Sunday 4 December 2016

Shouldn't Liz Hurley know better than getting wrapped up in Instagram bikini pictures at her age?

The social media bikini shot is not just the preserve of the young, writes Sarah Caden, but shouldn't Liz Hurley know better at her age?

Sarah Caden

Published 23/10/2016 | 02:30

Liz Hurley in the bikini shot
Liz Hurley in the bikini shot
Liz Hurley
Liz Hurley (46) has toned down the red carpet look to a more age-appropriate one lately. She is one of the few celebrities who admits to her difficulties maintaining her weight.
Helen Mirren
Hey, if it worked for Liz Hurley, it's worth a try, Kelly Brook. No surprise that after this daring ensemble on the red carpet in 2000, Kelly has topped men's magazines most lusted after lists.
Elizabeth Hurley sighted out and about celebrating her 50th Birthday on June 10, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Robert Milan/GC Images)
Flaunt: Liz Hurley continues to show off her body Photo: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

The fact that Liz Hurley has a line of beachwear colours a lot of what follows.

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It's part of the reason she's been madly posting pictures of herself on Instagram in bikinis and itsy-bitsy cover-ups. It's not the only reason, though. After all, most of the bikini posers on Instagram are selling something, but they're also doing that thing - that flaunting thing.

"Flaunting" has become so overused a word that it has almost lost all meaning. Because everyone is at it, though not everyone intends to be. There is the inadvertent flaunting, which just means a celebrity being papped on their holidays in their togs. Their bodies are more exposed than normal, unsurprisingly, so they're "flaunting". In cases of complicit paparazzi attention, that's deliberate flaunting, obviously.

Then there's the disingenuous use of "flaunting" - often used in the same sentence as "curves" - which is actually a way of saying that someone looks fat. This is rarely a man, just in case there's any doubt in your mind.

Liz Hurley
Liz Hurley

In many ways, "flaunting" basically covers the modern-day practice of putting oneself on show, and it's not generally the preserve of 51-year-olds. Which is the age Liz Hurley has reached, incredibly.

In 2008, photos of 63-year-old Helen Mirren looking great in her bikini caused a huge sensation. So did snaps taken last week of Sharon Stone (58) playing beach volleyball in swim shorts and a bikini. But those were paparazzi pictures.

What Hurley has been doing, this past week, is posting on her Instagram a large selection of photos of herself in two-piece swimwear in all sorts of poses - flattering poses, obviously, and undeniably flaunting. She looks terrific, there's no two ways about it, and not just terrific "for her age".

To wit, last week Hurley also posted a decades-old photo of herself in a bikini, with the caption: "I would bet I haven't changed a bit." And while the often wry Hurley may have been going for tongue-in-cheek, plenty of people rushed to comment that this was indeed the case. Compliment sought and compliment received. How wonderfully gratifying, if that's how you choose to seek your ego boost.

On the one hand, it's great to see Hurley confidently posting photographs of her bikini shots online, but on the other, it's exhausting and exasperating. Of course it's great that she feels confident enough in her body at 51 to put it on show. But it's not the self-confidence or the condition of her figure that's the point.

It's the putting it on show.

Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren

Has the virus of self-display now spread up the generations? Is it now a thing for women older than 25 to go full bikini on Instagram? More specifically, is there no age cut-off on the endless comparing of our bodies? Because that's mostly what the over-sharing is about. It's not about making a statement of self-confidence, it's about endless self-scrutiny and scrutiny of others.

In the past, that's something that calmed down for women as they got past 30. It's not to be confused with "letting oneself go" or no longer caring how one looks. It's about caring less about how others think we look. We've got to grips with the self-consciousness of our youths, where we imagined everyone was fixated on whether our bum looked big in this, and we feel more at ease with who we are.

We also realised that everyone was far too busy worrying about their own bum, their own life, their own worries, to really give too much thought to ours.

But now, is it possible that the pressure to post will make that impossible? How will we ever stop worrying what other people think if we're sitting around counting Instagram 'likes' in our 50s and 60s? Incidentally, Liz got 24,000 likes for last week's shot of her in a red bikini.

We're now at a point where we accept that the younger generation of women post images of themselves constantly. If we are mothers of young women and girls, we fret about the pressure this puts on them, specifically because of the endless comparing of oneself to others. It doesn't matter that we know, and they know to some extent, that they are often comparing themselves to unrealistic and dishonest images.

Anyone who was ever a young girl or woman knows that there is that tendency to compare in us anyway; and to do so unfavourably to ourselves. The age of Instagram has only made that worse - and much worse.

The pressure to display is constant, the pressure to scrutinise yourself and others is constant, and the tendency to self-loathe is greater than ever before.

Last week, I met cosmetic surgeon Darren McKeown, star of the BBC documentary Facelifts and Fillers, when he was visiting Dublin to launch his new skincare line. He told me how he regularly turns away women under 30 because they don't need anything done. But they believe that they do.

McKeown said that young women are involved, through social media, in constant unfavourable comparing of themselves to others, but also comparing themselves unfavourably to themselves.

Elizabeth Hurley sighted out and about celebrating her 50th Birthday on June 10, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Robert Milan/GC Images)
Elizabeth Hurley sighted out and about celebrating her 50th Birthday on June 10, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Robert Milan/GC Images)

They come in to McKeown's office with selfies taken maybe only weeks earlier and point out how the image looks younger or better to how they look that day. He points out that lighting and flattering poses in photographs cannot be compared to real life, but the trend of feeling less good-looking/young/pretty than your own self is a horrible way to live.

The question raised by Hurley's posing in recent months, however, is whether or not this is strictly the domain of young women who have grown up on social media. Is it now the case that we can never grow out of a certain phase of self-scrutiny and obsession with our shortcomings?

So we applaud Hurley's confidence and the very fact that time has not dented her joie de vivre and her desire to take care of herself. But if we puzzle over the value of young women endlessly putting themselves on show, surely we wonder more when someone older and wiser is at it.

Unless they're selling something.

Sunday Independent

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