Maggie determined her child wouldn't grow up with the same pressures

‘I despair that my daughter’s in thrall to the new body tyranny – craving a bigger bottom’: After spending her youth yearning for a sylph-like figure, Maggie was determined her child wouldn’t grow up with the same pressures. The reality was different

My daughter was about 15 years old when she first asked me the heart-sinking question: ‘Does my bum look big in this?’

A wave of sadness washed over me as I realised my darling girl had reached the age where she viewed herself through the filter of how she thought other people saw her. So many of us end up living with this impossible two-way mirror of insecurity for the rest of our lives.

My own late mother — great as she was in every other way — didn’t do me any favours in this regard, always measuring whether I had lost weight (good) or gained weight (bad).

In middle-age, she struggled with her own waistline, so I grew up with her constantly judging me on that metric, as well as herself.

From the moment my own daughter was born, I was determined to be different. I vowed I would never comment on her weight or shape, but when she directly asked for my opinion that day, I felt I had to reply. And, of course, there was only one possible answer to the big bum question — the one I had given to so many friends caught in the same moment of female uncertainty over the years: ‘No, darling.’

But far from my teen being reassured by my answer, she looked at me in dismay: ‘Mummy! How could you be so mean? I don’t want to go to the party now. I hate my horrible small bum. It’s so embarrassing.’

My daughter was about 15 years old when she first asked me the heart-sinking question: ‘Does my bum look big in this?’

I was temporarily stumped. My narrow hips and small bum were pretty much the only things that I’d liked about my body at her age. Everything else was wrong: too short, boobs out of proportion, stomach not perfectly flat. My tiny bum had been my lifesaver.

Peggy has inherited it, although hers is not quite so freakishly miniature. Combined with attributes from her father’s side of the family, such as a small waist and much longer legs, she has a figure I would have loved at her age. Yet, here she was, genuinely unhappy with it. What could I say to reassure her?

So I asked her to tell me why she wanted a bigger bottom. She reached for her phone and showed me an Instagram photograph of a young woman in tight gym leggings with her back to the camera, showing off a big, round bottom which narrowed to a tiny waist.

‘I want to look like her, but I’ve got your stupid bum.’ Ah, a mother’s guilt… but then I understood how, in the decades since my 1980s youth — when we all wanted to look like a piece of human tagliatelle — the body ideal has radically changed.

While the women of pop group Bananarama had the perfect shape in my day — neat and slim all over, nothing outlandish — four decades later the shape my 19-year-old, size 8 daughter and her peers consider perfect is the bottom-heavy, extreme hourglass epitomised by Kim Kardashian.

Just look at the bikini-clad young women who grace our screens on hit show Love Island — the latest series of which started last night.

The shape my 19-year-old, size 8 daughter and her peers consider perfect is the bottom-heavy, extreme hourglass epitomised by Kim Kardashian

They boast a so-called ‘perfect’ set of Instagram curves, with their tiny bikini bottoms expertly teased up to make their behinds appear as large as possible.

And it’s not just Generation Z who are making this shift. The Queen of Seriously Slim herself, Victoria Beckham, who actually has a classic 1980s figure (achieved via her extraordinary self-discipline) now also aspires to curves.

As she said in a recent interview: ‘It’s an old-fashioned attitude, wanting to be really thin. I think women today want to look healthy and curvy. They want to have some boobs and a bum.’

At first consideration, this change of attitude from a woman who has, according to a recent interview with her husband, eaten the same meal of grilled fish and steamed vegetables for the past 25 years and considers a piece of dry toast a treat (seriously) seems very positive. For her and for all of us.

Her inspiration for this appreciation of a rounder shape — her new VB Body range is available up to a size 18 — is also very encouraging.

‘There are a lot of really curvy women in Miami, and they really own it,’ she said. ‘They walk along Miami beach with not a lot of clothes on, and they look fantastic.

‘They show their bodies off with such confidence. I found both their attitude and their style really liberating. And as a mother, I loved the fact that [my daughter] Harper was around women who were really celebrating their curves and enjoying how they look.’

The Queen of Seriously Slim herself, Victoria Beckham, who actually has a classic 1980s figure (achieved via her extraordinary self-discipline) now also aspires to curves

It’s all very body-positive and inclusive. But then she adds: ‘The curvier you are, the better my VB Body dresses look.’

And it’s the word ‘curvy’, which she keeps using, that sends up a warning flare to me. Because ‘curvy’ just isn’t the same as our old friends ‘fat’, or ‘big’, or ‘chunky’, or even ‘full-figured’. ‘Curvy’ describes the Kim Kardashian body shape.

It’s a more extreme version of the 1950s va-va-voom ideal, with a severely nipped-in waist flaring out to the child-bearing hips. You’ll never achieve it unless you naturally have a small middle and store body fat on your lower body.

For women like me, who pile it on to the stomach and boobs, ‘curvy’ is as unattainable as the 1990s ‘heroin chic’ waif ideal. Probably harder.

