The Myth of the Summer Body

All of us at Her Campus Durham think we need to have a little chat about the myth that is the ‘summer body’. So, grab a nice cup of tea or a good old-fashioned glass of orange juice. Whatever takes your fancy. The drink isn’t important though. What’s important is that you listen up.

Summer is in sight and there are going to be so many people – including myself – that won’t always feel comfortable enough in their own skin to get their legs out or wear something a little bit more revealing. Warmer weather means less layers, exposed skin, and, yep you guessed it, a hell of a lot more insecurities making their way to the surface. I can be positive about my body at the best of times, but, honestly, sometimes the societal pressures are overwhelming. We need to talk about them.

As a woman, I am tired of being bombarded with advertisements of toned-tummied, slim-legged, and evidently beautiful women in bikinis. These advertisements that we’re constantly observing in our day-to-day lives make us very aware that this is the ‘perfect’ body’ – the ‘ideal’ woman. And they are, unbeknown to us, gradually fuelling our insecurities. They are a kick in the face to those of us who simply don’t have this body. They are a reminder to us that there must be something wrong with our bodies; something that needs fixing. They tell us that if we are not tall, white, slim and able then we should be worried. The thing is, the majority of us are not noticeably toned, have a slim body and are a size 8. In fact, the average dress size of a woman in the UK is a 16. What a concept, right? It makes you wonder why on earth companies are providing us with only one representation of the female body, when, in reality, it is the least accurate representation. They just love to shove this idealised version of womanhood down our throats and expect us to be okay with it, don’t they?

Remember that Protein World advertisement a few years ago that asked us if we were “beach body ready”? Well, despite Protein World reassuring us that the advert was genuinely promoting a healthier lifestyle (I don’t believe it either) it was actually a very treacherous path to go down. Not only did it imply that in order to wear a bikini at the beach you should look this toned, this slim and this beautiful, but it became part of a much bigger problem regarding the body positivity movement.

The body positivity movement is, as I understand it, acknowledging that all bodies of all sizes, shapes, colours and abilities, are worthy of respect. As you are probably well aware, Protein World got quite the backlash for their advertisement, which did not encourage this attitude at all. Instead it implied that only one type of body was worthy enough to be seen in public wearing a bikini. One. Absolutely baffling, I know. People decided to use social media to fuel their disgust for the campaign, posing in front of the unattainable advertisement with their bikinis on and declaring that no, they did not look like the woman in the advertisement, but yes, they were 100% “beach body ready”. Many graffitied the advertisement, amending the slogan altogether. I for one was all for this.

Dove also stepped in and created a  parody version of the advertisement, in retaliation to this exclusive mind-set, which stated that, actually, “Yes, we are beach body ready”, no matter how our bodies look. This was a massive middle finger to the original advertisement, which was very nearly banned due to countless complaints against it.

Of course, it was refreshing to see three uniquely different women taking part in a genuine campaign for female beauty, but honestly, it angered me, as it made me more aware of the limited variation in body types that we have become accustomed to in the media. We should not be shocked to see a size 12 or a size 18 model on billboards or in magazines, yet we are. It is 2018 and, quite frankly, we should be passed the stage of exclusive thinking when it comes to women’s bodies.

This pressure to have a ‘summer body’ extends itself to men too. It isn’t simply a women’s only battle, which is something many people seem to forget. Everyone has insecurities and it is important to address them. We cannot allow societal pressures to dictate what we wear and how we feel about our bodies. Contrary to popular beliefs, as long as you have a body, and it is indeed summer, then – yep, you’ve guessed it – you have a summer body. Ta-da.

Despite what countless fashion magazines, billboard advertisements and social media influencers tell you, it really is that easy. You don’t even have to eat certain foods, shave certain places or work out like crazy to look good at the beach. Don’t believe the hype. You simply have to own a body and take it to the beach.


Image Credits: 1, 2, 3