Letters: Stick-thin models

Tell the truth to these poor anorexic clothes-hangers
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The Independent Online

Words fail to express the wholeheartedness of my agreement with Johann Hari's comments on fashion and negative body image in women (Opinion, 16 September).

Have we become so dull to the suffering experienced by women that we need a gay man to stand up and say what straight men, and right-thinking women, should have been saying all along: that "beauty", as portrayed at the sharp end of fashion, ain't beautiful? The thought of stick-thin models and the emotional and physical suffering they must go through to maintain their "ideal" weight is simply sickening.

Society desperately needs to shake off its indulgence of the fashion industry's promotion of anorexia as attractiveness. And I think we need to be far more ready to share some home truths about the fashion industry with women: catwalk fashion is not there to make you, the model, look beautiful; what the labels are looking for is a self-propelled arrangement of coat-hangers with some hair on top, and woe betide any curves that detract from the clothes.

We seldom, if ever, see a truly beautiful image of womanhood in the fashion pages – and The Independent is as guilty as the rest when it comes to publishing photos of unhealthily thin, depressed-looking models. The beautiful models out there aren't on the catwalk or in Vogue; there's far more beauty in the Damart catalogue.

Jeremy Legg


Self-interest will save the planet

Tony Black (letters, 15 September) is frustrated that individual actions, such as not flying as a measure to combat climate change, have no effect unless others do the same.

Mr Black's approach serves to show that the Government must take full responsibility for tackling climate change. Individuals may be enthusiastic to reduce their carbon footprint, but will be reluctant if it is obvious that they are not with the majority.

Likewise, nations need to know that other countries are taking similar measures. We have already seen how difficult it is to get even developed nations such as the USA to ratify the Kyoto protocol.

But the real key to change is self-interest. So in the case of the individual citizen, for example, the true cost of motoring should be attributed to the motorist. Public transport must then be shown to be cheaper and more convenient. In the case of nation states, identify the risks in being dependent on depleting ever more expensive fossil fuels and the effect on the trade balance.

Relying on a band of middle-class altruists will not work, and this is demonstrated in our failure to adopt recycling. Recycling is messy but does not incur any major cost to the householder. Yet after many years promoting recycling and a constantly improving collection service 73 per cent of recyclable waste in the UK is not recycled.

So, for instance, the electric-powered car has to be cheaper and easier to run than petrol. And the Government must make sure that it is.

Terry Pugh

Baildon, West Yorkshire

Tony Black's argument that refraining "from making a journey by air does not, in fact, save any fuel – the flight goes ahead anyway" reminds me of the specious nonsense that fur-wearers spout when called upon to justify their horrible coats: "The animal had already died and the coat had been made before I bought it." May I suggest a short course in economics 101 and the law of supply and demand?

Edward Collier

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

I think that Rosalyn Rappaport (letter, 15 September) is being over-optimistic if she thinks that politicians will only act on the climate change problem when their electorate is affected. Since when did MPs care about their electorate? Parliament is governed by precedent.

In the mid-19th century MPs were forced to take action on the problem of the London sewers when the smell in the House of Commons became too much to bear. So it will be with climate change.

When the melting of the ice caps has become very severe, at some point the Thames Barrier will be overwhelmed and the tide will flood the Chamber. An Honourable Member will rise on a point of order and ask if the House could adjourn to a drier place. Mr Speaker will then reply with a straight "No", but suggest that wellington boots can in future be worn in the House.

As for Parliament ever addressing the greater problem of over-population, I cannot see that ever even being discussed.

J W Wright

Cherhill, Wiltshire

David Downie (letter, 15 September), like a number of previous correspondents, wants something done about the rising world population, but does not suggest what it should be.

The solution has been known for decades: bring people out of poverty and before very long they start having fewer children. The downside is that as they become more affluent they move up the scale of carbon-emitters. Which brings us back to where Mr Downie was trying to get away from: we have to drastically cut the carbon emissions that each of us is responsible for.

Bill Linton

London N13

Alan Searle says what is needed to save the planet is fundamental changes in our consumerist behaviour; M J Cooper is against carbon double-speak and says that we should say what we really mean (letters 5 September). So why don't we say this: to save a place on the planet for Homo sapiens we have to stop eating like pigs, breeding like rabbits and migrating like lemmings.

Alison Sutherland

St Ola, Orkney

Prescribing heroin is no panacea

Kathy Gyngell doesn't like the idea of "prescribing heroin to heroin addicts" (letter, 16 September). However, by implying that this has been proposed as an approach for all heroin users, she misrepresents the research.

She is quite right to remind us that much – perhaps most – recovery from drug use takes place outside any medical or psychological service. She mentions self-help groups, but the evidence for their effectiveness, while undoubted for many individuals, is pretty poor on a population basis.

