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Bikini Season

June 8, 2011

One of the comments I hear repeatedly on SOAM is the desire to be able to wear a bikini. Women feel ashamed if they “can’t” and proud if they do despite stretch marks or loose skin (as well they should be in the current climate of body image). I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea, period. Admittedly, I have never been a bikini-wearer, so perhaps there is something there I’m missing about how awesome they are (I can see that they’d be easier to make a bathroom stop in, for one thing – wet swimsuits are sticky and uncomfortable to maneuver up and down), but ultimately I suspect it’s just part of the desire we instill in women to need to stay maidens forever.

I try to peel away the layers of things that confuse me; getting to deeper levels generally unwinds the confusion and makes things clear. So what’s the draw with bikinis? (Aside from the previously mentioned ease of peeing, of course.) What about them makes them such a desired object – no! – status? They don’t do anything other bathing suits can’t do (even two-piece tankinis make for quick pee-stops), and I’ve certainly seen some really beautiful one-piece suits so it’s not necessarily the fashion of it, either. The only difference is that they show more skin. And that we, as women, buy into the idea that the skin they show better be youthful and conventionally-beautiful.

But we, as women, are smarter than that. We need to make ourselves aware of what is at the heart of the matter. Money. I’ve said it before and I will undoubtedly say it again and again: the beauty industry keeps us weak by keeping us feeling insecure. And our insecurity is worth buttloads of money to them. So long as we worship the maiden-shaped body, they stay in power. So long as our greatest desire is to successfully wear a bikini, they stay in power.

I’m not saying the desire to wear a bikini is a bad thing. I am asking that you carefully consider your reasons for it, and if those reasons hurt you in any way, maybe leave the desire behind and find worth in yourself exactly the way you are right now. Because you are worth LOTS. No matter the size or shape of your midsection – it is a vitally important part of your body. It digests all your food, it’s the home of your immune system, it kicks out the wastes and absorbs the nutrients. It’s worth so much to you. Your belly, “bikini-ready” (whatever that means) or not, it’s worth everything to you, and should be honored and respected and loved and thanked.

This post isn’t about what you will wear this summer, it’s just about loving you as you are. It’s not about starting a movement against bikinis, it’s just about making you think. It sure as hell isn’t about being unhealthy or embracing a state of dis-health (I have to say this any time I mention loving all sizes of bodies), it’s just about loving YOU always, no matter where you are, because you deserve it. It’s okay – no it’s beautiful – to get older (no matter what that may look like on your body). Maidens are beautiful, but so are mothers and crones.

So. What’s the big deal about bikinis, anyway? Buy whatever makes you feel good and just enjoy the sun and water – that, as far as I can tell, is the purpose of a bathing suit.

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21 Responses to “Bikini Season”

  1. Colleen Says:
    June 8th, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I can’t tell you, I don’t wear them either. I wear two-pieces because my freakishly long torso makes any one-piece an instant wedgie machine, but I have to have a solid top (like a sport-style suit) because having the strip of skin between my breasts exposed makes me intensely uncomfortable. It’s also hard for me to fit my 34G’s into a bikini without it looking, well…less the classy. I’m not ashamed to show skin but there’s a limit to how immodest I’ll be.

    I am not going to lie, I was ecstatic about not getting stretch marks on my stomach. I can’t break the cultural stereotype that a marked tummy is “bad”. I’m somewhat ashamed that I’m proud of my lack of stretchies. But I searched long and hard for a bathing suit to wear after my baby was born (my old ones didn’t fit anymore) that showed off my tummy. I WANTED to be proud of showing my post-baby tummy off in public. I refused to by a tankini because I didn’t want people to think I was hiding. It’s my post-baby thighs that i’m not so fond of.

    I actually brought bikinis and WHY THEY MATTER up in one of my SOAM posts once, I think. I remember other people commenting that they’d wear a bikini if they wanted to no matter how “imperfect” they were.

