Opinion - weight

Bigotry against curvy women ‘as bad as racism’

Bigotry against curvy women 'as bad as racism'
19-year-old Marion Bogaert (L) takes to the catwalk with another competitor, Isabelle, before winning the 2011 Miss Curvy France competition. Photo: Philippe Huguen
When fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld blamed France’s healthcare deficit on "fat people" this month, it was the final straw for French activist Betty Aubrière. She tells us why her group is suing Lagerfeld, and how bigotry against curvy women is as bad as racism and homophobia.

In a TV broadcast earlier this month, Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld blamed the deficit in France’s healthcare system on “all the diseases caught by people who are too fat,” and repeated his view that “nobody wants to see curvy women on the catwalk.”

A group representing curvy French women,“Belle, ronde, sexy et je m’assume” (Beautiful, curvy, sexy and ok with it) reacted angrily and announced this week it was suing him for defamation and discrimination.

The group’s president, Betty Aubrière, tells The Local why France must change its law to recognize that prejudice against curvy women is as serious as racism, homophobia and anti-Semitism.

What Karl Lagerfeld said is disgraceful. In front of millions of people, on TV, he insulted fat people and especially curvy and full-figured women.

If he had attacked gay people or black people in the same way, would it have been acceptable for the three women on the panel that evening, who said nothing to intervene after his comments? Of course not.

But the effects of discrimination and insults like that are very serious. There would have been many young girls in France watching [TV channel] D8 that night, and many of them already don’t feel comfortable in their own skin.

And we see the consequences of public figures like Lagerfeld saying what he said, when we hear about young girls who have had to leave school because they were being bullied about their weight.

Insults and discrimination like this contribute to anorexia, which is a serious problem in France.

People like Karl Lagerfeld are seen as authority figures. They benefit a lot from their status and their fame, and we want an end to insults from figures like him, against larger men and women.

France needs to realise that prejudice against full-figured women is as bad as racism or homophobia or anti-Semitism, and we need a change in the law which makes statements like Karl Lagerfeld’s punishable as incitement to hatred.

We also need to get rid of the myth that being bigger is always a choice, and that it’s just down to bad diet. It’s not. In many cases it’s a disease, and for some people it’s genetically inherited.

Lagerfeld’s comments about “curvy women on catwalks” also raised an important point about beauty.

Something that would give young girls more confidence and feelings of security about their bodies would be if the world of fashion, which has always been so important in France, acknowledged the fact that full-figured women can be beautiful, too.

We need more curvy models, and we need couturiers like Karl Lagerfeld to design clothes that can be worn by women of all sizes.

A major problem is that it’s often just too much hassle for curvy women to find clothes and outfits that make them feel pretty, or if they do, they can be far too expensive.

France needs a cultural change, and the fashion world could play a leading role in that. 

What do you make of what Lagerfeld said? Do you agree with Aubrière's opinion that bigotry against large women should be punished with the same severity as racism and homophobia?

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