I am a mother of three, two of my children are girls. One is an impressionable age of 14. I tell her often that she is beautiful. I want her to believe this and I want her to love her body.
My younger daughter is 23 months old she doesn’t yet know the pressures there are. The incredible, suffocating, all-consuming pressure from society that women should look a certain way.
My eldest is 15 he is a boy and luckily for him society (mostly) leaves him to get on with his life without worrying that he doesn’t conform. I realise that might sound flippant-I’m sure that there are men who feel inadequate about their bodies but what I’m addressing today is the degradation of women and the way in which we view ourselves based on a set of ‘rules’ of what is deemed to be perfect.
THAT advert-the one that has evoked so much protestation. Amassed thousands upon thousands of signatures petitioning it’s removal. This is the advert that has got me riled.
Because I can not have my girls growing up in a world where they think their bodies are not good enough. A world that perceives it normal to brag about having a ‘thigh gap’ a world where they are only beach body ready if they look a certain way.
Do not get me wrong, I have been a serial dieter I have worked out ferociously in the gym I've skipped meals or felt guilt after eating. I have felt fat even when I wasn’t because I’ve never seen daylight between my thighs when I’ve stood with my legs together.
The older I get the more secure I am and the more comfortable I feel in my own skin and with that comes a confidence. There also comes a responsibility, a need to teach my daughters to love their bodies.
I understand that we all have off days, times when we don’t feel our best and it is incredibly hard not to vocalise this. There is so much damage that can be done by uttering those three little words: 'I feel fat’ our children learn by our very example and so by demeaning ourselves in front of them, words that can fall on susceptible ears. Eager little ears that are so receptive to what we say. Words that we must be accountable for.
These days I don’t diet, I eat for health and I don’t count calories. I feed my family food that will sustain their bodies and keep them healthy. I also eat Macdonalds and have a bar of chocolate if I feel like it.
Do you know what? This body of mine, I’ve bloody well earned it.
I’ve earned every single stretch mark; my badges of honour for carrying three heavy babies for nine long months.
I’ve even earned my not-so-pert boobs; the very same boobs that have fed and nourished each one of my children.
It saddens me that we live in a society where women have a completely unrealistic expectation to live up to. That we place a burden upon ourselves to strive for someone else's idea of perfection. A ‘perfection' that is for most, unobtainable.
The key thing is-it is someone else’s ideal. Not yours. If there wasn't any imagery of what is so-called perfect, airbrushing, or magazines drawing red circles of shame around celebrities dimpled thighs. What would you really want to look like?
Would you just want to be comfortable and healthy? Because that’s what we should be striving for.
I know it is said there is no such thing as bad advertising but I have to ask myself what is the real cost of that advert. How many women did it make despair? How many eating disorders is that image and tagline responsible for? How many young impressionable teenagers did that reach?
I will never be that girl on the billboard.
It doesn’t matter. I am fit, I am healthy and I am happy and that is what I want my girls to see.
To all women reading this today, you are gorgeous and you are beautiful, just as you are and if you’re lucky enough to be on a beach somewhere...
You. Are. Ready!
Image credit to Zusterschap Collective