Friday 15 December 2017

'Are you bikini-body ready,' ask the ads. We shouldn't care, let's just bare all...

Carol Hunt wonders why she's always resisted wearing a bikini on the beach and vows to do it this year

Body brave: Carol Hunt weighs up whether to wear a bikini or not at the beach this year
Body brave: Carol Hunt weighs up whether to wear a bikini or not at the beach this year
Iconic image: Helen Mirren in her bikini
Carol Hunt

Carol Hunt

Are you beach-body ready? The correct answer to this question is, of course, "it's none of your feckin' business" or "have body, show me beach". But spare a thought for our sisters in the UK who have been forced to pass by adverts screaming this question at them as they go about their daily business. Even worse, the words are set beside a picture of an extremely skinny - albeit gorgeous - Renee Somerfield in an itsy-bitsy yellow bikini. All we're missing is the polka dots. The message is clear. Only those who have a well-toned size six body should be allowed to show it off on the beach. The rest of us can cover up in something more suitable for fuller figures, perhaps a well-apportioned burka in a flattering shade of dark blue. Look on the bright side, it could double as sunscreen as well.

There have been protests against the poster. As I write, 55,000 people have signed a backlash petition to have them removed. There is also a backlash to the backlash, with anti-feminists telling women to get a sense of humour, or words to that effect. The Apprentice's Katie Hopkins has waded in with her tuppence. Somerfield, says she, is being "body-shamed". The supplement manufacturers are only delighted with the uproar.

If I was still a teenager or in my twenties - hell, if I was even in my thirties - this poster advertisement would make an impact on me. Similar ads showing beautiful, improbably thin women in tiny bikinis over the decades, meant that for years I refused to set foot on a beach unless I was dressed in the equivalent of a circa 1910 bathing costume - the type that you changed into in a tent by the sea and then tried not to drown in as its voluminous folds of material swelled up with sea water. I was never overweight but I don't think I have ever had a body that looked like a lingerie model. Ergo, I figured that bikinis were not for me.

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