Lena Dunham once said that she detested being called ‘brave’ by critics of the hit show Girls because they were basically saying that it must’ve taken a lot of courage for her to get naked in front of a camera looking like ‘that’. She said that being brave required you to feel scared, which she didn’t when it came to being naked on camera, so she rejected their praises.
I sort of see what she’s saying.
I just don’t neccessarily agree with it.
To me, being brave isn’t simply doing something you’re scared of, being brave can be doing something that the world is scared of, otherwise known as, ‘breaking the mould’, because the rest of us feel like we can’t. This is the reason I see her as courageous. Not because her figure is horrid – but because those who she’s being compared to by all and sundry are donning that unattainable, softened by lighting, fixed by filters look. And Lena? She’s rocking reality when so many of us find it difficult to do so ourselves.
Her boobs aren’t symmetrical (because whose are?), her vagina isn’t bald (because we all have a choice) and she isn’t a size zero (because she likes to eat). Dunham is brave for baring all on screen because, in a world where it is so easy (and tempting) to alter reality, she has decided to keep it real. For change to happen, people have to be ‘brave’ to ignite it and Dunham is doing it, whether she likes it to admit it or not.
And I think the rest of us could learn from her.
Women have obviously felt a pressure to look a certain way for years now, which doesn’t seem to be about to change, unless you have the financial means to buy out The Daily Mail or Now Magazine and ban body shaming, but something that we can control is what ‘normal’ looks like. I’m not telling you to stop adding filters to your photos or to cut down on the makeup if it makes you feel good but just be brave by being you and you will inspire the rest of womankind to do the same.
During the summer, Ryan and I decided to head to the beach. When we got there, it was hotter than I had expected, so I took off my jeans and sat in the top I was wearing and my not-so-beach-ready pair of too-big, black M&S knickers I had on underneath.
Now, although I am a size 10 – 12, I am very self-conscious of the cellulite that spreads across the backs of my untoned thighs. I drink gallons of water a day, walk everywhere and exercise semi-regularly. I eat salads for lunch, scrub, exfoliate and moisturise but it just won’t shift.
You might be wondering, at this point, how I ended up sitting in my pants then?
Well, I took my jeans off on the beach that day, not because I love the way I look, but because, as I nervously scanned the sand to see who I might be exposing my dimpled bum cheeks to, I noticed a group of girls in bikinis who were enjoying themselves. I envied them for looking so great on the beach, for throwing their heads back and laughing and sitting cross legged looking like poster girls advertising ‘The Perfect Summer in North Somerset’ as if it were no big deal that they had barely any clothes on. I felt jealous that they were enjoying the light breeze that would wave over the beach instead of sitting there sweating in their jeans, like me.
On closer inspection, because I am female and this is what we have sadly been trained to do, I noticed a dimple, a roll, lumps and bumps on these women. And so I should have. These were normal women, enjoying a normal day out with their normal friends: not a bunch of airbrushed models in a glossy magazine.
And that’s when I realised.
It was time to take my jeans off.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that it wouldn’t have been a completely thoughtless process for any of these women to undress on a packed beach. They were likely to have hated bits of their body, just like I do and would have brought a cover up to hide the parts that they didn’t like. So they, like Dunham, were brave for keeping it real and baring it all without a filter or a svelte size six under their summer dresses.
In truth, their act of bravery on the beach that day led me to be brave.
And when the next lady who set her towel down next to me questioned whether she should take her clothes off and lay in her pants while sipping on a San Pellegrino and tucking into her favourite book? I hope she glanced at my not-so-perfect thighs, thought, ‘fuck it’ and whipped her trousers off, too.
We, as girls, can easily quash the body ideals that are shoved into our faces on a daily basis. In fact, there are many who already are – but we need more people to join the movement (and be brave!) for it to really take off. The fact is, the more we see real body shapes and sizes around us, the less normal unattainable will become and maybe one day we as women can just… be.
Think of it as a sort of ‘Pay it Forward’ for women.
Be brave and the rest will follow.