  2. Mina Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 7:30 am

    I love this post Bonnie. I live near the ocean and spend quite a bit of time at the beach/pool when it’s warm. I’m always kind of amazed at how many moms won’t get into any kind of bathing suit and play with their kids in the pool because they are uncomfortable being seen in one (and before we blame men…this is often during the day when it’s a bunch of moms and their kids at the pool).

    I wear a bikini. I admit I’m not anywhere near as enlightened as I’d like to be yet with respect to all of this body image baggage, but I actually like how my body looks in a bikini better than in clothes…there’s no waistband pulling and tugging and causing extra bulging…not that my bikini body is perfect, but it is what it is, no hiding no lying. Somehow that is comfortable to me. I need support on the top that I don’t get from a one piece (in a one piece I feel like my boobs sink to my bellybutton…but with a bikini I can have my girls supported).

  3. Andrea Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 8:33 am

    For me, my midsection is my best asset – a one piece covers up the best of what I have to offer!! lol…but seriously, the comment you made..”the beauty industry keeps us weak by keeping us insecure, and our weakens is worth buttloads of money to them…” I completely agree with you! Despite my awareness of this fact, I still struggle against the ideals they are selling or rather, shoving down our throats! Sites like this and women showing courage and support for one another help SO much and I am grateful to see the start of Women fighting back! :)

  4. bethany actually Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 8:33 am

    I don’t get the bikini thing either. Even when I was 18 and weighed 110 pounds (though I had stretch marks even then, thanks to puberty; srsly, THANK YOU puberty, because I never even gave a second thought to getting stretchmarks while pregnant!), I never wore bikinis. I always felt too exposed in them! It’s kind of how I feel wearing miniskirts: there’s just too much opportunity for (a) sunburn, and (b) people seeing something I didn’t want them to see!

    That said, I think if you’re more comfortable in a two piece for peeing reasons or fashion reasons or whatever, you should wear one. Period.

  5. Kim Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 8:38 am

    I love being able to wear a bikini. I work very hard to keep myself fit and trim – and I think popping on that bikini at the start of summer signifies – YES – one more year where my hard work and dedication paid off. I’ve had 2 kids and fortunately didn’t get stretch marks with either of them. I’m 37 years old and I think I look DAMN GOOD! (Can I post a pic here – i would if I could!) LOL
    Someone once said bikini’s were for “attracting men” but for me that isn’t even close. It’s about appreciating my body – which looks good but certainly is not perfect – and enjoying the fact that I can f/t employee, super mom and a sexy little thing too. Go bikini go!

  6. Brandi Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 8:57 am

    I am an American currently living in Europe, and it seems like every beach I go to is filled with women of all shapes, sizes, and ages wearing bikinis–sometimes, not even a top, and again, that’s all shapes, sizes, and ages. In Italy every advertising surface is plastered with perfect women, scantily clad, selling everything from underwear to cars. And you should see what’s on prime time TV! So it’s not like they don’t have that ridiculous standard being presented to them all the time. At first I thought they all just didn’t care how they looked, but after asking some of my Italian friends, I found that they feel just as insecure about their bodies as American women do. They know they don’t look like supermodels. The difference is that they don’t let it prevent them from doing anything they want to do. They wear bikinis and they feel beautiful in them. After gaining some weight over the winter, I was feeling insecure about my belly and bought a one-piece swimsuit. The first weekend I wore it to the beach I remembered how ridiculous that was there. I was the only person in a one piece. Now, if I had been wearing it because I particularly liked the style or because I felt comfortable in it, that would have been one thing. But I was wearing it to hide my belly. (From whom? Who really cares?!) The truth is I like wearing a bikini and getting a tan on my belly and back. (and yes, it is definitely easier to go to the bathroom in!) And so I put the one piece in the drawer for when I return to the states. Because I think the atmosphere is very different there. It’s not just corporate America trying to get our money, because there’s plenty of that in Europe, too. We can’t blame the media or men or anyone but ourselves.

