In Praise of Nigella Lawson


Tonight, Nigella Lawson’s new TV show, The Taste, airs in the States at 8 pm on ABC.  The only reason I know this is because I saw a bit of news go by last week that caught my attention:  Ms. Lawson refused to allow ABC to airbrush her tummy in the promo poster for the show.  Although her statement, which appeared on her blog, was picked up by a few news outlets, it didn’t become a big deal.  And that’s too bad.  Because Ms. Lawson did something very brave, and very necessary.  She refused to hurt herself, and other women, by pretending her body isn’t beautiful just as it is.

Here are her exact words:  “Although it was very thrilling to think of being up on a billboard in LA and around the States, I was very strict and English and told them they weren’t allowed to airbrush my tummy out. Wise? Hmmm. But that tum is the truth and is come by honestly, as my granny would have said.”

A few things occur to me after reading this statement:

  •  Her Language:  Women whose faces and bodies are in the media are under a great deal of pressure to maintain the status quo, and she is courageous indeed who recognizes that she has power here, and wields it.  But Ms. Lawson’s bravery is tentative:  she defines herself as “strict,” and “English,” thereby letting Americans off the hook if we choose to continue airbrushing ourselves.  And she wonders if she is being wise—after all, she’s telling the truth about her body, quite a no-no in our culture, especially for a woman.  I completely understand the qualifying words, and don’t wish to admonish Ms. Lawson for softening her statement.  On the contrary, I want to applaud her while also recognizing that her language shows that she is taking first steps here, and they are careful ones.  She deserves both our praise and our support.
  • Her Occupation:  Her tum is the truth, she says, and is come by honestly.  By eating.  Because she’s a freaking awesome cook.  Also, have you seen her?  She’s gorgeous.  So…to review.  She cooks, she eats, she has a bit of a tum, and she’s gorgeous.  It’s all good, if you ask me—and I bet it’s all good if you ask most heterosexual men on the planet.  Ms. Lawson’s occupation makes her statement very significant, because it frees everyday women to cook, eat, have some body fat, and be gorgeous—whatnot like regular people.  We don’t need to feel that this super cook is some superwoman who creates and consumes delicious food but never shows it, like a fabulous cooking android.  Nope.  She’s real, y’all.  Just like us.
  • Change:  In my post Making Ashley Judd’s Moment Last, I discussed the ways in which I believe women within the media have the power to change the damaging way we currently portray the female body in our advertisements, TV shows, movies, and games.  Women with money and power need to stand up and make statements like Ms. Lawson has, so that the industry is forced to change.  And many women are, in individual ways, making statements of their own—Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson—the list is growing.  It is my hope that the statements and actions of these women will inspire us all to take our own steps toward reclaiming our bodies and to stop feeling that we must apologize for or qualify our decisions as we make them.

If we are to make these small moments of refusal matter, if we are to use them as a fulcrum on which real change can pivot, we must recognize them for what they are:  revolutionary.  Ms. Lawson just made cooking diva advertising history.  So tune in to The Taste tonight if you can, and raise your glass in celebration of this extraordinary woman.

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