Perhaps like me, you greeted those “empowering” photos of Loose Women in their underwear with a reflex-snort of “Oh, celebs stripping off, so what?” before a more primal urge took over. Like many women, I imagine, I took a good, long, comparative gawp. A gawp accompanied with a squishy underbelly of deep gratitude.
Janet Street-Porter, Coleen Nolan and an entire fleet of daytime dames have been photographed by Bryan Adams wearing only bras and pants, with the slogan “Look, but don’t retouch” in a bid to spread body positivity. There were legs, arms and bums there I could identify with, and that felt good.
No filter, no cropping, no stretching of limbs or faffing with Photoshop meant a lack of super-flat bellies or sleeker waists. I adore particularly that not one of these ITV ladies-off-the-telly has those tight Charlize Theron upper arms which speak of two dozen rip curls before an egg white breakfast and a day fannying about with kettlebells. Those Aniston, Madonna, Jennifer Beals in Flashdance arms which have tormented me for decades, as I’ve gazed each day at my own bleak appendages covered in skin which resembles a roughly assembled lorne sausage.
There’s no argument here: this is brave for the Loose Women. When I imagine being forced into this “real me” shoot, I slip rapidly into an action plan of spray tans, juice-fasts, body exfoliation, followed by a secret support swimsuit and standing sideways-on with a thigh behind Linda Robson. Real, but still on my own terms. I’m sure many will accuse these celebs of self-indulgence and attention seeking, but for me a reminder that the human condition contains cellulite, droopy bums and caesarean scars will never be unwelcome.
Because despite my vintage and the common sense ageing allegedly brings, there will always be a part of my brain hardwired to hope for perfection. My cerebral matter processes the annual Victoria’s Secret show and then opts to skip dinner and breakfast before rattling me off around London starving. I cannot pick up women’s magazines, typically edited by other women, as the party pages full of strapless gowns spoil the day. I delete Instagram off my phone twice a week as ever-scrolling stories of supposed “Just woke up like this” natural beauty sends me slightly loopy.
I am a grown woman who knows we cannot teach our daughters, granddaughters and nieces to live happily with their moles, their puppy fat, their spreading hips and their droopy bits if we can’t abide our own. Considering this, the fact Saira Khan from Loose Women seems also to have a small belly which suggests she prefers an extra hour in bed rather than chiselling rock hard abs via turbo-planking, has cheered me up immensely.
Of course, this modern aversion to “real” is not a woman-only issue. One of the lesser-noted downsides of gender equality is that men have become as unhappy with “normal”. It is wrong for women to feel we have full ownership on body-angst when men are perpetually fed news of Tom Hardy and Channing Tatum’s workout schedule. Or live on a diet of Premier League gossip filled with hulking gods with gorgeous hair and costly eyebrow threading habits.
I will not attempt to explain in any acute detail the pressure among modern gay men to stay gym-fit, fresh-skinned and bright-eyed, but suffice to say those who age badly and fatten up may feel the process a “pretty rum do”. And for White Van Man, gone are the days of lumpen TV presenters like Saint and Greavsie, replaced by the toned, tanned likes of Gary Lineker. To the casual onlooker, Ant and Dec, Dermot O'Leary and Vernon Kay do not appear to own one spare ounce of fat among them.
Britain has ushered in an era of “No Carbs Until Marbs” lads holidays and made dozens of Geordie Shore bodybuilding berks into household names. All Marks & Spencer undies must be proffered beside a brooding poster of David Gandy. There is no room on Instagram, on Sky Sports News or on the Brits red carpet for male pattern baldness, short legs, chubby bellies or thin thighs. The modern man is as starved of “normal” as his female counterpart. He is as equally as sad about his salt and pepper hair and lack of six pack, as I am about my boobs which appeared to stop speaking to each other post-30.
The next logical step to improve national body image positivity, following the Loose Women shoot will be a cast of male TV stars, shot only in baggy underpants in harsh sunlight. I suggest Huw Edwards, Richard Osman, Rylan Clark-Neal and Ian Beale off EastEnders. Get’em off, blokes: your country really needs it.