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
Bravo! I wish more women had the courage to stand up and say this is me - if you don't like it, don't look!
As you say, we all have days where we feel fat, or bloated, or just generally down and we don't need ad campaigns adding to that! I also agree this is especially damaging to young girls who maybe do still need a bit of media validation every now and again. And if they do, where better to look for it than a photo like the one of the Zusterchap girls!
Yes absolutely, I am so sick of it and it’s frightening for our young people to be subjected to. Go Zusterchap girls! x
Laura's Lovely Blog
Well said. I am so fed up with the body shamming women have to live with in modern society. The thigh gap nonsense really is just that - nonsense. As a mum of a baby girl I really hope that by the time she's older things have shifted into a more healthier direction.
I hope so Laura, I seriously hate the whole thigh gap thing. It is such a skewed perception. I hope things do change, we can live in hope x
Rachel @ tenminutesspare
Absolutely!! It's such a pity that health and appearance and often tied inappropriately together. Aiming for a sensible balence of food and exercise (with treats and time off) as you do is important. Worryingly about what society expects a 'beach body' to look like, is inappropriately perpetuated by these sort of images. Great post.
Thank you Rachel-it is such a shame that the media and companies who think they are doing a clever bit of advertising are still body shaming x
Exactly! Well put Amy x
Thanks huni xx
With two young daughters, I am very worried about the pressures they will come under. I am realistic to them and my wife and I are doing our best to raise them to be healthy. I desperately want to shield them from the "beach body" thing and over-sexualised advertising.
That said, I have to disagree with you regarding male body confidence. Magazines such as GQ, FHM etc all present manhood a certain way and anorexia, bulimia and so on are increasingly common problems for men.
During the last Government, I was fortunate enough to be invited into Whitehall and take part in policy discussions about male body image. Convention dictates that I can't reveal what was said during those discussions but it was a real eye-opener. It really is a serious and growing problem for guys.
With the election and reshuffles, I don't know if this work will continue. I hope it does (similar projects were also being carried out focusing on female body confidence).
Anyway, I've said enough! Keep healthy and good luck keeping your kids healthy. #BrilliantBlogPosts
You make such a valid point John and I know we’ve already discussed this today on Twitter but I didn’t mean to brush off the issues that men have. Although I’ve not experienced it with my son having to worry about it, I can see now that it can be just as huge an issue for a guy too. Thanks for reading and commenting I’m always so interested in what you have to say :)
Thank you for writing this! I'm with you on the fuming! (And I also agree with John, it's not just a women's issue anymore.)
I actually don't see the point of being 'beach ready' anyway. I go to a beach about three days a year - yes, days - as we don't always go to the beach on holiday we do other far more interesting things. When I am on a beach, I'll be too busy playing with my children rather than looking around at people standing there trying to get notice for the million hours they've spent in the gym and the million calories they have not eaten just to get to stand on that beach. The most beautiful bodies are natural ones - yes, it is more attractive to be toned and naturally slim, but it's also not natural that we are all like that. I realise it's aimed at people who do go on two-week beach holidays without children, those people who would take about ten swimsuits away with them, but I still hate this advert!
Thank you that’s such a fantastic comment. Totally agree about the 10 costumes thing too. I’m lucky if I’ve shaved my legs let alone got one matching costume. No it’s not natural at all, I have days where I feel s**t about myself but on the whole I love my body for what it’s capable of and not how it looks on the beach! x
Wise words lady, I 100% agree, I am raising my sons in the same way, to view my tummy and see it is beautiful, it housed them, that perfection doesn't exist and that health is all that matters. Such a ridiculous, outdated campaign x
Thanks huni, I think we share the same ethos on food from our chats. So important to educate our children in healthy ways for life xx
Charlotte @ Educating Elsa
I agree with all of this. Personally, I do not feel beach body ready and am working on a post sort of related to that at the moment. However as much as I am not happy with my body I also don't really care about that advert or what it is suggesting I need to look like. I don't feel beach ready because of how I feel about my body not because of what society says about it.
I think that it is important to teach our children to be happy with themselves but also to eat healthily, exercise and take care of ourselves too. I wouldn't allow my little one to hear me criticising my body but if I were stuffing myself full of junk then I wouldn't want her to think that that is a healthy way to be either. I think healthy is the important word really. As long as you are living a healthy lifestyle then size shouldn't come into it.
I won't be parading around in a bikini anytime soon but that's my choice. No one should let a stupid advert dictate what they do or don't wear. Ridiculous.
Rambling comment that makes no sense but I can't form sentences properly for some reason. You get my point...hopefully! Haha.
