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Wednesday, 2 February, 2000, 15:52 GMT
Knives out over curvy Sophie

Weight comments: "An appalling violation of privacy"

The press are being rounded on after Sophie, Countess of Wessex, became the latest female celebrity to be criticised for her weight.

Fergie: "Duchess of Pork"
Both tabloids and broadsheets are being called "judgmental" and "unhelpful" after leaping upon an unflattering photograph of the wife of Prince Edward, taken on a recent trip to Switzerland.

She was pictured in a dress which was not only low-cut and glamorous, but also - according to the Daily Telegraph - "clinging".

"Sophie's curves are the talk of the slopes," announced The Express, before suggesting the PR executive was suffering from "endless offers of champagne and calorie-laden nibbles" during business dinners and parties.

The Mirror reports that the countess was extremely busy during the combined business and pleasure trip to St Moritz, but noted she "had time for a gala dinner".

Victoria: "Freaked out" by anorexia claims
Such comments are "appalling", according to Dr Andrew Hill, a lecturer in psychology at Leeds University who specialises in body image and the media.

"They're more than a shame, they're a violation of privacy," he said.

"What right do [newspapers] have to make comments like that? The press seems to think they have ownership of public figures."

Eating disorder experts say such comments are not only in bad taste but also potentially dangerous.

A spokesman for the Eating Disorders Association said such comments could exacerbate or even create a weight problem or eating disorder for the celebrity in question, and for vulnerable members of the public.

Kate Winslet: Another favoured press target
In the past, and especially after the death of Princess Diana - who suffered from bulimia - the press has criticised itself for such comments.

Before Sophie's wedding, the Mail on Sunday nicknamed her "Princess Tubby".

Shortly afterwards, the Telegraph - which also printed the photograph on Wednesay - compared the Mail on Sunday's comments to the way Diana had been treated by the press.

Diana: Did the press hasten her "suicidal bulimia"?
Yet the press seems curiously reluctant to change its habits - according to Mr Bloomfield, because it is "lazy" and such comments are "very, very easy" to make.

Dr Hill also said he was pessimistic that the press would ever change - and said it would certainly not do so before our cultural fat phobia disappeared.

"[Journalists] are not particularly bothered about which individual they offend, or which cultural values they reinforce," he said.

He said the press "reflects our values and then cranks up the volume, inflating them far beyond anything remotely healthy".

And a whole new generation of women are at risk, he said.

"If teenagers see public figures vilified for putting weight on, it further emphasises our cultural fear of fatness," he said.

"But I think the press will carry on regardless."

On Wednesday, it appeared that he may be right.

In a phrase which would strike chills into the heart of any media-savvy celebrity, the Daily Mail referred to Sophie as "the new Fergie".

Which suggests that when it comes to famous females and fat, the press will continue to get the knives out for some time to come.

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See also:
02 Feb 00 |  UK
Sophie admits fur hat 'error'
25 Oct 99 |  UK
Edward: Leave Sophie alone
28 Jan 00 |  Entertainment
Posh admits weight worries
12 Nov 98 |  Health
Denise launches healthy eating campaign
08 Jul 98 |  Latest News
Media slammed over superthin models
20 May 99 |  Health
'TV brings eating disorders to Fiji'
13 Oct 99 |  Medical notes
Eating disorders factfile

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