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Tilly Ramsay's fight against body shame

Written by Hannah Burfield

Steve Allen recently came under fire following his inappropriate comments targeted at Matilda Ramsay, in which he described her as a ‘chubby little thing’ whilst presenting live on air. Tilly, only 19 years old, confessed she had to battle through a ‘tough week’ following his hurtful body-shaming.

Allegedly, Tilly received a private phone call from Allen in which he apologised for his offensive comments. Perhaps most surprising was his desire to express his regret privately, in contrast with the ease with which he was willing to publicly degrade her.

Whilst he did write a statement on Instagram, in which he described his actions as a ‘step too far’, this is insufficient and doesn’t deal with the actual issue at hand – society’s incessant focus on women’s appearance and their continual attempts to dictate their actions and the ways they present ourselves.

Would he have made similar comments about a male’s appearance? I highly doubt it. So why is it only women that are constantly under the scrutiny of a relentless society desperate to shame them into positions of inferiority? What can this teach us about society’s attitude towards women’s bodies?

These inexcusable comments are not only targeted towards women, but also young girls. Women, unfortunately, have been exposed to gendered, misogynistic treatment for decades and have, arguably, developed a tolerance of this abuse, making them more able to dismiss hurtful attitudes in comparison to impressionable young girls. Yet, in spite of this, it remains unacceptable that women have to adapt to such horrendous scrutiny from society and the men that perpetuate these inherently negative attitudes.

Fortunately, the widespread abhorrence to his comments, particularly from women, such as Strictly’s Shirley Ballas, who leapt to Tilly’s defence across all social media platforms, shows our increasing intolerance as a society for comments that degrade women’s mental health and leave them questioning their own self-worth and beauty.

This legacy of self-doubt is a universal experience that men are not excluded from. Society’s habit of immediately forming judgements based on an individual’s appearance is something that deeply affects men too. Either dismissed as having a ‘dad bod’ or pressured to have a prominent six pack, men are certainly not excluded from the negative repercussions of a pressurizing society.

What is particularly concerning about this incident is the potential that it had to negatively trigger individuals all over the country – and, indeed, the world. It is impossible to ascertain how many people were personally affected as a result of these comments, but it is certainly something that individuals fail to consider when they say such careless insults.

This is only one incident. Many more occur daily, often without being publicised and condemned as unacceptable behaviour. Nobody should be made to feel their appearance is ‘unsuitable’ and needs to be changed in order to ‘fit’ into society’s beauty standards. Kindness is essential for a fully-functioning society.

People attempting to justify Allen’s comments, deeming them to be the product of our commitment to ‘free speech’, are simply encouraging unhealthy attitudes towards women’s bodies and ignoring the deep-rooted societal issues that individuals have with their appearance.

The argument of free speech is applicable to his comments on her dancing; she is currently participating in Strictly Come Dancing so, evidently, everyone will have a judgement about her dancing abilities. But this argument falls flat when applied to her body. This is a completely separate subject and one that neither Allen nor anyone else should even have a say on.

Undoubtedly, free speech is important and desperately needs to be preserved, but not at the expense of others’ mental health and wellbeing.

Dr Alex George is just one of the prominent individuals who voiced their outrage. Following this incident, Alex shared his own personal experiences with online trolls who have shamed his body, comparing his current physique to when he was involved in Love Island back in 2018. He is adamant that ‘commenting on someone’s weight, whether you think you are being constructive or even complimentary, perpetuates the cycle of weight stigma and unhealthy relationships with our bodies. No one has the right to comment on your size. No one’.

Alex’s decision to defend Tilly has drawn much-needed attention to the impact that similar comments can have on men’s mental health also – something that is too often overlooked.

Ultimately, this atrocious experience, and the subsequent anger that it has provoked, highlights a hopeful possibility for a future society in which shaming women’s bodies is completely unacceptable and is no longer a common occurrence.

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