Great post xx
Yes totally Charlotte we must lead by example and that means demonstrating a healthy lifestyle you are so spot on,as always xx
Michelle Twin Mum
I love your attitude Amy. There is far too much pressure on all of us to look a certain way that the media dictates and it is super hard for our girls to navigate. Mich x
Thanks michelle, the pressure from the media has to stop! xx
You Baby Me Mummy
Fabulous post huni. I worry about these pressures everyday. I have dieted on and off for 20 years and it is not healthy. I fear my daughter will end up the same. Such awful pressures on women, in so many aspects. Beautifully written lovely xxxx
Thank you so much Aby-it is so hard not to reveal the insecurities we have to our children but you are setting a wonderful example to Baby. xxx
Love From Clueless Mum
I loved reading this! This time last year I spent hours searching for a swimsuit that would cover my stretch marks, but eventually realised that being pregnant meant my body would change and that was nothing to be ashamed of. I ended up in my old bikini on a spa break at 34 weeks pregnant. It felt great. Yes, my tummy isn't as toned now as it used to be, but like you I'd rather eat healthily without counting calories, exercise when I want to not when I feel I ought to, and stop putting myself down before my daughter is old enough to follow my example. X
Yes this exactly. We have to embrace and love the changes that pregnancy brings and should accept that our bodies are not necessarily going to be the same again but that is ok too xx
Hannah Budding Smiles
Absolutely my lovely! I absolutely hate that there's not a celebration simply of being the size and shape that you are meant to be naturally. I have friends who are smaller than me and friends who are larger. They are stunning, beautiful, wonderful women who I would be honoured to share space on a beach with!xx
here here Hannah. I for one would love to share a beach space and an ice cream with you! x
katy (what katy said
Yes! Yes yes yes!!! Fab post lovely! x
Thanks Katy-I really appreciate it xx
Well said Amy, I love your attitude! xx
Thank you lovely xx
Katie / Pouting In Heels
Beautifully said and as someone who has written many blog posts about body image and acceptance, obviously I could not agree more!
It beggars belief to be honest that as women we are still judged and dare I say - even judge ourselves - by how we look, or how we think we look in comparison to the models you see in magazines - that are teenagers, have been airbrushed within an inch of their lives and have had a whole team of people working on them.
But whether we like it or not, this is our reality and I'm a firm believer that the only way we can stop this tide, is to turn against it. To stop talking about diets and food and weight loss, to start appreciating our bodies for what they do for us and the pleasure they bring and to stop putting ridiculous pressures on ourselves to conform!
In a nutshell, yes adverts like this are ridiculous and offensive, but it starts with US. If we want change, we have to be the change. So proud of you for doing your best to make this happen! xxx
Oh absolutely Katie-I thought you might like this one. It is an unfortunate reality and you are completely right in that change starts with us. Thanks darling xxx
Franki ~ Little Luca & Me
Couldn't agree more with this post. I don't have a daughter but if I do I hope I manage to pass on what my mum passed on to me. My mum was never on a diet, if she was we never knew about it. I never ever heard her complain about her body once. I've seen her naked more times than I can count as she never tried to hide her body when we walked into the bathroom or her bedroom. Whether she knew that she was teaching me what a 'real' body looked like or not she did. I'm not always 100% happy with my body, who is, but I really don't hate it and I'm not ashamed of it. Yes I'd love to look like those girls in the adverts with their "perfect" bodies but it's not gonna happen. I like food and rum too much, I've had a baby and I'm not a slave to the gym. My body is real and I really don't care what others think of it. I will be forever grateful to my mum for this. X
Thanks Franki, so glad to hear that and how lovely you grew up so comfortable with nudity. I am like that too and my older daughter often comes and sits on the side of the bath and we chat away. Thanks for reading and commenting xx
Sarah Pylas (Grenglish)
Well said! This kind of advertising is so damaging for everyone. I have avoided wearing a bikini since my son was born, almost 6-years ago, but you are right, I have earned every stretch mark and every wobble and I should wear them with pride.
You go girl! xx
I find it pathetic people get upset over an advert! the whole point of the advert is for people who want to lose weight so they are not going to put a picture of a fat ass on the billboard are they!?? people need to stop being so sensitive, I mean their are big girls body shaming girls who are thin because they are insecure about themselves. I struggle to put on weight and have no curves and have always been picked on for it do you think I go around getting upset everytime I see girls in the magazines with big boobs and curves trying to say skinny girls are just bones and real men like curves... anyone who has to tell someone this obviously is just jealous.
