Beth Ditto really needs to get over herself and see a doctor

Now, we’re not usually ones to comment on nonsense in the gossip columns here at Indie Cred, but a story I read this morning on Teletext really got me seething. Beth Ditto has apparently issued a press release thanking Keira Knightley for saying she has an “amazing body.” Now the irony of that strange celebrity pairing aside, I have, frankly, reached breaking point for being showered with a one-trick pony of a singer constantly drawing attention to herself by making it all about her weight.

The first I heard of The Gossip was at ATP two years ago where I had a couple of people tell me I should watch their set. They praised her amazing vocals, her stage presence, the fire behind the music, the merging of indie and retro electro sounds, of the sheer danceability and catchiness of the band’s sound. Not once did anybody mention her weight. In fact, the only person who mentioned Beth Ditto’s weight that day was Beth Ditto – when she apologised for being constantly out of breath and having to keep stopping for long breaks because her weight made it hard for her to keep up the pace.

A year later and The Gossip were everywhere with their mediocre teen anthem “Standing in the Way of Control” and suddenly Beth Ditto is in the media not talking about the band and the music she writes, but constantly talking about her weight and how people should see her as beautiful. Now, pardon me, but it seems to me that Miss Ditto seems to constantly go on about her body shape because she seems to need some reassurance that it’s ok to be morbidly obese, and she needs to know that her fans don’t mind the fact that she can’t perform as well as she should because she’s just too damned fat.

Now, certainly nobody should be judged on their appearance. We shouldn’t buy records because someone is attractive or unattractive and weight should never be an issue in whether somebody can sell records or write songs or, hell, run for public office, become an astro-physicist, etc. What all of this body image nonsense that comes out of Beth Ditto’s mouth ignores is that the issue with weight – whether you have too much of it or not enough – is health. We don’t find obesity unattractive because we’re anti-fat, we naturally find it unattractive because somebody who is morbidly obese is more likely to have health problems and die young from those health problems and, quite frankly, that is in itself highly unattractive.

The fact of the matter is that Beth Ditto already has trouble doing her job to the highest possible level because of her weight so no matter how many times she tells members of the press that “fat is beautiful” and it’s some sort of media conspiracy to say otherwise, she is simply wrong. I’m not talking about being a few pounds overweight or struggling to keep to the perfect size 10, I’m talking about someone who clearly struggles to perform on stage because she’s carrying so many extra pounds around that she gets out of breath easily. The media saying she’s beautiful and praising her body image is frankly just as bad as the media pointing to a stick insect like Keira Knightley and saying that should be some sort of beauty ideal (frankly their weight shouldn’t be a major issue in the media at all, but hey ho). A person at either weight is going to feel vile most of the time and have associated health issues.

Now all this nonsense about how the media should promote an atmosphere which makes young girls think it is ok to be so overweight as to be unhealthy so they don’t feel ugly aside (personally, I’d rather be skull-crushingly ugly than suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes and be prone to all sorts of cancers and other nasty illnesses), the remark that really pissed me off was Miss Ditto saying “I don’t judge women for feeling they have to be thin, because they’re conditioned their whole lives to ‘hate yourself, hate yourself, hate yourself’. I judge the world for being so anti-female.”

Now excuse me, but what?

The whole world is anti-female because magazines have a bad tendency of showcasing unhealthily skinny models?

Ok, yes, telling young girls that they have to be ridiculously thin is wrong, and saying that women should aim to be the ideal size 10 is idiotic because we’re all differently sized and shaped. But how does this make the world anti-female, and how does this amount to conditioning women to hate themselves?

Women are universally worshipped in art, in literature, in music. According to Greek mythology, two countries fought an all-out war over a woman. All around me all my life I have always been told that being a woman should not stop me from achieving anything I wanted, and never once did any of this come down to my weight or appearance.

The fact that girls want to look pretty and want to emulate their heroes has nothing to do with society as a whole having it in for its women or forcing them to starve themselves to meet some vile idea of beauty. Surely the problem is more that we give far too much space in the media for vapid “celebrities” and we suggest that girls should strive to be famous rather than striving to make the world a better place. The problem is that we are making the wrong people role models for our children by equating visibility in the media with greatness.

Beth Ditto, in my mind, is doing just as much harm as any vastly underweight celebrity by telling girls that they should be focussing on body image and by suggesting that it’s ok to be unhealthy and that society has it in for them and by also focussing on these same vapid, useless celebrities instead of the types women they should be trying to emulate.

Surely a strong female role model should be encouraging impressionable young women that they can be however they want to be so long as they don’t sell themselves short or settle for less either by thinking they have to accept their body shape if it stops them from feeling healthy and doing things that they want to do or by allowing anybody to tell them that something is out of their reach simply because they are female. We should be encouraging young women to strive for more than five minutes on the news or a story in a tabloid. We should be telling these girls that their appearance is not important, that what they do for the world they live in is key; that having a snapshot in a magazine is hardly an achievement when they could be working to educate people, to save their lives, to find cures for diseases, create great works of art, invent things that will make people’s lives better, work towards peace, towards helping end poverty or any of these great ideals which drive society forward, not hold it down by keeping it engaged in a pointless debate about whether some moderately-talented singer should be on the cover of some useless music magazine simply because she has an unhealthy diet.

And now for some strong, female music to wash that rant down:

Sonic Youth – Swimsuit Issue

PJ Harvey – 50ft Queenie

Echobelly – Give Her a Gun

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