Is it possible to view any page on the internet without being attracted to – or distracted by – the ‘sidebar of shame’?
You know, that column down the right hand side or at the bottom of the article you’re reading with startling headlines like: “The celebrities who ruined their faces with cosmetic surgery” or “70 year old grandma looks 40!”.
Sensationalist headlines with little or no substance at the end of them, playing on society’s obsession with body image. I’ll be brutally honest here and say that I have been distracted several times by those sorts of attention grabbing statements only to be frustratingly disappointed by the vacuous twaddle at the end of it.
So I’ve loved the fight back campaign recently, started by women (I presume) travelling on the London underground who responded to a poster for Protein World, a weight loss product. It’s an advert featuring a picture of a skinny Minnie in a bikini with the question “Are you beach body ready?”
Thus began a campaign of sabotaging the posters, amending the wording to read “Each Body’s Ready”. People began sticking post-it notes on with positive messages: “You’re amazing just the way you are” and “Already Perfect”.
A wider campaign began rolling out – “Beach Body Shutdown”, by a social action group called “Do Something” calling on the public to “hijack ads that sap people’s body confidence.”
The website says 66 per cent of young women feel media portrayals of women make them want to diet. Over half say pressure to look a certain way is a major cause of stress. And it says posting positive messages can improve people’s self-esteem.
Well, I’m all for that. Confidence and self-esteem are important qualities for women, young or old, as we try to make it through the world today and we don’t get that by being made to feel inadequate or in some way imperfect because we are slightly shorter, older or curvier than the woman on the poster.
Does Kylie Minogue step into the shadows because she’s not the model height of 5 feet 8 inches or more?
Do Kirstie Allsopp or Nigella Lawson hide their voluptuous curviness under a kaftan? (We’ll quickly gloss over Nigella’s beach Burkini episode)
Time to reclaim our body confidence, women.
Our bodies change with age – that’s a fact. Next time you look in the mirror and see stretch marks, cellulite, laughter lines and crow’s feet – not to mention boobs that have nursed babies – see them as signs of strength, not as imperfections or weaknesses. They are visible reminders of all we go through as women, all that makes us who and what we are. Let’s celebrate the bodies we have rather than coveting some sort of fantasy airbrushed perfection that society says we should aspire to.
So, I went to sign up to the “Do Something” website, inspired to be a part of that social change they’re calling for. When prompted, I put in my date of birth. Turns out, it’s a programme run by something called “Vinspired” – a youth volunteering charity. The message popped up: “Vinspired is only for 14 to 25 year olds. You’re too old for us now”. The irony of it.