We always hear how images of skinny models in the press and on social media put pressure on young girls to strive for unrealistic body shapes.
And there is no doubt about that. But lately rotting has begun to spread – to the older generation.
Where once a woman of a certain age could have had a few extra nodules and bumps here and there, perhaps the legacy of a few children and a more sedentary lifestyle, the world now seems flooded with middle-aged women with the kind of skinny , sculpted body parts that are more characteristic of a twenty-something athlete.
Mel B poses to show off her twenty-something body (left) while Luciana Gimenez drives through snow wearing a bikini (right)
Melanie Griffith, 61, sunbathes while her boat bounces calmly on the waves in a photo that is believed to have been taken in Spain
Welcome to the world of Fatales. They are not particularly muscular, in a bodybuilder's way – that would bring them into a completely different competition – but these bodies simply do not have an ounce of excess body fat or cellulite.
Their numbers are growing and will continue to expand as the warm weather encourages women to peel off their clothes enthusiastically and their & # 39; homework & # 39; to show.
Last weekend it was Loose Women presenter Andrea McLean, who posted a photo on Instagram of her gloriously tinted figure in a bikini. Andrea, who turns 50 in October, wrote that she had long felt uncomfortable in swimwear, but wanted to & # 39; stop messing around & # 39; and help other women to feel on the beach.
But no viewer could help but felt that she didn't have to worry much about showing her long, skinny limbs.
A few days earlier, film star Melanie Griffith, 61, had uploaded a video of her intensive gym workout, praising the personal trainer who her body & # 39; tight and strong & # 39; loved. She followed it up with the fruits of her work: a picture of herself in a small black bikini, lounging on a yacht, belly impossible, delightfully toned.
Gwyneth Paltrow, 46, shows off her flat chest and bikini body as she models swimwear available in her Goop store
The most important among the fatales is of course Gwyneth Paltrow, who with 46 seems more slender and limber than ever as a 20-year model. She recently posed in a black £ 285 bikini from her Goop range, but it was her incredible physique – rather than the eye-catching cost of her bits of fabric – that attracted the most reactions from fans.
The leadership is also the leader of Davina McCall, 51, whose tough body must have the same type of fat ratio as a seven-year-old boy. Then there is Lilly Becker, ex-wife of Boris, and model Heidi Klum, who will never see 40 again.
A healthy body fat ratio for women over 40 is between 23 and 35 percent. That gives you a little softness, a little & # 39; give & # 39 ;. A slight & # 39; overhang & # 39; on the hips in a sturdy pair of knickers, perhaps, and a belly where you can poke a finger.
These women have bodies where the skin is pulled so tightly over their muscles and bones that, to the touch, it must feel like a stiff, new, leather armchair.
At the age of 52, do I really intend to strive for the kind of aesthetic that can only be achieved through hours of obsessive workouts to produce the sub-20 percent fat ratio needed to be this business? To limit myself to a diet plan so joyless that even the thought of a nice piece of buttered toast would give me 20 extra push-ups?
Davina McCall, 50, shows her abs and amazing physique in a summer selfie on Instagram
Don't get me wrong, I am well aware of the pitfalls of mid-life obesity and the need to keep things under control. But this is not about maintaining a healthy body weight. It is a very different level of narcissism, a completely different kind of body tyranny – made worse by the fact that for most ordinary women the time and money needed to shape a person's body to such a level of perfection just be unrealistic.
It always struck me as curious, not to mention alarming light, the way in which women's body shapes have been subjected to the whims of fashion over the centuries.
The curve of the Renaissance reflected a certain sumptuous sensuality; The Victorians controlled female sexuality through tight corseting. In the 1920s an androgynous form was considered a fad, while an hourglass was preferred in the abundant 1950s.
What it says about contemporary culture that the ideal of female beauty appears to be bodies without a shred of fat or a trace of softness is a mystery to everyone. Probably a testimony that we spend too much time on Instagram and not enough in the real world, where everyone is doing fine with the extra bump or bump here and there.
But I also fear that we have a fundamental fear of our own femininity. Because although all these bodies are unmistakably those of women, they are strangely un-feminine. They lack the natural softness that characterizes the female.
They are hard, uncompromising, angular, not least because, after 40, the only way most women can be sure to pull out a string bikini is to remove any trace of stubborn fat from their bodies. I just hope it's worth it.
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