I don't let that get to me so idk why all these women with cellulite and not so "beach body ready" bodies are getting so offended if you don't like it don't look just as I would skip the page 3 if I was ever to read that pile of s***. Women grow up -___-
Hello Anon, thanks so much for your comment. I’m really pleased you’ve found my blog although it’s a shame you find me/my article pathetic. For the record I think the model in the advert looks bloody fantastic, but it wasn’t really about how she looks-more the insinuation the tagline made. What I’m trying to express is my concern for my children being subjected to idealistic images of so-called perfection that come hand in hand with this form of advertising. I realise it must be difficult for you if you have been teased about your body and thanks for putting that into perspective for me. I do appreciate you taking the time to comment today. PS my cellulite isn’t that bad ;-) x
Don't take that arsey comment personally Amy, I think it's from the people who created the advert. Their rude responses to criticism of it have become as infamous as the advert itself. Lovely post as always and it seems that you were just articulating what everyone else was thinking.xx
As always you say exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. Thanks Nat. I actually quite like that someone was so moved they felt the need to vent here. At least it provoked a response-not the one that I was hoping for, but you can’t please everyone xx
Amen! Well said. I had a pretty unhealthy relationship with food throughout my 20's up until I fell pregnant with, and had my first. Like most new mothers I didn't have time to read / consume much media and this 'time out' from the media stereotypes was key to finding this freedom. I was able to define my body in my own terms - baggy bits and all. These subliminal messages can be so silently toxic. For men and women in their prime years. x
Couldn’t agree more we do need to learn to love and embrace our bodies and to teach our children the same x
A "thigh gap" sounds quite unhealthy! I read an interesting article the other day. Women should only be concerned about excess abdominal fat. That fat isn't just on your tummy its around your internal organs and you should concentrate on trying to get a healthy waistline. The fat on our thighs and bums is perfectly fine and is actually a sign of fertility! We store it there to feed our families in case of natural disaster!
Hoping to provide an alternative point of view respectfully, isn't the whole idea of advertising selling aspirational living? The minute an advertisement loses its aspirational appeal it loses purpose which is why you never see salt being advertised on TV.
Personally I think in this country we are developing a group of individuals who are desperately looking for things to be outraged about on a daily basis. Before the internet they would have been an unheard minority but in this day and age of the internet and newspapers being expected to fill column inches 24 hours a day, 20 people protests now qualify as outrage.
Complaints about this advert is like a man complaining that they have just seen a Range Rover advert on TV and they have associated success with owning one and you are outraged because majority of the population would never be in a position to own one hence, the advert implies that they are a failure in life. They are painting an unrealistic goal! Or another example is complaining that a Colgate advert is using models with white teeth and achieving such white teeth is impossible naturally.
Hey Nox, thanks for your comment and I welcome alternative points of view of course. It is tricky and my own sister disagrees with me vehemently on this very topic. However as a mum to teenagers-impressionable ones, this type of advertising worries me and I find it outdated. I can see that people must read this article and think I am a fat slob with a huge ass and I’m jealous (yes I have been accused of that on Twitter!) but it’s so much more than that. I am very comfortable with my body which is great, but it’s taken a while to get here. I’m not really one of those people who gets outraged about inconsequential things much as my husband will tell you I am going to be a grumpy old woman!
Anyway, I digress; much as I try and protect my teen from being bamboozled by this sort of thing, I can not. It isn’t the image that bothers me and more the tagline in that it implies there is only one way to look in order to be ‘beach body ready’ BUT I see your point and would have to agree that yes you are right, advertising is about aspirational living and eradicating that would make it difficult to make sales, absolutely! Thanks for reading and commenting x
You know what your comment has just made me realise that we are looking at this from a slightly different angle opinions/ point of views are based on personal experiences. I am in a position where i am young and don't have any kids so maybe i look at things from a position where such articles are just stories far removed from my world where as i think having daughters would perhaps sway my opinion more towards yours.
Having said that, I would argue that in terms of body confidence this advertisement has zero impact on your daughters body confidence as the model in the picture is not someone they relate to on a day to day basis so they just look at the image and take it at face value (or not even notice it).
Its pop stars and teen girl's magazines which young girls look up to and thus affect body image as they try to be like their role models. Its magazine publishers and newspaper editors you should be mad at because they are the one who praise z list celebrity for losing weight and lampoon her for gaining it back and the same time comment on how fat "Certain rich woman" omitting her tangible success in life!
By the way those people who think because you object to that image you are;
" I can see that people must read this article and think I am a fat slob with a huge ass and I’m jealous (yes I have been accused of that on Twitter!)"
Are probably the unthinking lot who call Russell Brand a Champagne socialist because he is campaigning for poor people to have better representation in UK society. So you telling me if you are rich you shouldn't care about the less fortunate, interesting! I am guessing all those White people who campaigned against apartheid are self hating?
#flawed logic at its very best
ha ha thanks I promise you my ass isn’t even that fat ;-) (totally agree on the Russell Brand thing!)
That is very astute, yes we are both seeing it through different eyes and getting a totally different perspective. It’s weird when you’re a mum you kind of set your feelings to one side and constantly thinking how things will affect your kids. I am by nature a real worrier though and fearful that one of my kids might develop an eating disorder (many of my teen daughter’s friends are a really unhealthy weight) It’s a tough call between obsessing and getting caught up in this stuff and not making it an issue.
Don’t even get me started on teen magazines etc!! I would take them on if I could...
Thanks so much for the intelligent conversation and your opinions and thoughts on this piece, it is really cool to hear from you and your point of view is totally valid and very much taken on board by me :)