Once upon a time – or, to be precise, during the first decade of the 21st century – it wasn’t unusual to pick up a magazine in the supermarket or newsagent’s and find it full of features poring over the bodies of famous women. Sometimes, these articles would be complimentary of the celebrity in question, while implicitly making readers feel bad about themselves (follow the diet secrets of this pop star! You too could look like this! Hey, why don’t you?).
At other times, the scale would tilt in the opposite direction. Celebrities would be body-shamed, supposedly to remind ‘ordinary’ women that even the rich and famous sometimes get cellulite. It was difficult to read these magazines without feeling a twinge of guilt; without knowing that somewhere, a woman’s feeling were being hurt.
This kind of anti-woman rhetoric still exists today, of course. Although many magazines have caught onto the fact that readers don’t want to see celebrities being torn apart for their looks, certain publications still trade in body-shaming. (Stylist, we’re proud to say, has never, ever dabbled in weight loss or diet tips.)
The rise of social media, meanwhile, has proved something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it has created a new platform for bored and nasty people to criticise women. But on the other, it means that women are increasingly able to control their own narratives: to ensure that their bodies are only used to send the message that they want to send.
Hilary Duff recently joined the legions of women spreading body positivity online, by posting an Instagram photo of herself on the beach with her son. In the caption, Duff makes clear that she has no time for feeling bad about her body.
“I am posting this on behalf of young girls, women, and mothers of all ages,” writes Duff.
“I'm enjoying a vacation with my son after a long season of shooting and being away from him for weeks at a time over those months. Since websites and magazines love to share ‘celeb flaws’ – well I have them!”
Duff, who has one child with her ex-husband Mike Comrie, continues: “My body has given me the greatest gift of my life: Luca, 5 years ago. I’m turning 30 in September and my body is healthy and gets me where I need to go.
“Ladies, let’s be proud of what we’ve got and stop wasting precious time in the day wishing we were different, better, and unflawed,” she concludes.
“You guys (you know who you are!) already know how to ruin a good time, and now you are body shamers as well. #kissmyass”
It’s not clear exactly what prompted Duff’s message, but her post was quickly praised by her followers.
“This is wonderful,” wrote @inside_matters. “Way to use your platform for good and building people up.”
“It takes such courage to post this and even more when you live under the scrutiny of the media day in and day out,” agreed Kristen Poczulp. “Thank you @hilaryduff for stating what ALL women should feel about their bodies… UNAPOLOGETIC PRIDE for the miracle it is.”
We couldn’t agree more. Kudos to you, Hilary Duff.
Images: Rex Features, Getty Images