Indeed, so extreme was the waist-to-hip ratio in the Thierry Mugler dress that Ms Kardashian wore to the 2019 Met Gala (pictured above), that rumours started to circulate online that she’d had a rib removed to achieve it.

She firmly denies this, along with the suggestions that she’s had implants to create her bottom (she even had an X-ray to disprove this).

Instead, her Met Gala waist was achieved by the same means that gave Victorian women the unrealistically tiny waist ideal of that era: a crippling corset.

For women like me, who pile it on to the stomach and boobs, ‘curvy’ is as unattainable as the 1990s ‘heroin chic’ waif ideal. Probably harder

Ms Kardashian’s was made by the infamous extreme corsetiere, Mr Pearl. She revealed that she had to take breathing lessons to be able to wear it, and said afterwards: ‘I have never felt pain like that in my life. I’ll have to show you pictures of the aftermath when I took it off — the indentations on my back and my stomach.’

So that is how committed the poster girl of the current bootylicious body ideal is to achieving her iconic shape — she’s willing to be in extreme pain.

Meanwhile, in her own dedicated pursuit of a version of it — ‘I want as good a bottom as I can get’ — Mrs Beckham has ditched the intense aerobic fat-stripping exercise regime she’s been doing for years. She now lifts bulk-building weights, and goes in big on the squats every day.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with anyone making an effort to be their best self.

But where it gets troubling is when even a toned-down version of the ideal is mostly unachievable — unless you are born that way.

Kim Kardashian just happened to get all the watermelons on her spin of the genetic slot machine.

A flat stomach; a very large, high bottom; a naturally small waist; ultra-rounded outer thighs. That’s her basic shape, which she can then train (she has an impressive six-pack) and torture into a more extreme version of it.

What she can also do, if she chose to (and I’m not saying she does) is use photo filters to slim inches off and add curves, with one tap of a phone screen.

I was in my mid-teens when I realised I had a small bottom and wanted it to be bigger. I’ve never watched Keeping Up With The Kardashians and I don’t even like that family

There are many examples of influencers posting pictures of their real bodies and then revealing how they look with the same shots manipulated via a filter. The differences are quite astonishing.

But to a teenage girl, these faked pictures are the reality. They take them literally at face value (and those are usually filtered too, giving them perfect skin, bigger eyes and fuller lips). This fiction then becomes the standard they aspire to.

It’s toxic and not at all helpful to girls — or their mothers, who are trying to help their daughters safely navigate the body-image rapids of the teen years.

But these unattainable ideals are actually nothing new. While the filters add a whole new layer of impossibility, every culture and every era in human history has had its own paragon of female beauty, which has always been beyond the reach of the vast majority of people. All we can do as mothers is guide and support our beautiful daughters through those tricky years while they establish their own identity, all the while being bombarded with faked images via their phones.

Showing them those ‘before and after’ filter pictures is a good place to start.

But what they need to do — and we should do everything we can to help them with this — is find the value in themselves that lies way beyond the size of their bottoms.

What 19-year-old peggy says:

I was in my mid-teens when I realised I had a small bottom and wanted it to be bigger. I’ve never watched Keeping Up With The Kardashians and I don’t even like that family — I think they are completely talentless — but, nevertheless, the body type my friends and I want all stems from them.

They are all over social media and, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t help being influenced by them. The Kardashian look is everywhere; there are endless social media influencers who share their figure, and they come up constantly on your feed, even if you don’t follow them.

They wear great clothes and make-up and pose in fabulous places, and you can’t help thinking, ‘Why don’t I look like that?’ All the girls on shows such as Love Island have that figure, too.

I could go to the gym and do lots of squats to develop my bottom — plenty of young women do — but, as much as I want that shape, I can’t quite be bothered with the effort it takes to achieve it

As a result, I confess I have even been through a phase of taking pictures of myself from behind, trying to make my bottom look bigger — all my friends have done the same.

I also bought ‘butt-lifting’ pants (like a push-up bra for the derriere) from Amazon to try to achieve this look. But when I put them on, I realised how ridiculous they were and I never wore them again.

I could go to the gym and do lots of squats to develop my bottom — plenty of young women do — but, as much as I want that shape, I can’t quite be bothered with the effort it takes to achieve it.

You also hear about people having a Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL) where fat is injected into your bottom. People have even died after undergoing the procedure — a tragic example of how pervasive the pressure is for women to conform, and to be cool and sexy.

I can see it is positive that, on the one hand, girls who might have been deemed ‘unfortunate-looking’ in my mum’s day and age are now considered to be ‘super hot’.

But there is a definite dark side to this form of body fascism. Young men all seem to like big bums, and you’re made to feel like you should have one.

They’ll leer over pictures, making comments such as ‘Yay, she’s got a massive a***’, like cavemen. It’s horrible.

However, I think they’re under pressure, too. They think it’s ‘cool’ to like big butts, but in reality they’re not bothered — they just want a girlfriend.

I turn 20 next month, and I’ve slowly come to the realisation that having a big bottom is not the be-all and end-all.

I actually like my personality. If only that was something the Kardashians would encourage young girls to do.

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