Tuesday, 28 October 2014

"Just you stood there only in your underwear"

My finger hovered over the Publish button. To press or not to press? I went back and deleted the photo. Then added it again. Finally, I published the post and shut my laptop quickly, before I could change my mind.

So if I was so unsure about it, why did I post a picture of myself in my underwear?

There were clearly risks involved in publishing the photograph. I work in an industry where a career can be destroyed quite easily by incautious actions (not for nothing are both my face and my tattoo out of shot in the image). I could have got away with just using the product photos I'd taken, perhaps combining them with the stock photo from Bravissimo's website. But as uneasy as I felt about using the photograph of myself, I felt more uneasy about not using it.

The biggest and most important step in my journey to becoming body positive was seeing bloggers who reflected my own body shape and size. The first fatshion bloggers I happened across, LilliBethanyKirsty and Claire, were women who experimented with fashion in different ways but never apologised for their size or talked about weight loss. I found - I still do find - that seeing images of women of all sizes is the single most essential element in feeling confident about how I look.

That's why posting outfit photos was an important step to take for me. If I can inspire just one woman to feel a little bit better about herself, then it's worth it. And that's also why I thought it important that I used an honest (albeit slightly blurred-out) image of myself in the underwear. I still remember the visceral thrill of seeing Bethany post a photograph of herself in underwear; how wonderful and rare and special it felt to see a real*, un-photoshopped, flawed body in all its glory. Or the moment I first saw Lena Dunham strip off on Girls and wanted to cheer out loud, or perhaps weep, so impossible did that simple action seem.

I talk a good game about being body positive and confident but actions speak louder than words. And the truth is, although I am pretty body confident, I am far more so in clothes than out of them. I actually think my body looks pretty great when dressed and I find it easy to be positive about it. Undressed... not so much. Suddenly there's no hiding the fat stomach or the flabby, pasty thighs. Sad, really, that even someone who's a pretty far way down the road of body acceptance still has so much internalised fatphobia.

But the truth is, my pasty thighs and less-than-toned tummy are simply a reflection of what some women look like. We just don't see that truth very often. A lack of diverse bodies in both traditional media and online media perpetuates the idea that there's only one way women should look. It's what can make seeing ourselves in the mirror so dispiriting: our real bodies, whether slim, muscled, fat, or a combination of all of the above, can never measure up to the idealised, heavily photoshopped bodies we see beaming from our screens and magazine pages every day.

If I want to be one of the voices demanding to see more diverse bodies, then it wouldn't be honest to censor my own body. I want to hold myself to the very highest standards. I want to, and excuse the cheese, be the change I want to see in the world. And so that's why I posted a photograph of myself in my pants.

* Please note than when I write about 'real' bodies, I am emphatically not supporting that 'real women have curves' bullshit, which is divisive and damaging. As I commented on Suzy's recent (brilliant) piece about the song All About That Bass, any liberation that relies on the oppression of others is not true liberation. Rather I simply mean bodies which have not been subject to heavy photoshopping.

19 comments:

  1. Good on yer girl! We need more women like you, shouting that we all come in different shapes and sizes and have nothing to be ashamed of.

    The media wants us to be either 13year old waifs or hour glass "curvy" types. We all have a shape and curves, just not many of us have them "in the right places".

    My curves are all in the wrong places! But you know what, I don't care! Im healthy and thats what matters. For years I would not go swimming because I was worried about what I look like etc. Now I just don't care, I even went the other day with unshaven legs (which I would never have dreamt of doing age 21!) and I couldn't give a monkeys!

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    1. Haha, I love 'curves in all the wrong places'! Some of mine are just about in the right place but most aren't and yeah, I really couldn't give a stuff. The gym I go to is the university one, and I quite enjoy horrifying all the 18 year olds with my hairy legs and flabby arms: this is what your 30s look like girls!

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    2. Haha, we let it all hang out! We are older and wiser and we don't care!

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  2. I love this - it's so true. We are all different, and this needs to be celebrated as well as made visible. So well done you for doing this!

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  3. Brilliant post. So glad you posted the photo, as the two above have said, we need more women like you! I'm good at not judging other women's bodies but I'm bad for judging and criticizing my own, which is just as bad, so its great to see someone with the confidence to overcome this in such a spectacular way x

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    1. Thank you for that, I wouldn't have said I was confident at all but I suppose I must have some deep down inside!

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  4. YES! I agree with the above comments. We really do need to celebrate the differences in shape and size. Happy and healthy are the most important things. Bizarrely the thing that made me increasingly body confident was going through a phase of exercising more - not sure whether knowing I was fit, strong and healthy contributed, or to be honest, if it was the communal changing rooms that forced me to get over my fears.

    It makes me sad that young people growing up don't get to see more variety of bodies. Blokes as well as girls. Bodies are amazing things really.

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    1. Yep, the big change for me was when I started doing more exercise like hiking and cycling. I felt that if my legs were getting me up mountains, that was pretty spectacular and they deserved to not be hated!

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  5. Ace post. You're awesome. I couldn't agree with you more. Each and every body is amazing. If I ever find myself feeling meh about my body I just think of all the things it does for me everyday. I know what you mean about outfit posts - this year I've felt more confident about appearing in the dresses I've made. I'm not quite at the sans clothes stage but maybe that's because I just need some new underwear to feel fabulous in :) your bravissimo post was very insightful btw.

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  6. Good on you! Nothing really to add to what people have said above - just that I think it takes courage for *anyone* to post photos like that, regardless of their size, because our society is so prone to judgement; it's great to see people standing against that.

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    1. I have to admit, as comments came in on the original post I was reading them through my fingers, dreading any negative stuff. But nothing! My readers are clearly a nicer bunch than that.

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  7. Woah, that's something I could never do, but good for you if it was a step towards positive body image! By the way I've seen the photo and your tummy might not have a six pack, but it's proportioned and looks awesome. Can you tell what my lowest point is? haha

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  8. Also, I read the title in Jarvis Cocker voice. Sexy.

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    1. YES! I'm so happy someone picked up on the reference :)

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  9. Well said! And thanks to the reference to the fact that it us not just all about curves, I have very little chest!

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  10. I think it's absolutely kickass that you posted that photograph and I'm so proud of you. Just to let you know that I DO think you are inspiring and your outfit posts (and the underwear) post definitely help me to feel better about how I look. I still have a LONG way to go in accepting my ridiculous boobs, chunky thighs and wobbly middle but I really hope I'll get there someday. Seeing people like you (and YES HANNAH FROM GIRLS oh my god) definitely helps!! <3

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    1. Yay! Thanks, that's really good to hear :)

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