Let's go to the beach...
...or not. Today's burst of sunshine reminded us all that summer is fast approaching, and with it the inevitable battle to secure the perfect bikini body. This recurring nightmare means that rather than looking forward to sunning it up on a golden beach for a couple of weeks, many women dread the thought of baring it all by the pool.
In a survey conducted by Nivea, forty five per cent of a group of 18-60 year old women said that they felt more nervous about stripping down to swimwear than they felt baring all to a new partner for the first time. Seventy nine percent said that they would use a sarong or similar garment to cover up their bodies on the beach, even if it meant comprising the tan.
There were numerous other stats, detailing exactly which areas produced most concern, and showing the differences between age groups. It was an interesting way to pass the time for five minutes in the sun, but as I read, I couldn't help but laugh at the hypocrisy of it all.
The article clearly intended to promote a feeling of solidarity in women, as they discovered (somewhat unsurprisingly) that the plight they face every summer is shared by fellow females. However, why is it that we have these feelings of insecurity in the first place? Could it possibly be the hundreds of images of celebrities frolicking in postcard-worthy settings in minuscule bikinis that are splayed across tabloids and magazines every day? Just a thought.
The story itself featured on the daily mail website, a guilty pleasure of mine. It's undeniably a great source of celebrity gossip, and it's the perfect way to while away twenty minutes on a lunch break without exerting any brain power. Regular readers will know that the online page feature thumbnails and snippets of stories running down the right-hand column. Alongside this particular article, I counted FIVE bikini-clad celeb pictures, and that's just in the space directly alongside the story, I scrolled down to discover even more. And, big shock, there wasn't an ounce of cellulite in sight.
When women are pictured who do have a more conventional figure, it's usually to ridicule them for a wobbly thigh, or a hint of orange peel. This isn't news, the public have been aware of this tainted portrayal of women in the media for a few years now. And yet, we still buy into it. We still ogle over pictures of perfectly figured singers and actresses and wonder why we don't look like them. Could it be that we don't have personal chefs and trainers, and that our nine-to-five jobs get in the way of spending four hours a day at the gym?
These statistics shouldn't be shocking, they're just another example of how damaging the media has become to our self esteem. Comparing ourselves to these aspirational celebrity figures is torture, it's something that very few 'real' women will ever achieve. Even with a healthy diet and regular exercise, we don't have the luxury of a personal photoshopper in daily life, airbrushing away our imperfections as we preen by the pool.
I don't take particular pleasure in stripping off in front of strangers, if I did I'd be supplementing my wage in a strip club (journalists earn a pittance). But I'm not going to let my petty concerns stop me from enjoying my holiday. We only live once, why spend it all in the shade wrapped in a sarong hiding behind oversized sunglasses? These days, if you do have body hangups, there's a bikini or bathing costume to help alleviate them anyway. Besides, everyone's knows a tan is slimming, and you're not going to get one of those unless you bare some skin!