I’ve never loved going to the beach! Since I was a teenager, I’ve always felt I had a “different” body - a body that never lived up to the female beauty standards. I would heavily rely on Photoshop to make me look better, like every other 90s kid.
Since the age of 10, my biggest insecurity was body hair. I had to fight with my mother for permission to start shaving. But my mum was a blonde, not very hairy and an ex hippie, so it wasn’t so easy.
A few months after turning 10, I had my first period. I had a fear of stains and using tampons (I believed it would make women ‘lose their virginity’). So instead, I wore pads on my swimwear. In case someone could see it, I would wear a pair of shorts and avoid the water completely. Then came hormones, cellulite and curves. Every year, I feared the moment in which I had to buy a new swimsuit and wear it - even today I find it daunting.
There was no instagram, but plenty of skinny models, close to anorexia, and clothes that would only flatter such body types.There was no Ashley Graham, no Lizzo. Body positivity was never in our vocabulary, but luckily today it has started to have prominence in the online world.
There was no space to represent nor validate bodies outside of the standard. You couldn’t see a hairy body, except among older women - like my mother, who fought for the freedom of women to do what they want to do with their bodies. And then something broke in the society.
So, if I look at my experience compared to the younger generations, they have much more representation. They can understand the privileges of being a white, able woman who fits the conventional beauty standards. And that’s why we should learn to question the way we see our bodies. With just a smartphone, they are able to open their minds, challenge the standards, have discussions and have different ideas presented to them, all on one device.
So, what do you need to have a beach body? The answer that is all over our socials is: having a body and going to the beach.
But is it that simple? Wearing a swimsuit is not easy, if you can’t find a size that fits you. The (in)famous “swimsuit season” - a terrible term that puts pressure on women to have a toned and skinny body instead of encouraging body inclusivity. Let’s move beyond this point of view and think about the people who fight hard just to get to the beach. Instead, let’s be grateful to have a body that allows us to live our life. The beach is for everyone, so let's do better in celebrating all bodies.
The UK has some of the most accessible beaches in Europe. Many have ramps and wheelchair access and some even offer beach wheelchairs for hire. These chairs have specially designed wheels to cope with the sand and shallow water, allowing you to go to the sea and enjoy a paddle.
When we think about the summer, we get anxious for many reasons. Whether it’s a disability or being thin, fat or trans, we must fight together for fundamental rights, starting with representation for all.