Pay a visit to the beaches in Tel Aviv, and it may surprise you how similar they feel to the seaside towns in the U.S. Tourists and locals intermingle, women stroll around in sundresses and swimsuits, and people notice (and discuss) each other's bodies.
Photographer Mayan Toledano, who visited Tel Aviv for Refinery29, tells us that the women she shot and interviewed at the beach were more than happy to share memorable comments they've received about their own bodies. Overwhelmingly, the first remarks that leapt to mind for these women were negative ones.
"It was the easiest and first thing they all answered, almost like they have been waiting to say it," Toledano says.
But the comments they found problematic weren't exclusively negative. In fact, many of the women said that even compliments made them feel self-conscious — or, as Toledano put it, "measured" against other women. "We don't have to comment on external things all the time," she says. "We can compliment each other more, but we can also just be in our bodies without giving it [so much] attention or seeking confirmation."
This conflict, between affirming someone's appearance and not wanting to make it seem like that's the only thing that matters, is something we're exploring all summer long here at R29. And unfortunately, of the 1,000 women we surveyed this year, one in four of them "loathe" their bodies. It isn't exactly comforting to know that women across the globe also struggle with these issues, but it's an important reminder that body negativity is an international problem.
Ahead, see Toledano's photos of Israeli women at the beach and read their thoughts on body talk.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.