Being a woman isn’t easy in 2016. Alice - complete with contour palette and waist-training corset - is firmly through the looking-glass. These days, a casual look is one involving only four shades of eyeshadow and “no-makeup selfies” are edited with the ruthlessness of quality control at a Barbie factory. As terrifying as many aspects of this seemingly limitless quest for physical perfection are, I’m increasingly more concerned about the impact on the inside of our heads, than the contents of our bank accounts.
It’s no surprise that young women’s self-image is so low on our list of priorities. Society reflects this apparent lack of importance, treating the issues of body hatred and insecurity as the frivolous concerns of image-obsessed airheads. Until we take seriously the impossible demands placed on their bodies and minds, young women will continue to suffer.
With this in mind, Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke’s appearance in the Lonely Girls project of unretouched lingerie photography couldn’t have come sooner. Whether you love or loathe her, Dunham’s Girls is perhaps the most realistic portrayal of 21st femininity, replete with all its contradictions. It’s a joy to see the writer-director, alongside co-star Kirke, bringing her refreshingly un-Photoshopped appeal into Lonely Girl’s honest and beautiful campaign. Perched on the edge of a bath, or applying each other’s lipstick, they display the uncritical, sisterly intimacy that brought Girls so close to our hearts.
The power of these photographs is that Dunham and Kirke aren’t asking anything of the viewer. They aren’t forcing their audience to compare their own bodies to sleek, glowing limbs and the impossible magic of a blur tool and a skilful picture editor. They’re not offering a solution to a perceived physical problem. Boobs too small? Too big? Too lumpy? Lopsided? Shell out £40 to be transformed into a lithe fem-bot clone of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. In fact, they aren’t even asking you to find them attractive. They are simply being themselves, and when you or I sit in our bra and knickers on the loo cutting our toenails, we look very much the same.
Scrolling through the Lonely Girls website, it’s clear that the range of photos on show represent the New Zealand-based brand’s commitment to body diversity, in all its forms. There are women of different ages, shapes, weights and colours. Motherhood and pregnant bellies are featured alongside women with tattoos, stretch marks, mastectomies and body hair. The company are daring to dip a toe into the waters of body-positive and inclusive advertising. While no single campaign can possibly repair the self-esteem crisis afflicting young women, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
So, the next time you’re looking in the mirror, sucking in your stomach and anxiously preening your body hair, take a minute and remind yourself that your value doesn’t depend on your stomach rolls or lack of them, your value comes from being unashamedly you.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies