Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Rather than “fitness” paving the way to female liberation, it all just smacks of new pressures to look a certain way, to conform to a new body trend.


Being a successful female athlete must be a confusing experience. You win a gold medal, you wow the world with your athleticism and sporting talent, you make history and all anyone can talk about is your make-up, your marital status, or your hair. In 2017, we may finally have woken up to the infuriating daily inequalities facing sportswomen, but it is damning that so much superficial nonsense remains in the rhetoric that surrounds their success.

We should be in awe of what these sportswomen do and say, not harping on about what they look like. When Simone Manuel won gold in the pool, and spoke out about Black Lives Matter, she wasn’t doing it so that people could have an opinion about her hair. When Jessica Ennis-Hill ran her guts out in the 800m for a heptathlon silver medal, she wasn’t thinking about showing off her abdominals. When Egypt’s Nada Meawad and Doaa Elghobashy made their Olympic debut in beach volleyball, they weren’t weighing up how their outfits looked compared with their bikini-clad rivals.

Neither should we be. If I see one more editorial about a sportswoman’s outfit, or make-up, or how to get abs like an Olympian, I will throw up. Professional sport should be about the struggle to reach the pinnacle of your abilities, to stretch yourself, to win. These women put their bodies on the line, and use their platform to make bold political statements; it can’t be right that all we can think about is how to achieve greater butt lift.

Because with the explosion of fitness for women has come a new preoccupation with our bodies: the quest for muscle – also known as “fitspo”. It’s all delivered under the banner of being good for you, buoyed by the now ubiquitous slogan: strong is the new skinny. But if strong really is the new skinny, then why do the #Fitspo and #SheSquats images show us flat stomachs? Is “strong” just “skinny” rebranded? And why does it all come loaded with this weird front-facing pressure? By its very nature, fitspo wants you to show your muscle off: to tweet it, Instagram it, Facebook it, Snapchat it. Women, once again, are being put on display.

If you said any of this out loud, to a friend, you’d probably both have an attack of the giggles. But somehow, in the private glow of the laptop, or phone, these images hold sway over us. Why? Because the messages are so familiar. We’ve been hearing them our whole lives in the language of the diet industry. We already know that we should suffer for our bodies to look right; we already know that we should critique, and pick, and compare, and judge, and measure, and ultimately feel dissatisfied. This is our zone.

Rather than “strong” paving the way to female liberation, it all just smacks of new pressures to look a certain way, to conform to a new body trend. Skinny was bad enough, but now we need a six pack and a tight booty that looks like it’s been implanted with beach balls. Plenty of sports at least offer the possibility of inclusivity – but this exercise trend feels entirely elitist. It’s expensive, it involves tight-fitting lycra and revealing crop-top outfits: just how many women are we further alienating in an already alienated section of the population?

Some will argue, inevitably, that fitspo is an improvement on what went before: a necessity, even. We have an obesity crisis, society is less active than ever, gyms and hot yoga being cool are good things – right? And not all media outlets are to blame.

So why do we insist on perpetuating this punitive approach? Why are physical goals so deeply attached to attaining a certain type of body image? Why is all this stuff so emotionally loaded with unhappiness? I want women to be physically active because it feels good, because it is something enjoyable they can do with their friends, their partners and their children, or because it provides a quiet space to be on their own.

I want to shout about the £2.50 family fitness classes at my local Salvation Army, or the clubbing exercise classes at a community centre down the road, I want women spreading the word about exercise that makes them feel great –through the menopause, dementia and period pains.

Sport is supposed to be fun – that’s the point – and it is supposed to be liberating. In 1896 the American civil rights leader Susan B Anthony wrote: “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood.”

Sport should move us further away from thoughts about how we are supposed to look, not chain us into a lifetime of butt-taming burpees.


Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Sunday morning is being free of my hair and make-up routine.


I’m beginning to have a problem with the concept of “perfect”. I love the purry sound of it; I admire it as an aspiration – the perfect frock, the perfect day, etc – but it’s become a buzzword in the beauty industry and as a result I think it’s being devalued. There are more skin and hair “perfectors” around than there are skin and hair types to go with them. Everywhere you look there are Skin Perfection (L’Oreal), Perfect Skin™ (advertised by massed ranks of Kardashians), Miracle Skin Perfector (Garnier), Perfect Look Skin Miracle (This Works), Shimmering Skin Perfector (Becca) and then there are all the attendant primers, lash builders, hair boosters, lip plumpers and whatnot. Is anyone else a bit fatigued by all this perfect-ness?

All these little pots, tubes and bottles of promised perfection are the cosmetic equivalent of airbrushing and I can’t say that I’m really a fan. I’ll grudgingly concede it’s OK, but no more than that, on young people – but I don’t like and don’t want to see any more characterless waxy faces. We’ve gone from “natural” through “enhanced natural” to “weird natural” (which isn’t natural at all). OK, everyone knows that ‘natural’ takes more skill and effort than it should.

I don’t need so much stuff on my face and what’s more I don’t want so much stuff on my face. If I start aiming for a flawless porcelain complexion on my face what do I do about the rest of me? Do I “prime” and “perfect” my whole upper body? Who are you trying to kid when you smooth out, fill in and “pixellate” (another buzzword) your face unless you extend whatever you’re doing down your neck and décolletage.

It’s part of a trend that supersizes everything – perfect isn’t perfect unless it’s super-perfect – so I worry too about haberdashery-sized false eyelashes and that they seem to have become a required part of everyday grooming. It’s quite common to see some poor thing blinking asymmetrically under a massive pair of eye merkins. And then there’s the hair – huge Disney hair, straggly hip-length hair that used to belong to someone else. Barbie hair. Barbie has got form in this respect, having her dabs all over a number of earlier anti-feminist body trends.

So why have current trends brought out such an insane degree of feminisation, doll-ification and perfectionism among young women? Aside from the obvious wider issues of objectification, lads’ mags and sexualisation it bafflingly seems to mark a return to some of the less healthy and more restrictive ‘beauty’ activities practiced by women centuries ago. Hairpieces and wigs (itchy and lice ridden), smooth complexions (a veneer of toxic white lead), features and expression painted back onto a blank canvas (mouse skin eyebrows anyone?). The wearers of today’s tattooed eyebrows and permanent makeup, who are perma-tanned, acrylic nailed and hairless everywhere except for yards of pretend stuff glued to their heads have been persuaded to turn themselves into superficially perfect, characterless, wax faced mannequins and they are, quite frankly, outrageously dull.

The whole point of genuine, heart-stopping beauty is that it’s not perfect. There is always something that’s slightly out of kilter that catches the eye of the casual observer – something arresting, imperfect and gorgeous: Georgia May Jagger, Lara Stone, and Lauren Hutton with their wonky teeth, Karen Black with her slight squint, Sophia Loren with her “too big” mouth and nose, the elegant, lovely facial planes of Katharine Hepburn.

The new “perfect” is insipid and anodyne and far too easily achieved with a nip here, a tuck there and the occasional shot of dermal filler. There has to be, must be, something more – What a fembot lacks we have by the barrowload – humanity, character, personality and wit and I’ll take that, over this so-called “perfection” any day.