Relatively uncomplicated, socks are my favourite item of clothing to buy. Lots of colours, lots of patterns and easy to fit- a surely winning combination that gives an overall light-hearted feel to the selection process. Expecting the most un-daunting of shopping trips I was not expecting the frustration to follow. Firstly, let me clarify that I rarely make shopping trips purely to buy socks, unless it is a very special special-sock-warranting occasion. I believe in this instance it was more of a tangent from a wider trip. I needed to acquire some light, thin socks or tights given the unexpectedly blazing gift of sun. To avoid a trek in the blistering heat I simply headed into the nearest inexpensive shop – Primark.
I should probably mention now that the sickeningly decorated, trivial introduction I’ve given is merely to try and balance the anger that, to be honest, I hope the next section of this post will convey.
Socks are next to bras. Bras branded thus: ‘MAXIMISE YOUR ASSETS’ & ‘MAKE AN IMPACT’. Ok Primark, here’s the thing- it is NOT alright to tell girls that a) their boobs are assets b) they should be maximised and c) their boobs are the way in which they should ‘impact’ the world. I hate the thought that thousands of teenagers will see the packaging of the most affordable bras in the UK and it is even suggested to them that the most impactful ‘assets’ of a woman are not her mind, her personality, her talents. What a harmful message. Once again, the attributes of a female have been reduced to her breasts which she is instructed to enhance in order to command any attention. It really is saddening.
After passing by the tights on my way out, already with an angry jaw locked between a frown of fury and lips swelling slightly because it really could make me cry, I get pretty ticked off about the labelling of tights as ‘natural’ and ‘nude’- what an assumption: we aren’t all ‘naturally’ that colour when ‘nude’. In fact, I bet the ‘natural skin’ colour of Primark’s tights matches a pretty damn small percentage of the population’s in the UK never mind globally! Eventually I made it to BHS, hoping to get a swimming costume that would stay in the right place after divebombs, bellyflops and just jumping around. The first thing I noticed was the reassurance BHS offered me. Reassurance that every single swimming costume was fitted with foolproof tummy control technology. I wouldn’t need to worry in the pool or on the shore that my tummy, surely a horrific and embarrassing creature, might be unleashed. Thanks to BHS, it would be under control. Maybe I’m in a minority, I often am, but I hadn’t realised how mortified I should be about my possession of a body which has lumps and bumps and contours and curves and guess what- flesh. Lots of flesh. It wobbles and it moves when I move. It is soft in parts and firm in others. It is natural. And I thought it was ok, but according to the Store of British Homes, it needs to be dealt with.
The message about the messages we are sent by advertising, media and branding being damaging to women and promoting unhealthy body image is not new or original. I don’t claim it is. However, I’m not sure enough people can see how marketing is not only exacerbating crazy ideas about the way ladies’ bodies ‘should’ be, but they are reducing women to this. Not satisfied with making women feel insufficient in their own skin (which is only ‘natural’ in one shade) companies are reducing women to just that in their attempts to sell more. According to the marketing that saturates our shops not only is your body is not good enough but it is what counts, it is who you are, what you are. Don’t support your breasts because it’s comfortable, MAXIMISE them because that is the only way you’ll get noticed. Don’t think about having fun on holiday, just be sure to MINIMISE that tummy as a top priority.
I think you get the point. I hope you get the point. I can’t tell you, male or female, not to let marketing reduce you to trembling insecurity about your body. I can’t convince you that it is an evil lie that your body defines you. But if this is how you feel, then know that this won’t be tolerated. And if you are a marketer of minimisers and maximisers, please (and that’s where my niceties end) know that this cannot continue. I can’t single-handedly stop you, but like heck will I try to unmask your bullying ways and belittlement of women.