    It’s us women who look at each other and judge our bodies. We have to realize that we are doing this to ourselves and then work on being more loving and respectful to our bodies and the bodies of other women, young and old. We have to band together and say “YES! we are going to wear bikinis (or whatever swimsuit we prefer) and go to the beach or pool and have fun!” We have to stop worrying about what someone else might think of our choice in swimsuits. If you are really focused on enjoying yourself and living in the moment, what does it matter if your belly isn’t perfect looking?

  7. Sarah Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 9:18 am

    When I was younger I wore two piece suits, but never a string bikini. Having a full bosom that has always been rather southbound, my appreciation for two piece suits is the presence of UNDERWIRE, which is very hard to find in a one piece suit (impossible to find in an affordable one piece). Also, you can sometimes buy the top in one size and the bottoms in a different size, and that helped me avoid the challenge that all ready-to-wear clothes of assuming my body has certain proportions (proportions I have NOT had, at any weight or any age).

    Even when I wore them, I had mixed feelings, because I *didn’t* like the objectification that went with it… I just wanted my boobs to be supported. I wasn’t trying to flaunt my sexuality, I was just trying to put some vertical distance between my waist and my bust.

  8. Tobi-Dawne Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 9:32 am

    I am proud to say I will NOT be wearing a bikini this Summer. LOL I wore them for a brief while when I was a kid (not a teen, a kid)… but otherwise have never really understood the fascination. I do love a two piece – my tankini is my suit of choice – but I’ll never understand the NEED some folks have to strap themselves into one.

  9. Bonnie (TIAW) Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 9:33 am

    I’m loving hearing from you women who love wearing bikinis! My next question to you would be – what would you do, or how would you feel if you didn’t feel your body was appropriate for what makes you most comfortable? Because THAT is the issue here. Bikinis aren’t – it’s why we torture ourselves about them. Either wanting to wear them but not feeling secure enough, or in feeling like we should look “good enough” for a bikini whether or not we wanted to wear them. THAT is the point I was trying to bring across.

    Brandi, I love that you shared what you did, it’s extremely enlightening and has given me a lot to think about. Unfortunately I have spent much less time out of the states but I hear that Europe is much more forgiving of bodies over there. I wonder why, particularly in light of the advertising you say also occurs over there. (Gosh how I wish I had the money for “research” travel!)

  10. Amy Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I know people are going to hate me for this and it’s a little off topic but my opinion has always been that bikinis after motherhood are a no no. It has absolutely nothing to do with how you look. It has more to do with the messages we are sending to our kids. In a society where our children are flooded with images of sex because we all know “sex sells” I think that as Moms we’re only reinforcing those messages when we put on a bikini. I certainly don’t hide my body from my children and I’m not saying wear a burkini but I always wonder why we need to feel sexy when at the pool or beach with our kids. I just don’t get it.

  11. Bonnie (TIAW) Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Amy I so totally don’t hate you for sharing your opinion! I do feel, though, that humans are sexual creatures and I think our society has put unnatural boundaries on sexuality in those terms. In tribal societies it’s all just part of life and not an issue. Now I’m not saying the boundaries are bad or that we should totally ignore them because the society we live in DOES need to be considered. All I am saying is that I don’t feel that these boundaries we’ve built are necessarily normal to human history. Therefore, I think the sexuality of mothers is more of an issue here than in other parts of the world and through history. After all, those children came FROM sex. It’s who we are at our very core – beings who are driven to have offspring. That’s essential to us and also just totally NORMAL to us. Just my opinion. :)

  12. Mrs. Wilson Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 10:17 am

    I love this. Thank you.

