This summer has been one to remember. There was that scorcher of a week and the day Boris walked into Number 10. Then last week’s events in Whaley Bridge reminded us that climate change isn’t something for scientists to discuss at conferences or a problem for a future generation. It’s happening now, on our doorstep.
It’s been a season of doomy headlines and fears about the future. But in the background, something good has been going on.
It started in May, with a rumble of drums introducing Wiley and Sean Paul’s song Boasty, a ridiculous, guilty pleasure of a tune announcing the arrival of women dancing onto our TV screens. I was hooked as soon as I saw it – it was the soundtrack primetime TV advert featuring women with hips and lines and pregnancy bumps, women who look like the ones we live and work with, dancing and smiling and looking happy in their own skin.
What was this wizardry? What genius had finally realised that to make women feel better about themselves you don’t bombard them with diet plans and ways they can improve their appearance – you just let them be?
Just 30 seconds later it was over, followed by one simple message from the Sainsbury’s clothing brand Tu: “Don’t let body hang-ups hold you back, because every body is beautiful.”
I could have cried. What a treat to see a brand using street-cast, unfiltered, normal women to sell clothes. It felt like a revelation, like close-ups of size zero models gazing seductively into the camera simply wouldn’t cut it anymore. Of course we want to see women of all shapes and sizes being told they’re good enough as they are. Why wouldn’t we want to see that?
A month after Sainsbury’s shone a light on the importance of body confidence, pop star Lizzo took to Glastonbury’s West Holt stage clad in a purple sequin bodysuit that screamed “down with the patriarchy”. Flute in hand, Lizzo delivered a set that preached the importance of self-acceptance while encouraging the crowd to stare at themselves in the mirror and tell themselves they are beautiful.
If only the 16-year-old me could have seen Lizzo in all her shiny, colourful, half-naked glory. All those calories that would have gone uncounted, all the diet pills and weight loss shakes that would have been left gathering dust on supermarket shelves. All the clothes I might have worn, all the brightly coloured lipsticks I might have been brave enough to wear.
To top off this summer’s self-love fest, Meghan Markle guest edited September’s joyous edition of Vogue, with a cover celebrating women who are making positive changes in areas such as sport, women’s rights, climate activism and mental health campaigning. The magazine features an excerpt of Matt Haig’s Notes from a Nervous Planet, where Haig writes from the perspective of a beach. The overriding message is that after being around for millions of years, beaches don’t care what people look like. An empowering thought.
After decades of brands and the media systematically breaking down women’s self-worth and encouraging women to shrink themselves, 2019 is the year we’re finally starting to see a change, where women are being shown that you can and should be happy if you’re not thin. If there’s one good thing to take from this summer, it’s that the body positivity movement is leaking into the mainstream, and I am so here for it.
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