Plus Awesome: Jo Swinson

Jo Swinson 2013
Jo Swinson, UK equalities minister 2013

It’s rare for an office holder below President, Prime-Minister or Supreme Dictator to gain recognition in the United States. Even now, it’s just barely – I can’t even name the current Prime Minister of the UK (going to check) since the last one I heard lots about was Tony Blair. Ah, OK, David Cameron. Didn’t vote for him – I’m a US citizen – have no opinions on him. I do, however, have a fascination with a certain Parliament Member: one Joe Swinson, junior Equalities minister (along with a few other titles.)

Why am I so enamored of her? Well, the feminism is nice, as are her protests against tokenism.  Her objections to product overpackaging – using chocolate Easter eggs as an annual example – please my environmentalist heart.  What’s really got my attention? Her overt activism for a more body positive British Isles. Most recently she put out a call for store mannequins to beef it up to more realistic proportions. This is good timing, since larger mannequins are becoming more readily available.  In her call for this, Swinson said, ““The images we see are all pretty much the same – it’s as if there’s only one way of being beautiful.”

Swinson started a Campaign for Body Confidence back in 2010. Three years later, she appears genuinely dedicated to the cause.  Earlier this year, in an open letter to the press, she chided magazines for promoting miracle diets and continuing to push the idea of aspirational bodies that received a great deal of reaction from the press.

Her comments read:

Surely by now we’re all aware that there are no miracle diets or if there are, they are miracles that come with a cost. Given that most diets fail within a very short time, it is irresponsible for magazines to offer ‘tips’ ‘tricks’ and ‘simple steps’ so that people can be thin.  Not healthy or vibrant, just thin. 

One resolution that is actually worth making, for all of us, is to resolve with friends, family, and colleagues to challenge the default setting of self-criticism, and help each other to do so.” 

The Guardian’s Susie Orbach even had great praise to speak of the program and of Swinson:

“It is extraordinarily significant that MPs understand the importance of challenging the hurt and damage caused by industries that purport to help. In holding an awards ceremony this week on the Commons terrace and inviting key players from fashion, beauty, education and media who have bravely struck out against the virus of body hatred, they not only commended those who are developing antigens. In condemning the commercialisation of the body, MPs were taking a political and an ethical stance. They were insisting on the importance of transforming the circumstances that are robbing our children of their childhoods.”

Swinson is that rarest of rare – a person in politics that Fat Chic can rightly call awesome. When she continued to pop up in my news feeds I knew I had to include her in the series.

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