Body Issue

August 12, 2012

The Age Good Weekend published its ‘Body Issue’ this weekend. It makes a strained attempt to appear ‘balanced’ in its approach to the way bodies are imaged in the media, with a few ‘I accept myself the way I am’ quotes, and a ‘special’ photo-shoot featuring a size 16 model (though the real advertisements are all stocked with the standard ‘acceptable’ body-types). Of course there’s no counting the number of times or ways the notion of ‘feel good about myself’ is expressed. The rest is ‘the usual’ we’ve come to expect:  naked lady on the front, plenty of buff, pseudo-lite-but-decadent (aka fish) recipes and the articles, though trying to be PC, still drip with words like ‘demons’, ‘shame’ and ‘problematic’ in relation to body fat. (Truly ‘fat’ is a greater taboo than sex or death in our culture – many a celebrity finds sex scandals or even an untimely death a boost to their career, but fat is an unforgiveable celebrity sin).  

As a product of this culture as much as ‘The Age Good Weekend’ I have fought the life long battle against and with myself. I don’t claim to be beyond body issues. But against the tide of disembodiment, I found lurking under my skin a little voice of resistance: ‘Beth Assumes, Jesus Assumes’. 

I assume

you’ve noticed that

I’m fat

But I’m not just fat

Butter is just fat

But I’m not just fat

I’m bone

Bone of my bone


flesh of my flesh

I’m tissue, muscle, flesh

I’m meters long of gut

“such a  gutsy girl” some say

still a hair’s whisper delicate

I’m skinny skin

ticklish calloused

scarred wrinkled



I’m poured out

in sweat, spit, spew, mucus, waste,

I’m bloody,

Bloody good and bloody bad

I’m heart

I’m larynx

I’m things and  places inside

Not that I wish to hide

but that I do wish  to hold

and keep sacred

So I won’t be


Them here

for you to hear

But this I would

like to mention

I’m not  just fat

I’m  flesh


and the Word became flesh
(Gospel of John)
That which is assumed is healed
(Gregory Nazainus)


  1. Love it Beth!

  2. Thanks Holly (from one real woman to another)

  3. LOVE your poem, especially the “But I’m not just fat…Butter is just fat” bit!

    Normally I enjoy flipping through The Age’s weekend magazines but when I saw what the topic was for that issue I decided not to open it. As a plus sized woman such features tend to leave me frustrated. The prevalence of super skinny models is frustrating for obvious reasons. Even the features on models who are not super skinny leave me with conflicted and often negative feelings. On one hand, I suppose I should be happy about any move in the direction of diversity, even if it is a baby step. However, it is rather patronizing when when including women bigger than a size 6 is treated like something special and noble. Such features on so called “real women” also seem to often replace one hard to achieve ideal type with another hard to achieve ideal type. Sure, the women featured may be a little larger but they still tend to have curves in particular proportions deemed attractive, perfect skin and perfect hair. It is one thing to not measure up to the un-achievably skinny models but to not measure up to the “real women” models is a whole new level of despair. And, If I don’t match what a “real woman” is supposed to look like, then what on earth am I? An impostor?

    • Thanks for your comments here Joanna. You are right about the ‘large but curves in the “right” places look on the models. The imaging of women is not only too ‘narrow’ in terms of size – but also in terms of posture, ethnicity, socio-economic status….and a whole lot of other things. We must be honest enough to admit that the obsession with small is a reflection of our affluent society.
      What is a real woman? Well, there are billions of real women around the world who are completely normal, precious humans, but who look nothing like anything on the pages of the Good Weekend.

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