What is the real message for women and bodies?

Written by dscott

I remember watching the show ‘How to Look Good Naked’ with my family from a very young age, and I remember growing up being told that being confident and proud to show your body was a f

I remember watching the show ‘How to Look Good Naked’ with my family from a very young age, and I remember growing up being told that being confident and proud to show your body was a fantastic and special thing.

Watching women catwalk in underwear through the Trafford centre and having huge scale images of their panty clad bodies projected onto buildings taught me, as a child, that this was the process utilised to fix women’s self-esteem when it was not strong enough to see them be proud of their bodies. That women who covered up needed help; they needed the confidence boost to be willing to show off their womanliness.

Every week there was a heart-warming conclusion to the show, with tears and a small speech pertaining to the revitalisation of life that these women had had and how they hope to be better role-models to their children, exuding body-confidence and self-esteem.

Is this wrong? It doesn’t seem wrong. In fact, it seems entirely correct that we are told to be proud of what we’ve got and the way we look, proud enough that we don’t fear attention for it, and proud enough that we do not cover ourselves up in a shroud of cloth and timidity.

If this is not wrong, then why are we also told to disapprove of female celebrities who do the same? Is it not good to teach young people to be proud of their bodies whatever they look like? Miley-mania involves a lot of young people, or rather anyone with at least one sensory organ being subjected to her scantily clad body prancing (note; she is categorically not twerking) around various stages.

Is it right or a mistake?

What I am not saying is whether this is wrong or right—I have no desire to involve myself in said Miley-mania because I just don’t think I can take the stress of all that twitter action. However, what I am emphatically saying is that the anti-nudity campaign that she appears to have exacerbated does not correspond with the simultaneously propagated notion of body confidence; why are we being told how to look good naked if we are never supposed to get naked?

It was Marilyn Monroe who said, “The body is meant to be seen, not all covered up” and maybe she’s right. Indeed, people seem to revel in vintage pictures of Marilyn in a bathing suit and the wax lyrical about her curves and body confidence. So, what does a young person take from that? That nudity is alright as long as you have curves?

Again, there seems to be a mistake here, yet again we are promoting body confidence and therefore nudity but also in an undeniably exclusivist way. What about all those articles in magazines pushing us to love our bodies or the article on Oprah’s website telling us “You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful?”

Surely people are beautiful in and of themselves, warts and all. And as a young woman living in a western society it takes a huge (but probably normal) amount of time to conclude that. So after all the toils and struggles, and the all-in-all painful process of realisation that confidence is the most beautiful thing and your body is beautiful because not in spite of its wears and tears, you want to tell me to cover up? As though there is something I shouldn’t be proud of?

Deciphering the message

Essentially the message is clearly confused—we tell young people to be proud of their bodies, love them and be body-confident and then Christina Hendricks appears on our TV screens with what is, I think we can all agree, a fantastic pair and rather than applauding her for having the confidence to do so, we are expected to castigate her showing off her body, write an angry email to Ofcom and perhaps splash some holy water on the TV whilst we rearrange our July polar-neck.

What I am not suggesting is that we all get our jubblies out and skip through the corridors of The Daily Mail with our middle fingers up to the world of clothing. Firstly, this level of movement done without a bra sounds like hell on earth and secondly, that many middle fingers and that many naked people and there will be an accident.

What I am saying, however, is that we need to clarify the message and stop berating people for merely exuding the confidence we originally said was right. Is Miley Cyrus an ambassador for the message of body confidence and self-acceptance? (Indeed, she seemed fairly pleased with not having any eyebrows) or is she a shameful harlot with her body splashed all over our various screens?

Whatever you think, it’s important that we don’t berate others for the choice they make. How can we—we’ve all been taught that two opposing sides are correct. 

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.