Why is the relationship women have with their bodies is still one of the most complex and taboo?
Putting together our June print issue has been deeply uncomfortable, and I genuinely think that is the first time I have ever said that. This discomfort is surprising when you consider the topics we have covered without a glimmer of awkwardness over the past decade; sex, drugs, death, religion, rights, politics and a long old list of taboos have made it onto these pages without even the raise of an eyebrow. But the topic of weight – and the relationship women have with their bodies – turned out to be the comfort-zone tipping point. Which is as revealing as the content itself.
When we launched Stylist, we drew a red line at talking about weight and body image; we were sick of misogynistic diets that promised an unrealistic, often unhealthy and entirely homogenous body shape, and gave women the stick they already craved to beat themselves with. Women are forever being policed – we see that now more than ever – and Stylist was born into a period when women were humiliated for having cellulite or stretch marks. Our stance was clear: we’d have no part in that.
In its place we championed body positivity and acceptance; a generation of role models who looked more like the women we see around us. It felt like progress, and it helped, we’ve seen the evidence. But the downside was it closed the door to speaking about how we really feel about our bodies, it became a secret shame. Which is why, when the Stylist team sat down to discuss our own perceptions of our bodies and, more exposing still, wrote them down for the world to read, we all felt so deeply uncomfortable. These gnarly admissions, usually reserved for the privacy of our internal self-talk, were put out in the open – and with it came the risk of judgment.
But we learn from experience that silence is not the answer. That only by opening up and putting a name to our emotions and thoughts can we find a way to better how we feel. Which is what this issue is: a chance to speak candidly about how we see our bodies in 2022. Thank you to all the women who shared so honestly. Although many of the conversations triggered a heartfelt sadness for what we experience, it also motivated us to be part of the change that stops women torturing themselves as a consequence of how they look. So let’s make this issue the start of a conversation that is the catalyst to allowing women to be truly comfortable in their own skin.
Lisa Smosarski, Editor-in-Chief, @lisasmosarski
Behind the scenes
Of the 100 women who stepped up to share their deepest thoughts and feelings about their bodies, several took it one brave and empowering step further. In a Shoreditch studio, they posed with their bare backs to the camera – bra strap marks and all – to create a collage that highlights the beauty, strength and vulnerability of women’s bodies. The studio was abuzz all day as cover stars compared notes on how liberating it was to see themselves from a new angle and in a new light. A huge Stylist thank you to every one of those brilliant women.