By Olivia Murphy
It’s summertime again. That’s code for ‘buff beach bod’ time. A time where muffin tops are a sweet, sugary no-no, and barely-there bikini’s become the necessary garment for your ‘designer vagina’; a place that must be transformed from ‘muff madness’ into ‘pornstar pussy perfection’. Should I St. Tropez or Fake Bake to banish my plain, pasty paleness (God forbid an English Rose should de-robe au naturale on the beach amidst bronzed Brazilian babes)? In fact, should my regular wicked waxing sessions bypass the Brazilian and go head on for Hollywood? Perhaps if I deny every natural bodily process and biological function I might achieve the unachievable? Is that what it takes to be perfect? Will I be happy?
My mind filters these thoughts instinctively as I prepare for my holiday to Brazil. The line between ‘banging babe’ and ‘beauty blooper’ is unfeasibly thin, and my fate lies in the lap of the media-gods. Rule one: colour your skin a dark shade of fake tan, but tangoed hands, mud-like build up and streaky bacon legs are a school girl error. Rule two: the more expensive, exclusive designer sunglasses the better (in fact, the more ‘bug-eyed’ the better; covering up your face is probably a blessing to the public), but remember ‘panda eyes from sunbathing’ is a serious epic fail. Rule three: never over-pluck your eyebrows, but if you infringe on the ‘Scouse-brow’, ‘tatoo-brow’ and ‘monobrow’, then forget leaving the house altogether. How can one keep up with such inconsistent trends? What is permitted and what is forbidden? Brazilian booty? Ha, my skinny ass couldn’t do enough squats in a lifetime to achieve the perfect ‘belfie’. The closest I’m ever going to get to J-Lo is Livvy from the block.
So why is the anxiety of bikini body perfection so infectious; a vicious cycle of relentless bitching, glorifying, then more bitching? Do we hate or hanker for the unhealthy size-zero fad? Why do we fervently invest in the trashy body-obsession produced by the media? Are we not educated; knowing full well that adverts are airbrushed, models malnourished, and ‘cutting-edge’ cosmetics are a con? You know as well as I do that these facts are true, yet we persist to invest in such a culture despite our opinions and awareness. If I take up Pilates, will I really get ‘Brazilian legs’ like Gisele Bundchen? If I take up boxing will I get ‘Brazilian arms’ like Adriana Lima? If I do a yoga class twice a day will I achieve the ‘Brazilian composure’ of Raquel Zimmerman? If I refuse to consume anything but stewed spinach and kale smoothies will I achieve glossy, ‘Brazilian locks’ like Ana Carolina Reston?
We praise curvier figures for being ‘real’ women role models, yet this is just a front to disguise our true desire to be perfect; our need to be anything but ‘real’. We attack ourselves physically, verbally, psychologically and emotionally. Chicken wings, thunder thighs, sausage fingers – the cruel glossary of image-obsessive terms is endless. Stomachs and breasts that have carried and nourished babies are rewarded with ‘repulsive’ stretch marks and saggy skin. Cover up that skin damaged décolletage! Cover up that flat, deflated chest and bum! Cover up that crepey knee skin! Are you really entertaining legs of cellulite? Is your vagina too loose? Such terminology is so extreme I find it comical, but the fact it is so dehumanising makes the matter anything but funny.
Imagine that the beauty and body ideologies are goalposts. I fear the rate at which these goalposts constantly change; getting narrower and narrower at a faster rate than our shrinking waistlines. If we don’t stay firm, what will become of reality? My culture encourages lighter-skinned girls to tan their skin and darker-skinned women to lighten their skin. Why does our image-obsessed world wish us to deny our true selves? I fear living in a world where expectations are so skewed and perverse that body hair on women is considered monstrous and eyelashes, nails, breasts, hair, bottoms and lips are either fake, implanted or lifted to deny the laws of physics, biology and chemistry. Shopping, dressing up and make-up should be fun, shouldn’t it? Fact of the matter is, what used to be a source of enjoyment and self-confidence is quickly becoming the stimulus of intense female angst and insecurity. Is it really realistic to live your life caked in expensive tanning agents and cosmetics, tottering on skyscraper stripper-stilettos with that itsy-bitzy Agent Provocateur thong that is so far up your bum god forbid you should take a trip to the restroom (it’s ok though, girls don’t poo right?)? What happened to the time when clothes reflected our personalities, identities and unique body shapes? Are we trying to convey our characters and individuality? Are we trying to celebrate or exploit our womanly assets? Or are we simply trying to conceal our imperfections and conform to an unrealistic ideal?
Come on girls. You know we have more important things to worry about. You know we can make a serious contribution to science, politics and the arts. This will never transpire if we continue to use our time and money consuming, investing and propelling our image-crazy world. I know that we are serious about our lives and our careers. I know we are.
As my suitcase lays open and I debate whether I include my F+F Sundress or my Kaftan from Accessorise, I know that neither will transform me into Victoria’s Secret model, Alessandra Ambrosia. My nail colour will not be a bright yellow to reflect my ‘inner Brazilian radiance’, nor will I invest in a red lipstick to boost my chances of seducing Mr. Brazilian-Fifa-World-Cup-knob cheese -Charming. My image is an expression of my personal taste, and no one else’s. I love a floral dress. I love my Mac eye shadows. I curl my hair. My new, fluorescent court heels are so gorgeous they stop traffic (quite literally). And why should I deny myself? They make me feel great. Feminism is not the rejection of femininity, but having the strength to express the real, unique you. Perfection is undefinable and beauty is subjective therefore there is certainly no such thing as the ‘perfect body’ or the ‘perfect female face’. I don’t believe that anyone has ‘problem areas’, ‘fat armpits’ or ‘mosquito-bite nipples’ – these terms are cruel inventions. For heaven’s sake, have your cake and eat it! Fight back against covering and concealing your true self; for I fear we are at risk of disappearing altogether.
In a nutshell, I beg you to listen to your own voice, your own soul, your own heart. No one has the right to dictate what you should or shouldn’t do, or how you should or shouldn’t look. Confidence is strength, strength is empowerment, and empowerment is peace. You can succeed in anything if you put your mind to it; the real challenge is to permit yourself to reach those goals. We must stop the bitching, the loathing, the envy and the competition. We must listen to our sisters and be supportive, not fault-finding. If Kate Moss gained a few stone, would we praise her for rejecting her previous mantra: ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny’? Or, would we invest in headlines such as ‘Miserable Moss Mirrors a Mountain’? More importantly, why do we care? Someone else should not make us feel threatened or inadequate. We must stop manifesting in our own insecurities and criticising other women for their supposed ‘flaws’. What does criticism achieve? Does this really make you feel better about yourself long-term?
Of course it is not simple, but I have faith in our generation. Only we can choose to change the way we think and talk about ourselves and others. Only we have the power to regain control over those ever-adjusting goalposts. So what are you waiting for? It is time to find something more fulfilling and worthwhile – and for god’s sake more exciting – than achieving the ‘perfect’ bikini bod. I’m coming for you, Rio de Janeiro, skinny ass and all.