A FEW years ago I took part in a panel discussion about how women are objectified and their appearances dissected in the media. I was speaking alongside a body positivity and fat activist and her points - about feeling shamed for the size of her body, about being routinely judged - were intelligently put and interesting.

This was well before fat activism had entered the mainstream and not something I really knew anything about.

It reminded me of an interview I'd read about a decade ago with the journalist India Knight. She and a colleague had written a diet book and the quote that stayed with me was Ms Knight saying she wanted to lose weight because she worried people would look at her size and view her as less intelligent than she is.

It hadn't, before then, occurred to me that fat people were viewed as stupid - greedy, yes, slovenly, yes - but not stupid. Why would it have, I suppose. I've always been an absolute glutton for food but never put it down to a lack of smarts. I just really liked food.

Back to the panel discussion and I remarked that it would be brilliant if, at some point in the future, we could reach a point where no one really cared about how they looked.

I'd caused offence without meaning to. It was snobbery, was the response, to think that women who care deeply about their appearance are anti-intellectual. You could have brains and care about beauty.

I hadn't intended to suggest otherwise. I mean my comments in quite a basic sense: wouldn't it be freeing and equalising if women just didn't bother whether they were fat or thin; sharp or dull of cheekbone; wearing flawless make up or none. If it just wasn't a big deal.

And how could the media persist in the gross commodification of women's bodies if the women themselves weren't biting?

While my comments were a source of offence, they were also ahead of their time.

You're likely aware of body positivity but how about "body neutrality"? Body neutrality, promoted by the actress Jameela Jamil, is the notion I've described - the not caring about one's appearance. Taylor Swift, singer, praised Jamil's take, paraphrasing the actress's views thus: "I’m not trying to spread body positivity. I’m trying to spread body neutrality where I can sit here and not think about what my body is looking like."

Jamil has become the queen of correctness, each week deciding on yet more lines in the sand with regard acceptable terminology and banned speech, pronouncing her decrees on Twitter. There was a bold one recently: we no longer say "blind spot" because it's ableist. I suppose that rids us of "falling on deaf ears" from the lexicon.

So it's fairly easy to roll your eyes, if that's allowed, at Jamil but does she have a point on this one?

There is, first, a real sticking point. Body positivity activists are usually famous women and famous women are usually gorgeous.

Women like the proudly fat singer and rapper Lizzo, who preach that women should love themselves no matter their size, are beautiful. Cheekbones, fine skin, curves in all the places curves should be.

Of course, it's not Jamil's fault she's gorgeous, she's merely been dealt a spectacular hand. For those of us dealt slightly less spectacular hands, it does grate somewhat to have a very beautiful woman telling us to be happy with ourselves. Would she feel the same if she had a disproportionately massive backside or distractingly shaped hooter.

Body positivity and consciously working to generate high self-esteem works only by continuing to focus on appearance, perpetuating the cycle of intense self-scrutiny that causes damage in the first place. Body acceptance also needs to be balanced with the risk of denial about health problems caused by obesity. And yes, absolutely, people can be fit and fat - but not always.

My panel critic was quite right. There are plenty of women who enjoy looking conventionally attractive and take pleasure from achieving certain aesthetic goals - whether that's achieving particular number on the scales or perfecting a new make up trend.

It's not emancipating to tell those woman to cease caring what they look like, it's patronising.

Of course, when the women who do find joy in external improvements post their achievements on social media, they become part of the broader environment that influences how women feel about themselves.

Whether body positivity or body neutrality, each developing philosophy about women's self-worth contains the fatal flaw of continuing the thing it is trying to eradicate - they force us to persist in analysing ourselves.

There's something entirely frustrating about the whole thing, that women are on a relentless mission to find a salve for themselves. Every body image trend forces women to look inward, becoming a self-perpetuating cycle towards what?

The chances of neutralising our feelings about body image seem vanishingly small.