Rowling rails at fashion's obsession with weight

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The Independent Online

The author J K Rowling has lambasted society's obsession with thin women and the models who uphold the look, saying she does not want her daughters to grow up "empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones".

In a rant on her official website, the Harry Potter writer hits out at stick-thin models whose sole function in life appears to be to support "the trade in overpriced handbags and rat-sized dogs" and get photographed.

Rowling says too many healthy young girls are labelled "fat" when in fact it is society and the models they look up to who have the problem. She criticised those who promote thinness as desirable, saying she did not want her two daughters - Mackenzie Jean, aged 15 months, and Jessica, aged 12 - to grow up "emaciated clones."

"Being thin. Probably not a subject that you ever expected to read about on this website, but my recent trip to London got me thinking," she wrote.

"I whiled away part of the journey reading a magazine that featured several glossy photographs of a very young woman who must surely be suffering from an eating disorder; there is no other explanation for the shape of her body.

"She can talk about eating absolutely loads, being terribly busy and having the world's fastest metabolism until her tongue drops off (hooray! another couple of ounces gone!), but her concave stomach, protruding ribs and stick-like arms tell a different story. This girl needs help, but, the world being what it is, they're sticking her on magazine covers instead."

Rowling wrote how strange and sick the "fat" insult is and how it has become "an everyday feature of female existence".

She also recounted an experience she had last week to illustrate that even she, a writer, felt pressure to be thin. "I went to the British Book Awards... After the award ceremony I bumped into a woman I hadn't seen for nearly three years. The first thing she said to me? 'You've lost a lot of weight since the last time I saw you!' 'Well,' I said, slightly nonplussed, 'the last time you saw me I'd just had a baby.'

"What I felt like saying was, 'I've produced my third child and my sixth novel since I last saw you. Aren't either of those things more important, more interesting, than my size?'"

There are an estimated 1.1 million sufferers of eating disorders in the UK. Those in the 14 to 18 age group appear most prone to anorexia nervosa - refusal to maintain a healthy body weight - while sufferers of bulimia, which is characterised by binge eating followed by purging, tend to be slightly older between 18 and 25.

Rowling believes the subject is important: "It's about what girls want to be, what they're told they should be, and how they feel about who they are," she said. "I've got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me. I'd rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny, a thousand things, before 'thin'."

Rowling's ouburst follows criticism from the model Twiggy who accused the fashion industry of causing anorexia among angst-ridden teenagers.

Steve Bloomfield of the Eating Disorders Association said: "The media and society do present this image of how thin is glamorous and for people suffering from other problems it can be a trigger that sets them off on a path which is unhealthy for them."