The fact is that every intervention fails some people – and some people are failed by every existing intervention. Such people continue to suffer, and to prove highly time-consuming and costly both to medical services and to society in general. So, as John Strang has clearly stated, heroin prescribing is not being touted as a panacea for the majority of drug users. It seeks to help that relatively small group of people who have not been helped by the range of other interventions.

As to her charge that this approach "locks in" people to dependency – the evidence seems to suggest the opposite. By breaking the acquisitive cycle, it can enable some individuals, in time, to reduce their drug use and even to consider a life without drugs.

Dr Philip Timms

Consultant Psychiatrist, South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

London SE5

UK visa controls in Pakistan

It is disappointing that Keith Vaz MP has chosen to misrepresent the impact of our visa controls in Pakistan in his letter of 14 September.

Changes in the way we deal with visa applications have made an impact, helping to prevent those who don't meet our strict rules entering the UK, and helping keep our borders secure. We refused 70 per cent of student visa applications from Pakistan in 2008/9 and the overall refusal rate in the same period also increased. Every applicant must provide fingerprints, which we check against police and immigration databases. Entry clearance officers are trained in forgery checks and around 35 per cent of refusals in 2008/9 were due to fraud and forgery. If any doubt remains about an application a face-to-face interview can be held, but simply relying on interviews is not the answer.

In addition, officers at UK border controls can refuse any individual arriving at the UK about whom they have concerns.

We will continue to welcome legitimate visitors from Pakistan but we are determined to stop those seeking to abuse the system.

Phil Woolas

Border and Immigration Minister, Home Office London SW1

Worse off after voting 'reform'

Peter Downey (Letter, 16 September) rightly complains that the Government won't consider the multi-member constituency option for electoral reform because it will loosen their stranglehold on who stands for the Labour Party – but actually it's even worse than that.

The AV-plus option, the only halfway meaningful reform that is apparently being considered, would have as many as 20 per cent of MPs elected from top-up lists directly nominated by the parties, and the electorate would have no say in who is on these lists or the order of choice.

This would leave us even worse off than we are at present and would constitute no real reform at all.

Richard Carter

London SW15

The grim fate of Marcus the lamb

The children of Lydd School might like to consider Jeremy Bentham's view: "the question is not, Can they [animals] reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?"

Marcus the lamb would have suffered no pain at the slaughterhouse. However, at birth an instrument called an elastrator would have been employed to put a rubber ring round his scrotum, and another at the base of his tail. This would almost certainly have been painful for him; in my experience lambs just lie supine for quite a while afterwards. The blood supply having been closed off, the scrotum and tail atrophy, and eventually drop off.

I hope the children were taught about this necessary procedure of animal husbandry.

Roger Cook

Steeple Langford, Wiltshire

The shameless and stylish Alan Clark

Well said Dominic Lawson, on Alan Clark – and about time too (15 September). The only thing he omitted at the end of his article was Clark's farcical death-bed "conversion" to Roman Catholicism, an act which merely brought contempt on all those involved in it.

Dominic Kirkham


I sent a letter of condolence to Alan Clark's widow on his death. My epitaph for him was, "He did what he bloody well wanted to do." Like Oliver Reed, John Aspinall and George Best, to name but three, he had style. The difference between him and the vast majority of today's Tory MPs was one of personality – he had one.

Mark Taha

London SE26


Killer heels

Anyone who believes wearing stilettos adds "authority" to a professional outfit (Carola Long, 16 September) should ask themselves why short men don't wear them.

Kate Francis


Cricket on film

I agree with Eddie Dougall's opinion (letter, 10 September) of England their England as the best film about cricket. The best cricket film never made, however, was The Third Test Match by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1972) in which the sport's stuffy facade was torn away and the simmering inside story was told. There were problems during filming: Geoff Boycott walked out at Headingley, while there were complaints from Alan Knott's auntie. Sadly, the great Italian director was killed before he could fully realise the trailer aired in his name by Monty Python.

Kevin Gilvary

Titchfield, Hampshire

Who makes the cuts?

Bruce Anderson is concerned that civil servants will come up with "bleeding stumps" to circumvent cuts (Opinion, 14 September). There is a simple way round this, and to protect front-line services. Ask those front-line workers rather than the civil servants. They will come up with the cuts of 10 per cent – and more.

Paul Harrison

Richmond, North Yorkshire

Turing's town

From up here in Manchester, Gordon Brown's apology to Alan Turing looks old hat. Since 1994 we have had Alan Turing Way, part of the ring road that runs alongside Manchester City's new stadium; our neighbours in Wilmslow stuck a blue plaque on his old house in 2004; our university opened a new maths building named after him in 2007; and there is an office block with his name in Moss Side. Come on the rest of the country, do try and keep up.

Colin Burke


Moving sideways

As a long-time expatriate, I do tend to get confused by your correspondence on the evolution of the English language. Is this "moving forward" lark the same as "stepping up to the plate"? Or is that, like, too left field? Whatever.

Rod Chapman

Sarlat, France