Goodbye summer body...

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In an age when ‘body positivity’ is a buzzword that we’re all celebrating in attempt to break away from the patriarchal conditioning that teaches us that small is better, women are still trying to pursue the ultimate ‘beach body’ sold to us by diet culture. With summer holidays and associated bikini photos conjuring up heightened body insecurities, we’re still succumbing to our desires to change our aesthetics in order to get beach body ready – and despite waiting for summer all year long, the end of the season signals relief from the pressures of achieving the perfect body.

‘Are you beach body ready?’ – the infamous slogan of a 2015 Protein World campaign, whose use of body shaming to promote weight loss sparked huge controversy and was heavily criticised for aiming to shame individuals with bigger bodies into buying their products by making them feel physically inferior to the unrealistic body image the brand was promoting. 

If there’s one time of year that this collective conditioning becomes particularly apparent, summer, with connotations of barely-there bikinis and baring all on the beaches to soak up some mid-season sun, can be a bittersweet period. Counting down ‘til Out of Office can be as daunting as it is exciting for women who have experienced the sense from a young age that a bikini is something not to be worn by women with bigger bodies. Fat women are given a comprehensive list of what they should and shouldn’t wear, what flatters them and what doesn’t, what will make them look slimmer, and in turn criticized for stepping out of these strict boundaries. And despite society’s attempts at embracing body positivity and acceptance, it’s a narrative that’s still being subconsciously promoted by brands, celebrities and influencers and pursued by women of all different sizes. 

Summer has become almost intrinsically associated with ‘shredding’ and weight loss ahead of the holidays, and for many being able to comfortably soak up some Vitamin D in a bikini simply isn’t an option, as internalised patriarchal notions of body perfectionism have conditioned us into believing that bikinis were made solely for slender girls, and that if you don’t fit into that category, you either need to lose weight or stay away from the two-piece full stop. Winter, on the other hand, is associated with being able to eat and do whatever you like – see Christmas, for example, and the plethora of ‘winter body’ memes online. While there’s a fairly obvious parallel between the number of layers being worn at each time of year and the body expectations that come with this, the end of ‘bikini body’ season can be a source of relief for those suffering under the pressure of fitting into the particular beauty standards that become particularly apparent in summer. Our paradoxical relationship with summer, the most sought after season of suntans and picturesque beaches, yet the time when body image insecurities are heightened by societal ideals of body perfection, means that by the end, many women are thanking God it’s over and that the season of covering up and carefree festivities means they can eat, do and wear what they like without anyone judging. 

So, goodbye summer, hopefully next year we’ll be able to enjoy our vacations without your pressure. 

by Ruby McAuliffe

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