I don’t know if anyone’s noticed, but summer is here! That blazing heat and shining sun can only mean that summer is in progress (unless you’re in Texas, where such whether can occur from March to December). And for the womenfolk, summer means a barrage of bikini sales advertisements and all their accompanying propaganda! I can’t even tell you how many Groupon deals I’ve been offered in the past two or so months trying to entice me into getting my body bikini-ready with boot camps, CrossFit, and other various tortures marketed towards looks rather than health. I can’t even look at a magazine rack without seeing at least four covers offering a beach body in just weeks. Whatevs, I can make a beach body in two minutes by covering myself in sand and sticking some seaweed on my face.
The term “bikini body” is in itself sexist and misogynistic, because it encompasses all that objectification is. It reduces a woman to nothing but her body, the space the true woman inhabits. It separates the self from the body, and creates an entity that has no thoughts or feelings. It is instead just a vessel to be looked at, and as such it has become an objective thing, this “bikini body.” It’s truly sickening that this is a common term, something that we must acquire the same way we acquire the bikini itself.
But please, oh popular media, help me become more palatable to the male gaze! I beg of you, make me the envy of all women (because we’re so vain!) and compel them to bow before my lithe legs and toned abs! Make it so that I may descend upon the Victoria’s Secret website to wipe them out of tiny bikinis that barely cover my ass! But wait, what’s this? I can, in the body that I possess now, slip on a bathing suit and not burst into flames because of the “extra” inches on my thighs? But how could this be?! I mean, if I believe fashion editors and misogynistic onlookers everywhere, I have no right to inhabit such clothing with a less-than-arbitrarily-perfect body! Surely something will happen to me!
And that’s the sad thing – it does happen. Those articles and advertisements and television shows? Everyone sees them, and those crafty little societal ideals do their best to work down into our subconscious, so that when anyone without a model’s body puts on a two piece, they are immediately subject to criticism. So while we may not be struck down the moment our non-Photoshopped bodies tie the strings of that bikini, we still get the societal pressures that the images of what bikini bodies look like perpetuate. We get the stares and the comments from passersby, the raised eyebrows and the silent judgments. Now, I may be slender, but I do not possess that magical, socially accepted bikini bod. Even with legs and a bottom that are very muscular, I possess the dimples and bulges that most women have somewhere. And so, even when I’m feeling confident and healthy and beautiful, I still have that fear that someone is judging me in my tiny bikini because I have had the audacity to put it on my imperfect ass. I know that I am not alone in that.
There comes a time, however, when we have to, for lack of better words, tell those sexist ideals to fuck right off. It’s hard to get to that point, but it’s certainly something to work towards. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it. I have battled an eating disorder for years with those words, and while I’m not sure I’ll ever fully be able to get those ideals out of my head, I can sure as hell try. Really, who wants to sit inside while their friends go off to the waterpark? Who wants to watch their kids play in the neighborhood pool and not be able to join them? Think of what arbitrary standards take from you when they keep you from engaging in fun and comfort. It isn’t fair to let ourselves be overrun with fear and guilt and self-loathing for something that is entirely made up. I personally know that it’s not that simple to just screw the beauty standard and let loose, but even telling yourself that is a start.
So go forth, lovely women, and put on whatever swimsuit you want! If you love that vintage maillot, go for it! If you want a barely-there string bikini, work it! Whatever choice you make, and whatever body you have, you’ve got the right to wear what you want. Tell me, Persephoneers, what are you wearing this summer? Are you going to rock that bikini?