fat acceptance movement. I have an overweight mother who certainly has no issues with her body herself, and growing up knowing she was happy definitely made me happier too. At one point in my teenage life, I was forced to come to terms with accepting my body and being happy within it due to some pretty horrendously chronic acne, but a few different treatments and a hormone level out in my late teens has largely put that body issue to bed. For the most part however, I do find it difficult to truly empathise. In a little research for this article, I have come head on with this movement and in the end, my own opinion remains similar to the one I hold where bog standard marriage is concerned: I don't agree with it, but the sheer amount that it affects me is negligible, and there is far too much sadness in the world to spend our time shouting at people who are happy. Frankly, the overweight population may be putting a strain on our healthcare system, but so are smokers and drinkers and drug takers; all of which I have served as an embodiment of at various stages of my life so far, making the this drunk tarry lunged stoner a prime target for finger wagging hypocrisy.

I also honestly don't care whether society and the patriarchy has brainwashed me into believing in ideal beauty standards for both women and men or whether there is something innately physiological driving it; I am happy with the physical characteristics I find attractive in a woman and I am well aware that there is a fair percentage of the population who find many differing body shapes to their liking. This is who I am, I'm happy, and you can take it or leave it.

On second thoughts, maybe I can empathise with the movement.

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