When shopping for work clothes in a local shopping mall, I realised that I no longer knew what I was meant to 'be' in society's eyes. I should go to the gym and squat but also fit into skinny jeans perfectly.
I should be good at contouring (which up until a few days before, I assumed to be the body kind). I should be girly and innocent. I should take control and be strong. All these images and concepts have bombarded me day after day from the age of 10, when I first picked up a 'glossy' teen magazine. I have struggled, like many, to feel good about who I am without pushing myself to fit society's current 'it' body shape and way of thinking.
As I have grown older, shopping has become more of a chore, than the enjoyable experience marketed to us. It would seem this rang true for many, judging from the dialogue my Open Letter to Topshop started. That is why I started my campaign, to ask for standardised sizing across all clothing retailers. At least that way, we could have one less way for society to shame us.
Now aged 25 I've discovered that in fivd different stores I varied from a size 6 to a size 12. I reached my limit of tolerance. In Topshop, the mannequin was raised on a podium and haunting in its stance. It stood for everything I despised about the way women are portrayed.
My girlfriends, my mother, my sister, cousins, aunties and peers, have all struggled with body image at some point in their lives. Some have been affected worse than others, with their insecurities fuelled by the media representation of the 'perfect body'. In western culture during the 50s, societies 'perfect body' was all about hips. In the 90's it was all about bigger breasts.
Move on to 2015 however, and there is no one 'perfect body' courtesy of the media and fashion, but multiple. You would think this would make it more acceptable to be yourself, but no.
Instead it has created havoc with the way we perceive ourselves. How many times have your peers or women close to you uttered the words "I wish I had...longer hair/ a flatter tummy/ curves/ bigger breasts/ a bigger butt/ more tummy/ less cellulite/ no facial hair"? Image being just the tip of the iceberg of hate we throw at ourselves each day for not being what we THINK we should be.
The fact is though, there are so many issues like this that we as women, face every day. Did you know women are TAXED on sanitary items? That's right. Tampons. The government tax your tampons. The things that help you crack on with life whilst Aunt Flo comes to visit. Laura Coryton stood up and started a petition with Change.org to fight this. The petition 'Stop taxing periods. Period.' currently has 242,623 signatures and has sparked a conversation across all walks of life with plenty of media coverage raising awareness. Kiran Gandhi fought the stigma women's bodies and periods have in society, when she chose not to wear a tampon during her marathon run this week.
Of course we also have the 'No More Page 3' campaign. Lucy-Anne Holmes stood up and fought for The Sun to stop publishing images of topless women in their family newspaper. Personally I find it amazing that women are still 'sold' using this image. With so many strong amazing women, why are we still taxed, shamed and photoshopped to within an inch of cartoon like proportions for the enjoyment of others?
Recently, Protein Worlds 'Are you Beach Body Ready' billboard hit the headlines after Charlotte Baring started a successful petition on Change.org asking for it to be removed. Quite right too! As she said 'what is 'Beach Body Ready'? And who would not be?' These questions sum up exactly how I feel about the advertising of 'the perfect body'.
What is the obsession with 'the perfect' body and what even is it? It's not just weight that is the issue here either. I considered how many hours' women spend plucking, waxing and shaving their body before wearing a bikini, in order for society to not yelp and freak out. Hours and money spent on rituals that are so tedious and yet lead to insults and abuse if not obeyed. By the way, those 'for women' pink little razors with the delicate blades; we pay tax on those too. We are taxed, not only for the little essentials relating to our bodily functions, but also on the things society tells us we need to do to our bodies to make them acceptable.
What do the women above, you and I have in common? The hope for change. If something doesn't feel right or is offensive to you and others, stand up and fight it! Starting a petition on Change.org gave me the chance to stand up and start a fight against the concerning lack of standardised sizing regulations within the UK (we only follow EU guidelines). It will be a long process, but worth it to know that one day; we might actually be able to go shopping and find everything we need in our size. Without being made to feel like we are too 'fat' or 'thin' for certain stores that claim to stock our size. I no longer question my looks, weight or anything else about my body.
Instead I embrace my hips, my hairy legs (always a winner in the winter months) and my little flecks of grey hair. This is who I am, I like to enhance the way I look, but I no longer feel the need to change it to suit anybody other than myself. There is a lot more to me than my 'imperfect' body and by taking control of that, I can concentrate on the rest of my being. Something many of us have forgotten holds more value than being 'Beach Body Ready' as the corporate giants would have us believe (which can really only be achieved by wearing sunscreen and a bathing suit on a beach).