Last week, the Internet exploded into argument – yet again – about whether women proudly showing off their bodies counts as true "empowerment". Emily Ratajowkski and Kim Kardashian say yes; Piers Morgan thinks not. (It's unclear when exactly Mr Morgan became a card-carrying, torch-bearing member of the modern feminist movement, but that's a question for another day.) It can tie us up in thorny knots, this thing, this agonising over what is liberating and what facilitates our own objectification. It can feel exhausting.
And then sometimes, a photograph comes along that makes you sit back and beam, and remember that one crucial thing: that actually, there are few things more joyous, more laudable, more clutch-it-in-your-hand-and-never-let-it-go precious, than a woman completely comfortable in her skin, who occupies her own body with her head held high.
Today, that honour goes to 90-year-old Irene Carney from Ballina, New South Wales, Australia. Before going on a cruise with her family, Irene bought a red, 1950s-style Seafolly polka dot bikini from a shop in Byron Bay. The Lady Watego boutique sang Irene's praises on Facebook, sharing a photo of Gigi Hadid modelling the bikini and writing: “A gorgeous purchase by 90 year old Irene ,going on a family cruise! She was encouraged by her friends & carers in the nursing home to get a bikini & we found the perfect one for her.”
A photograph of Irene rocking said bikini on her cruise was later sent to the boutique, who then shared it on Facebook. Check her all-over tan and “I've *literally* been doing this for longer than you've been alive, darling” pose:
Perhaps predictably – because, let's face it, it's a photo to warm the cockles of the coldest heart – the Facebook post quickly ratcheted up the likes, with thousands of people posting their admiration for Irene.
Irene's daughter, Helen Kearney, wrote: "I had the pleasure of escorting my mother Irene Kearney from Ballina on the cruise. Thank you to you all for all these lovely comments. I feel so proud of my mother. What an inspiration she is!"
And she's right. A world where every woman, aged 19 or 90, has Irene's give-a-damn attitude? Sounds pretty empowering to us.
Picture: Lady Watego Byron Bay/Facebook