‘Tis the season to be body conscious. The sun is shining, hemlines are rising, and the beauty industry is champing at the bit, waiting to sink its teeth into womens’ insecurities.
First off, there’s the brazen, shouty advice peddled by the likes of Cosmo and Glamour. Going on holiday this year? Better make sure you have a beach body, you inexcusably gelatinous heifer. I’ve always been slightly baffled by this concept; what on earth is a beach body? Call me naïve, but surely the simplest way to attain one is as follows:
1. Be in possession of a body.
2. Plonk it down on a beach.
There, beach body sorted. It really is that simple. No need to slather yourself in fake tan, drink organic pondwater smoothies, or deprive yourself of pasta. But then, the glossies’ particular brand of body propaganda is easy to identify, and easy to avoid.
What I find infinitely more distasteful is the commercialisation of Natural Beauty,TM as demonstrated by Dove’s latest marketing campaign. According to a survey conducted by Unilever, that champion of positive body image, only 4% of women consider themselves beautiful. Cue sharp intakes of breath- those poor, blinkered, self-hating little dears! Thank goodness there’s a trite TV advert to show us how twisted and repressed we are. Ladies, Dove wants you to love your bodies, embrace your curves, and celebrate your inner loveliness- as long as you remain just insecure enough to shell out for its products.
Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty was intended as an antidote to the Cosmo school of thought- but the image of “curvy” (read: not anorexic) “real women” (read: still adhering to society’s definition of conventional beauty) grinning smugly at the camera is just as sickeningly patronising and prescriptive. Back in the day, women were reprimanded for not being beautiful enough. Now, we’re getting a thorough ticking off for not loving ourselves enough.
But perhaps, just perhaps, 96% of women have better things to worry about than beauty. They might be revising for Finals, angling for a promotion, or training for a marathon. If a woman glances at the mirror and thinks “that’ll do” instead of being reduced to tears of ecstasy, fine. She doesn’t loathe herself, she doesn’t need liberating, and she certainly doesn’t need a multi-national corporation to take the rather unexciting concept of being comfortable in one’s own skin, fetishise it, and sell it back to her via a hackneyed advertising campaign.