gemmacartwright_columnshot.jpgGemma Cartwright writes...

This week the controversial website Skinny Gossip published an update to their editorial policy, in response to a huge backlash following some very offensive comments made about the model Kate Upton.

In the post, the website's editor (known as 'Skinny Gurl') referred to the size 8 model (who has the measurements 33-25-36) as a pig, a cannibal, thick, vulgar, lazy, lardy, 'well marbled', and fat.

For those of you who've not come across her before, here's Kate Upton. Yes, she is undoubtedly curvier than the models we're used to seeing on the catwalk. But a pig? Lardy?


Skinny Gossip takes a controversial look at the fashion / entertainment industry's obsession with size. It claims not to be - as some media outlets claimed - pro-ana, though prolific use of words like 'thinspo' would suggest otherwise. The editor claims the "the idea was to create a gossip site with a snarky counter-view to a culture that glorifies excess consumption." Essentially, she's tired of 'real women have curves'.

I don't have an issue with the use of the word 'skinny'. If slim women want to reclaim 'skinny', it's no different to plus size community reclaiming 'fat' (often by using the word 'fatshion'). Both terms are usually used in a derogatory manner to describe someone's weight, and both lose their power if people choose to use them to describe themselves.

But there are ways to argue your case without resulting to snark, bile and abuse. Being mean is easy, but it's not clever. I'm relieved that the editor of Skinny Gossip has recognised that she has taken things too far. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but we have to take responsibility when we publish that opinion online. It's easy to forget that the people you're discussing are human beings. And that what you say about one person affects others. Skinny Gossip may claim to be nothing but entertainment, but when an impressionable 15 year old girl who is still growing into her body reads that Kate Upton is 'a solid 30lbs too heavy', it can be incredibly damaging.


Kate Upton is not fat. Period. Even if she weighs the 150lbs that Skinny Gossip claims she does (doubtful), at her height of 5'9 that would give her a Body Mass Index of 22. This is the BMI referred to by a lot of doctors in the UK as the 'ideal', in the middle of the 'normal' range.

Kate is not, as Skinny Gossip seems to claim, eating her way to an early grave. She is simply a model with a different body type to most catwalk favourites. By being unusual, she sparks debate. But is that really such a bad thing? Our world is hugely diverse, and right now the fashion industry represents such a tiny proportion of it; a super-tall, super-slim, usually Caucasian proportion that is not so much 'aspirational' (as many people claim) but a false representation of women today.

I don't buy this 'aspirational' argument, and never have. Yes, clothes look beautiful on models who are tall and willowy, but surely it's the designer's job to design clothes that look good on a variety of women of different shapes and sizes? Why alienate most of your future customers? To 'be aspirational'? To avoid 'diluting the brand'? Give me a break!

I do not believe that all models should suddenly be 5'4 and a UK size 16 with a 33" waist just because that's the supposed average. I'm not suggesting we ditch all current models in favour of plus size ones. That's as false a representation of women today as using nothing but size zero.

But I would like to see more diversity. Along with ''traditional' fashion models I'd like to see more models with hips and boobs and bums like Kate. More models who're muscular and toned, rather than skeletal. Models of every ethnicity - and not just the odd 'token' here or there. Shorter models. Fit, healthy models of all sizes (because 'fit' doesn't always stop at a UK size 10).

I realise that as a size 14 myself, I will instantly get pigeonholed into the 'fat girl with agenda' camp by the likes of Skinny Gossip. But this is not about my size. It's about how skewed our vision of 'normal' and 'healthy' has become. I will always campaign for models who represent a broad spectrum, because I think it's important we all realise that beauty comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. And that style doesn't end when your dress size goes into double figures.

It really worries me that, by limiting what is published in magazines and seen on catwalks, we have got ourselves into a position where a woman who is a perfectly healthy weight is considered to be a 'pig' because she has fleshy bits, boobs and thighs that occasionally touch. This is how people look. Not because they are lazy or lardy or eat too much, but because that's how bodies work. They're not all the same. 'Healthy' is a sliding scale...and right now, fashion is frequently on the wrong end of it.