Whether we like it or not, December is fast approaching and with it, all of the things that we have got so used to seeing at this time of year; every company ever trying to outdo the John Lewis Christmas advert, pictures of Will Ferrell dressed as an elf all over my Facebook newsfeed and, a more recent addition, photos of women who are stripping off to create calendars for various causes.
The one that has caught my eye this year has been made by the all women Hertfordshire Rugby Squad, who have brought out a naked calendar to try and raise vital funds and the profile of Women's Rugby.
Amy Haughton, who volunteered to take the pictures said: "it's meant to be an empowering, body confidence sort of thing, there was no photoshopping involved and all the images include curves, cellulite - the lot. All the ladies came away from the shoot feeling pretty confident.. We're certainly not supermodels, but we had fun and hopefully we can raise some money and the profile of women's rugby."
And you know what Amy? I TOTALLY agree with you, these ARE empowering.
There has long sine been an argument, that we shouldn't all be taking off our clothes just 'for the hell of it', that our bodies are sacred and that this is just tacky 'attention seeking rubbish'. The Sun's Page 3 has notoriously been incredibly unpopular (I'm actually a big supporter but that's a conversation for another day... literally, any other day, I can and will talk about this a LOT) and lad mags and nude calendars have by some, simply been regarded as smut.
But then, in 2003, one of the best films ever (to my mind) was released; Calendar Girls, a film based on a true story, of a group of women in their 50s and 60s, who stripped off for a Women's Institute Calendar to raise enough money for a new sofa in their local hospital and on the back of that, the perception started to change. Now, these calendars are everywhere. Naked women advertising the date are no longer just found on the walls of garages or of teenage boys' bedrooms, no, they're now everywhere and they're evolving.
Famously these calendars were just home to incredible women without their bras on, or with thier legs open. You could buy a calendar that just consisted of your favourite Glamour Model or you could wait until publications like The Sun came out with theirs. But now, local organisations are organising these and, as they become more common place, they are becoming more empowering. Because now, to make it as a month, you don't need 32DDs and a wizz at photoshop on your side, now all you need is a fuck tonne of courage and 11 mates to do it with.
In between comments of distain about calendars such as these though, I have also found there to be quite a lot who are suggesting that this is 'boring', that it's 'over done' and that it's 'lacking any originality'. But tell me this: In this world there are lots of important causes that need our help, I think I would need an entire day to make a list of all the charities that I would like to support, and finding new and exciting ways to raise money for them year on year becomes hard. Sure, you can stand with collection buckets, you can organise a carwash or a bake sale or you can opt to do some horrible physical challenge that people can sponsor you for, but you can also, make a calendar, what really is the difference? Sure, you did it last year, but it worked, so why wouldn't you do it again? Since one charity did one calendar, one time, does that mean that every other charity is banned from doing it, because it's old news? If that's the case, how are bake sales still a thing?
In truth, people don't like these calendars for lots of reasons, but it's not because they've been done before. Mostly, I think it has something to do with the women included in them, I think these women, in being brave enough to get naked for charity, are being branded as 'attention seekers' and therefore deemed to be as boring and irrelevant to these commenters as the likes of Kim Kardashian, who are famous ONLY for taking their clothes off (without a good cause in sight I hasten to add).
But it ought to be pointed out that women like the ones behind the Hertfordshire Rugby Club calendar are not trying to be famous, and have openly admitted that they are not trying to be supermodels either. What they are doing is showing themselves off, as they are. Beautiful, curvy, strong, normal. What we forget is that in this very messed up little world that we live in, is that nudity is everywhere. It's a 'nip-slip' from our favourite celebrity, it's rife in the porn that boys are watching when they should be sleeping, it's underneath our clothes at all times. I don't remember the last time I saw a female pop-star on stage in anything other than hot-pants and everywhere I look there is another model standing in her underwear. It's nothing to us anymore, it's normal... well, as normal as it can be after six hours in photoshop and a life-time of dieting.
From where I am sitting, these calendars are nothing but great. On the one hand they are raising money for important causes and on the other hand they are exposing us to something that we haven't really ever seen anywhere outside of our bedrooms: real women. Real women, looking great and feeling great. Real women who are happy enough in their bodies that they will show them off. Real women that actually ARE us.
These calendars aren't old and boring, it's our attitudes that are. And if, in 20 years time I walk into my future son's and daughter's bedrooms and see calendars like these on the walls, I will know that I don't need to worry, because they're at least looking up to something real, something that they can relate to, and something that if they're brave enough, they could do one day, without the judgement.