I vividly remember going on holiday when I was about fifteen, and being absolutely, utterly terrified at the prospect of going to the beach. I was terrified for a number of reasons: my skin was too blotchy and pale, my stomach was too big, my legs looked awful and the bikini made me look short. Getting into a bikini filled me with dread, so much so that when I did eventually go to the beach I wrapped myself up in a massive coat over my swimsuit and read all day so that nobody could see my awful, disgusting body. In my head I was most definitely not ‘beach body ready’.
Our society tells us that we should be a number of things in order to be a ‘woman’. Our bodies should be toned and tanned, our skin clear and glowing, our makeup done perfectly, but not overdone. We should be successful at work, have a steady boyfriend and a loving relationship with our family.
The pressure to have one, if not all of these attributes, is immense and many women, myself included, feel like an utter failure if we don’t quite reach such a level of feminine perfection.
Recently, Protein World, a protein powder & weight loss company, faced a backlash over their advert on the London Underground that featured a skinny, conventionally attractive model in a bikini with the tagline: ‘Are you beach body ready?’. This advert made my stomach squirm, and fifteen year old me with all of those worries and insecurities came rising to the surface.
But the response to this advert has been amazing and awe-inspiring. A group of kick-ass feminist campaigners started a Change.org petition demanding that the advert be taken down and more than 50,000 people have signed it. I cannot tell you how much it makes my heart sing that so many people see how destructive this kind of advertising is to a person’s self esteem. Girls and women are already under so much pressure to have the ‘perfect’ body and this advert exemplifies that.
Whilst the response from Protein World’s chief executive, Arjun Seth, has been less than positive, the fact that girls and women are openly celebrating their amazing bodies on twitter using the hashtag #EverybodysReady is beautiful. If fifteen year old me had seen this response I would have started feeling a lot more comfortable in my body a hell of a lot sooner.
What I’ve learned from the Protein World debacle is this: there are always going to be companies or individuals that bully our self esteem and say that only a certain type of people have the right body to be ‘beach body ready’. However, the brave women that set up the Change.org petition have taught me something too: we ladies don’t and aren't going to stand for that kind of body shaming anymore. I am beach body ready always, because if I am on a beach with my body, I am beach body ready.