The ‘Beach Body Ready’ Debate

Resident Agony Aunt and #DebutGirl, Deborah Hodge, talks about how the ‘Are You Beach Body Ready?’ slogan is harming a generation of young and impressionable girls, and why we need to reclaim what a healthy body image should be all about.  

It’s holiday season again and as many of us look through our wardrobes at what to pack whilst we are away, we naturally start to think about how we look on a beach. Everyday we are bombarded with images on the TV and from social media, telling us what we should look like during the summer seasons. So it was almost groundbreaking when newly appointed London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, made the decision to ban Protein World’s controversial advert on the London Underground.

Protein World's beach body ad on the London underground

I actually first saw the advert my LinkedIn feed  – and it received a huge reaction with some comments being incredibly aggressive.

My personal opinion is, although the model is undeniably beautiful, the picture is not appropriate for the tube. Her pose is open mouthed, provocative and it is a sexual stance.

I much prefer this response, courtesy of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, to the ad:

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As a mother of three daughters I worry about the impact of such advertising on them. My healthy nine year old has already asked me, “mummy am I fat”?

This breaks my heart.

Neither I or my girls are stick thin in proportions and after four children, my waist is thicker than it was in in my 20’s. So what I’m happy about is that thankfully there has been a movement of women who are now using this updated slogan:

“I am on a beach, I have a body: I am beach body ready.” 

But, imagine a world where we were all 100% happy with ourselves and how we look? The beauty industry would go bankrupt instantly. Cosmetic surgery and self help programmes would become obsolete. As a female in still a widely male dominated industry, we are constantly being told how to look and what we can and cannot wear.

Just this week, popular British, ITV lunchtime programme Loose Women, tweeted a survey conducted on 2,000 Brits, that found many people thought women should not wear a bikini on their holidays once they reach the age of 46. The Daily Mail published last year that women should ditch crop tops by the age of 34, and at 40 miniskirts and belly button piercings should be avoided. To add to this, leggings should hit the bin by 37 and stilettos are a no-go at 41 (•rolls eyes).

“Researchers found two thirds of women believe certain clothes should come with a ‘wear by’ age  – regardless of the condition of your body – with most trend-led items deemed unsuitable by the big 4-0.”

I strongly disagree with this and belonging to a particularly wonderful body positive group of artists, I know they do too.

To me, weight and body image seem another method for the media to control us. True liberation comes when we don’t care what people think about us.

debs
Deborah in all her glory

But I am only human, and to be honest I haven’t worn a bikini on the beach for several years as I have been embarrassed about my post c section tummy, stretch marks and widening girth.

However, I will wear a swimsuit happily though and posed recently  for a programme about tattoos with just my bikini bottoms on.

It did liberate me and I think as soon as we get a spell of beach weather I will certainly brave a two piece.

But why should I be a pioneer? It seems the fashion industry in particular uses stick thin models and that notion is here to say.

Which is why I am so glad that ‘plus size’ model Ashley Graham is promoting such a positive and natural body image. She celebrates her cellulite and flaunts her curves rather than hiding away.

The most important thing to remember is that we should really celebrate all women – no matter their size. We should not be hated for being any shape. For example, singer Pink has a super physique that she shows off at every opportunity.Born Alecia Moore, Pink is only six years younger than me and rather than feel angry that she looks so good: I absolutely love it.

Ashley-Graham-walks-the-runway-as-Addition-Elle-presents-FallHoliday-2015-RTW-and-Ashley-Graham-Lingerie-Collection
Ashley Graham

I think body positivity toward our fellow women is a great way of sharing feminism; showing solidarity for women as having the ability to create life and enjoy their form.

One of my all time heroes is American novelist Toni Morrison. I do not look at her photographs and think: she could do with losing a few pounds. If in a parallel life I had the pleasure of sitting next to her on a beach, I wouldn’t be looking at her physique anyway. I would be waiting to have some snippet of the World as she sees it.

In her own words: ‘The body is ready to have babies. Nature wants it done then, when the body can handle it, not after 40, when the income can handle it.’

 Such is that bitter dichotomy of age that when we are old enough not to care, our bodies have begun to show the passage of time.

My response to Toni is to celebrate all that is women.We have bodies, and I say, let’s not just hit the beach with them in any which way we can: let us rejoice in them. Life is a short transient thing and time spent worrying about how we look is time that is wasted.

Words: Deborah Hodge

Tweet @debshodge

 

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