Whose business is it anyway?

// 2 June 2008

Poor Fern Britton! Today, sat at home undergoing the laborious process of applying for job after job in the hope that someone may see fit to employ me, I had to witness Fern Britton opening the This Morning programme with an explanation about her significant weight loss: she had a gastric band fitted! Having been away for three months I was unaware of the speculation surrounding Britton’s dramatic weight-loss, and so watching the otherwise confident Fern look visibly awkward and more or less verbally crumble as she giggly recounted the press attention paid to her figure before “confessing” to her alleged deception, was shocking and upsetting.

The Daily Mail characteristically creamed its pants at the news, and within a few hours of Britton’s so-called revelation there was an article up on the site berating her essentially for not providing the British public with the minutiae of her eating and drinking habits. What’s interesting is the language used by the Mail, with Britton branded “unrepentant” as if she’d just blown up the houses of Parliament and sat in the dock filing her nails saying “bothered?” What exactly was the big deal? Fine, she had gastric surgery to facilitate her weight-loss, and she did not disclose the information, but why should she? What exactly is wrong with the fact she had taken a practical step to help her loose weight and improve her health for both herself and her family?

Since having the gastric band fitted two-years-ago Britton has lost an estimated five-stones, shrinking from a plus-size 22 to an average 16. So, it has worked, and while she has been criticised for claiming that she lost the weight through diet and exercise, her claims have been used against her as if to bolster the allegation that she is nothing but a dirty dirty liar. I know little about gastric banding, but what I do understand about the operation is that it’s not a quick fix in itself. The “bandee” has to take practical steps in order to achieve optimum results, which would involve drastic changes to eating habits and taking more exercise. Why is it that knowing Britton had received surgical help to achieve something that I believe is still pretty impressive, is used against her to denigrate her success? She recognised she had a problem and did something about it: having the band fitted does not mean she can munch on doughnuts and pies smothered in lard and butter three times a day while immune to weight-gain. Had she been smoking her weight in cigarettes each day and gave up using a series of nicotine patches, would she have been deemed a failure in the same way, or praised for taking affirmative action?

It is now reported that Britton, currently the face of low-calorie cracker brand Ryvita, is likely to loose her contract owing to the fact she failed to disclose this information. So, what’s going on here exactly? Britton hasn’t had a cosmetic operation: she’s not had a pair of fake tits implanted, nor has she had liposuction and a tummy-tuck. Her body is, visually, what it would be had she lost the weight without the surgery. She’s still had to undergo the process of weight-loss, albeit at an accelerated rate, so where’s the discontent? I can understand why Britton didn’t roll onto our screens praising the gastric band operation, and I think it was for reasons beyond self-preservation. By attributing her weight-loss entirely to surgery, loosing that much weight through exercise and diet alone would seem like an unattainable reality for the vast majority of us for whom the medical procedure would not be a financial, or practical, option. Britton herself remarked:

I haven’t lied, I have been honest, but don’t all run and get it done yourselves. I don’t want to be blamed for something else as well.

If she, like many other female celebrities, had undergone breast augmentation, claimed her increased cleavage was the result of natural bodily changes, and then been exposed as a liar, would the same furore have surrounded her exposure? I’m doubtful, why? Because breast augmentation surgery is usually undergone by the archetypal size-zero celebrity, with surgery seen as doing nothing more than enhancing an already aesthetically pleasing body, whereas the results of Britton’s internal operation have changed her physique dramatically from the much feared portly body to something more stream-lined: closer to so-called perfection.

Why was it that when Britton’s weight-loss was thought to be the result of nothing but a good dose of elbow grease was she praised, whereas now she is vilified by the press? The answer is simple. Over-weight people are generally considered an anathema in twenty-first century Britain. If you are fat, it’s your own fault, something for which no-one is accountable but your pie-fondling hands. Loosing weight should then be a hard, difficult process: a struggle, a punishment, a reminder of the fact that you let yourself go to such an extent that you looked like nothing more than an ugly sofa with a head attached. That’ll teach you for defying convention in the first place, eh? So Britton was praised for going through this arduous process, taking into the bosom of the British press for having seen the error of her ways and working hard to achieve self-perfection. News that she has had some form of assistance is, of course, then met with a negative response, as where’s the retribution? She was fat, now she’s thin and she’s got it through an operation! Surely she should have suffered to get a smaller waistline? It’s nothing more than jealousy and resentment parcelled and concealed as hurt as the fact Fern, the Queen of morning television, had failed to tell her loyal fans she’d had her insides all tied up in order to reduce the rings of fat around her heart. Is it me, or is the viper bite of the press, propelled by body fascism, starting to get a little bit boring?

So, what’s left to say is this: well done Fern, not only for taking active control over your physical condition but for informing the viewers of your operation with dignity.

Comments From You

Sarah // Posted 2 June 2008 at 4:59 pm

There’s a whole discussion to be had about weight-loss surgery and other drastic weight-loss methods, however I don’t think that’s the main issue here. Surely Fern Britton’s medical history is her own business, and she has no obligation to disclose details of what surgery or treatment she’s had to anyone, never mind making it public information! Certainly not something she should have to ‘confess’ or be ‘repentant’ about.

From what I’ve heard, weight-loss surgery and its aftermath is a fairly ‘arduous process’ in itself, it’s hardly the easy option.

Anne Onne // Posted 2 June 2008 at 5:40 pm

Yes, exactly. Pros and cons of weight loss surgery aside, Ms Britton has the right to live her life without having to go and explain every intimate detail to the media!

Her reasons and her actions are her business alone, and I wish her the best in her recovery from the procedure she’s been hounded into making public knowledge.

I can’t help but second that for a lot of people, the idea is that ‘overweight’ women should suffer and punish themselves, and publicly announce their shame in front of the world. I wish I could attribute this treatment of her to something other than people not wanting her weight loss to be so ‘easy’, that it’s ‘cheating’ and she’s getting off lightly. Why else is there such an obsession with all this?

They haven’t got her health or happiness in mind, and they should just leave her alone. Seriously.

Qubit // Posted 2 June 2008 at 5:45 pm

I imagine it would be hard for Rivita as she is advertising a dieting product there is an implication that she used the product to lose weight and that other people can do the same. If she has had surgery to help (which there is nothing wrong with) then this is slightly false advertising.

At the same time I don’t think the rest of the media really should care about something that has very little to do with them. I can’t say from the information given whether she lied or just neglected to mention things however people have lied about far more important things. I imagine the press reporting will be hurtful but hopefully it will blow over in the next few days. I think portraying surgery that significantly increases someone’s health as immoral is a slightly worrying trend.

Torygirl // Posted 2 June 2008 at 8:03 pm

I think Fern Britton is great and was sort of angry that she was put in that position.

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