Kim Kardashian and I don’t have much in common.
We’re both mothers of two, but that’s where the similarities end. She’s married to the self-proclaimed ‘biggest rockstar in the world’ (gross), I was divorced at 26.
She lives in LA, I’m in the slightly less exotic Milton Keynes.
Only slightly, mind.
Yet I kind of identified with her naked selfie recently, the one that caused huge ripples of disgust and rage across the internet. It made me look at myself and my attitude towards my own nakedness more closely, and realise that actually, she’s not a bad body-confident role model.
She’s a mum, for a start: growing a child is without a doubt the most painful, disruptive processes that 99% of mothers will experience. From the moment that embryo embeds itself in your womb lining your life – and your body – will change forever.
Whether you spend the entire nine months incredibly sick and lose a scary amount weight (as I did), or you grow a road network of stretch marks in places you didn’t know you could get stretch marks. Or maybe you’ll develop one of the more tricky side effects, like piles – which are about as fun as you’d imagine – varicose veins or SPD (a debilitating condition of the pelvis that can leave pregnant women on crutches or in a wheelchair).
Yes, pregnancy is not easy, that’s for sure.
I found a new respect for my body after my children were born. It was no longer simply a vessel for living, it became this miraculous incubation machine for two of the best people I’d ever met.
While pregnant I’d often sit alone in the evening, feeling kicks and punches from the inside, thinking what an amazing experience this process was.
Look at it this way: I created a SPINE from scratch, a perfect little spine, along with fingers and toes and a mouth and eyes and hair. My mind boggled at the thought of a teeny tiny person growing inside of me. It also boggled (and yeah, freaked out a bit) at the thought of growing a penis… a PENIS. From scratch. As a women. ‘Mazing.
But like most women, post-birth my body was a foreign object.
There was wobbly skin where once it had been taut, pigmentation marks caused by hormones, bubbly varicose veins on my legs and boobs thrice the size of anything I’d ever known before. It was scary, but after a life of being totally in control of my body it was strangely liberating.
The children got older, my tummy pooch slowly deflated, but the marks of pregnancy remain. My body is mine again but it’s definitely different. I take care of it now, nurture it, make sure it gets the exercise it needs. I love every little vein and wobble because I know they are markers of the process I went through to birth my children.
And so when I was asked last year if I wanted to model Speedo swimwear for a day, I said yes.
I wobbled over the decision for a while (like my leftover mum tum ;): would people really want to look at my 30 year old half naked body in a magazine?
The conclusion I came to was: sod them. I’d gone from feeling fairly apathetic about my body and the way it looked to being proud of the strong woman it had made me; the force behind two caesarean sections, post-natal depression and a divorce. Karlie Kloss I am not, but why should I feel the need to hide myself?
The shoot was empowering. Having a team of professionals study my body so closely left me feeling self-conscious, but also strangely liberated. I spent two hours in a chilly North London outdoor swimming pool in early autumn, half-naked in front of fifteen people I’d never met before, and enjoyed every second. My body was strong, a powerhouse, perfect in its imperfectness.
Plus I can now say with confidence that I’m probably the only swimwear model in history who ate a Sausage McMuffin on her way to a shoot.
When the photos came I was delighted. I can see that my boobs are slightly deflated and you can make out the varicose veins in my thighs but it is me.
And this is why I doff my hat to anyone who feels confident and strong enough in their bodies to do the same.
A naked Kim Kardashian is not our enemy. An empowered woman or mother who chooses to take her clothes off because she is proud of who she is should not be blasted for attention-seeking. In the same way I would never disparage a topless man at the gym, or a naturist on the beach.
I tell my five year old daughter every day that she has full ownership of her body and it’s hers to do what she wants with, and the same applies to all of us.
I do, however, make sure to not put emphasis on looks; Elfie is praised for her mind much more than her appearance, and the focus on the body over other achievements is definitely where Kim Kardashian is not one to follow.
But being proud of our bodies does not diminish our other achievements. Because I chose to do a half-naked photo-shoot this doesn’t mean I‘m any less good at my job, or I’m a worse mother than someone who chooses not to. And I’m going to go out there and say this applies to Kim, too.
Which is why I’m championing her as a role-model for body-confident mothers. Her definition of sexy might not be the same as mine, but I celebrate her empowerment. Long live our beautiful bodies and the women they represent.
For a dad’s eye view of the Kim K debate, check out Sam’s excellent piece: Women, Body Confidence, Kim Kardashian and Fatherhood.
Thank you Speedo for these amazing images, which will DEFINITELY be on my walls in years to come. The cossie I’m wearing in them (and still love to this day) is the Sculpture Crystalsun.