Edinburgh Fringe: not a supermodel in sight. A celebration of normal people.

On Tuesday I had a conversation with a journalist ahead of the A Level results which come out next week, and we ended up talking about the sexualised imagery of girls and women in our society, which is a subject that I feel very strongly about, and which I have spoken out about several times over the past few months, including on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. My main issue is that we are so uncritical about the images that surround us that we have almost sleepwalked into a situation where sexualised images have become the norm. As a society, we are subscribing uncritically to a perceived idealised image of women which is both unrealistic and, because of its prevalence and pervasiveness, actually dangerous to the mental health of our young girls and women, creating as it does a distorted picture of the world, accompanied by a huge pressure to conform.

Immediately after our conversation, and because I was thinking again about body shape and size, I was suddenly struck by something wonderful. In Edinburgh at Fringe time, there are crowds of people wherever you go. The Scotsman at the beginning of the week estimated that 2.74 million people will attend the shows of the Festival over its four week period. I would certainly count in the thousands the number of people I have seen in the streets and in venues over the past week. And yet I cannot think of a single one – not a single one! – who conforms to the idealised picture of female ‘beauty’ that is perpetuated by advertising and the media. Not a single person who could be said even remotely to resemble the kind of shape and size so frequently portrayed as ‘ideal’.

All shapes and sizes are here – all different, all unique: tall, short, wide, thin – all carrying their bodies in different ways, with different gaits, different hair, different clothes – different everything. All unique human beings with their unique characters, who are happy, relaxed and enjoying the Fringe. The point is that they are normal – beautifully quirky, individual and just normal. There is not a supermodel in sight. And that is the reality of our glorious life. Let’s celebrate normality.

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