It’s that time of year, again.
Summer has well and truly been thrust upon the people of Britain in uncharacteristically vicious style. As a consequence, there isn’t much happening in the news because no one can be arsed to do anything. The headlines can be summarised in a series of increasingly panicked ‘wouldn’t it be awful if…..’ Daily Express-style stories with every newspaper, television and radio station declaring “it’s too hot to function! We’re all pulling sickies and laying around complaining about the heat. In the meantime our unprepared infrastructure has broken. The roads are melting and WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!”.
Reporters are too caught up in a haze of lethargy to do anything more strenuous than to point a video camera lazily at a brown door all day, hoping that at some stage the Duchess of Cambridge will emerge with a Royal sproglet. In the meantime, we’re in the grips of a news climate that allows for a lot of body-image related headlines. Seen (wrongly in my opinion) by many as the sort of fluffy fodder that can fill a few minutes of airtime whilst because not much is happening in life.
As a body image pundit, summer is my busiest time of year. It’s also the season in which I always think “if I hear ONE more so called style expert getting all vitriolic on the subject of British high summer fashion I will eat my own head”.
It happens every year. Someone who claims to be an authority in the fields of style and etiquette (read: the sort of person who baulks at the thought of anything containing lycra, tights as opposed to stockings and is likely to be opposed to women wearing trousers) takes to the public spectrum, banging on endlessly about how the sight of so much un-toned naked British flesh makes them want to pass-out with indignation. They will also usually cite French and Italian people who, they will claim in a magnificent feat of generalisation “know how to dress for the weather” and ask why oh WHY we cannot be more like them?
I’ll tell you why. It’s because we aren’t French and we aren’t Italian. We are British and we have a couple of weeks of sunshine per annum if we are extremely lucky. Gripped by a fear that tomorrow we’ll wake up to discover the sky is typically overcast and our omnipresent rain will have returned to haunt us, we immediately shed our clothes and head to a public place to bask in the light of that rarely seen yellow thing in the sky. It’s the only time we allow the façade of our usually fairly austere national attitude to slip, where we don’t really care about much at all other than where the nearest barbeque or pub garden might be situated and say a collective ‘woo hoo!”.
An array of human flesh is on show at this time of year – one of the few times we get to see how diverse the human body really is. Usually, the only people we see naked are at least partially made of plastic. In a world where a lot of teenage boys are blithely unaware of what a real human un-tampered-with breast looks like I can only perceive this as an excellent thing.
To suggest that one’s belly, body hair or tattoo is ‘distasteful’ and should therefore be covered in the name of etiquette is the very worst sort of body fascism. If your children are traumatised by the sight of a fat person in a bikini, a bit of cellulite or a caesarean scar, then may I tentatively suggest that you aren’t raising them correctly. If seeing someone hairy wearing something skimpy renders you ‘unable to eat your lunch’ then I’m afraid my diagnosis is the problem is with your brain, not their body. We are all naked underneath our clothes. We all have a body and few of them are anatomically ‘perfect’. Grow up.
We’re already being bullied into apologising for ourselves on a daily basis by corporations with multi million pound budgets at their disposal specifically allocated to the task of convincing us there’s something wrong with us and we therefore need to buy their shit. Do we really need to additionally bully each other by drawing attention to socially constructed notions of body ‘flaws’ at one of the few times of the year we feel confident enough to say ‘sod it’ and shed our clothes?
In the words of a woman I overheard looking magnificent in a strapless dress and sunhat having a cup of tea outside a café this week:
“I’m fifty years old, I’ve had three children, I will NOT be made to cover up my bingo wings. I deserve more respect than that”.
If you happen to be reading this - you go, lady.