It is the time of year when, despite all the rain and cold, magazine racks start to fill with covers offering tips to get the perfect ‘bikini body’. It seems that for the whole of summer, women are supposed to become obsessed with getting their body ‘beach ready’ – regardless of whether or not they will actually be going to a beach, and if they do whether it’ll be warm enough to remove their anorak never mind anything else. A few weeks ago Eva Wiseman wrote a very powerful article in the Guardian entitled ‘Uncomfortable in our skin: the body-image report’. The article was subheaded ‘More of us than ever hate the way that we look. It’s making us anxious, unhealthy and disempowered.’
This is really sad. All of it. It doesn’t take a genius to make a link between the pressures on women’s appearance and the way they feel about how they looks. I am aware that there are also pressures on men – but realistically they don’t come close. If you’re a woman and you haven’t yet started ‘preparing’ your body for the sun then you’d better get going – apparently getting one’s body ‘bikini-ready’ involves the following:
Extreme dieting, cutting out carbohydrates, doing lots of sit-ups and squats, exfoliating twice a day, removing all body hair, clenching your buttocks 50 times a day, body brushing to reduce cellulite, cutting out alcohol, coffee and sugar to reduce cellulite, getting a spray tan to cover up cellulite, scrutinising your body for every sign of blemish or imperfection, dyeing your eyelashes, eating almonds to make your stomach flatter, not eating fruit (too sugary), only eating fruit (low calorie), drinking more water, drinking more water, drinking more water, plucking your eyebrows, waxing your eyebrows, dyeing your eyebrows, having your thread veins zapped with a lazer, never sitting still for more than five minutes, having your hair cut and highlighted, having a pre-holiday facial, manicure, pedicure, moisturising your whole body three times a day, buying a white bikini/black bikini/leopard print bikini/low-rise/high-rise/high-waisted/push-up bikini for 1 squillion pounds because after all of this you’re still not looking quite good enough and need all the help you can get from three triangles of fabric and some bits of string.
This pressure to conform to society’s ‘beauty ideal’ comes from everywhere - it comes from the media, it comes from friends, it comes from boyfriends, girlfriends, sisters, parents, the tv, films, magazines, society as a whole. Often it’s subconscious and often even if we’re fully aware of it we’re unable to break away from it. But every act of rebellion against the beauty ‘ideal’ chips away at it a little bit. And all these tiny rebellions add up to women and girls starting to question why on earth they would spend all this time fannying around with their fanny hair when they could be swimming in a lake or eating ice cream or drinking G&Ts. So I’m proposing that this summer you reject the primping and preening, the plucking and waxing, the tanning and starving, but most of all reject body hatred and have some fun times in the sunshine
Lots of love, Agnes Pavlova xxx