  13. Karla Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 11:41 am

    I used to wear takinis and the ones with a short at the bottom BEFORE I had kids. And that’s when I looked “good” according to society. I dont like showing too much skin. After children, I became too ashamed of my body. It took a lot of courage to just drop the towel and get in the water. I would do it because I would force myself. My husband would tell me I am beautiful but I would reply that I did with clothes on…but once people saw me in a two piece they would see how “ugly” I really was. All that stopped a few months ago. I was thinking about all of this nonsense, and how I dont want to affect my daughter or son. I knew I needed to stop. That’s when I realized that worrying 9 months of the year for a few months of summer was stupid. My body is a treasure for my husband to see, nobody else. That’s when I decided to go the one piece route. I wanted to enjoy the sun, the water, my family and not to be thinking what people are thinking about me. I wanted to show my daughter that you dont need to show skin to feel beautiful. I felt a freedom to be me after I came to that (personal) realization that it was the key to all my insecurities. My body is a gift for me and my husband only. And guess what, after that, I felt free to eat without guilt. To exercise for fun. To go for a walk because I like it not because I need a sixpack. And the irony of it all, it is now, for the first time in my 30 years that I have a sixpack!!! My arms are toned, my legs are beautifully muscled. But I wll stay true to my promise. One piece for me. I love my body now. I feel strong. I am beautiful. And all of it started when I was able to let go of the stress to be “bikini ready.”

  14. Desiree Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    I guess I don’t see bikinis as selling sex when at the pool. I can not stand the heat and even if I’m appalled by my body, I can’t wear a one piece without sweating to death. I find bikinis keep me cooler. Just like I wear little tank-tops around my yard to do yardwork. I don’t think of it sexually, but functionally. That heat about kills me. I wish more women of all body types wore bikinis. It would be nice for it to be normalized. Plus if you’re in the water with your kids..who is looking at you sexually? Usually the pool is filled with moms and little kids where I go!

  15. Lia Joy Says:
    June 9th, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I like to get sun on as much skin as I can (I’d rather be nude!) and I’m comfortable with my stretch marks. But this year I’m facing a new, similar challenge: I’m Not shaving my bikini line. Innitially it was just because it’s so much more comfortable without the itch of shaving. Now that I’ve noticed how self-conscious I feel about it, I’m on a mission to over come that! I’m a grown woman, for god’s sake. I have hair. Why should I feel like I need to cover up if I don’t shave?

  16. Aaron R. Says:
    June 10th, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    I saw a link on FB that led to this (which explains why I’m commenting here as a guy). I was pleasantly surprised that the post went in a different direction than I expected. I’m a pretty hardcore feminist.

    This point is crucial: “…the beauty industry keeps us weak by keeping us feeling insecure. And our insecurity is worth buttloads of money to them. So long as we worship the maiden-shaped body, they stay in power.”

    However, I think that fantastic quote above is antithetical to the following quote: “Iā€™m not saying the desire to wear a bikini is a bad thing.”

    We must remember that even the very *desire* to wear a bikini is largely manufactured by the exact same beauty/apparel industry. On this point, I recommend the work of Jean Kilbourne, and her series of documentaries, “Killing us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women,” and the PBS documentary “The Persuaders.”

    The compulsion for women to even wear a bikini (or have that body, I should say) is the compulsion to conform to artificial and often unhealthy conceptions of beauty, which are radically misrepresentative of the human population. So, instead of saying, “You’re beautiful just the way you are, so wear that bikini anyway!!”, instead we should say, “You’re beautiful just the way you are, so let’s refuse to conform to that oppressive false picture of so-called ‘beauty,’ and simply be beautiful.”

  17. Bonnie (TIAW) Says:
    June 11th, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Thanks for commenting, Aaron!

    My intent when I said that the desire to wear a bikini isn’t necessarily bad was referring to personal desire. For one thing, we are all on our own places on this path to self-love, and I can’t very well assume to know where each person is on that path, but there may be some extremely valid reasons that come from inside rather than society, that may lead a woman to want to wear a bikini. And I don’t want to alienate her. And then the comments left by people here on this entry back that up. Some wear bikini’s for their own personal comfort, because one-pieces don’t fit tall torsos or large breasts well, or because the feeling of a bikini is better to that person. And that’s AWESOME. It becomes a problem when they find they feel the need to cover up because they don’t feel their body is the right shape for what makes them most comfortable.

    In other words, I’m all for standing up to the industry, but I think it’s best done while keeping our own personal comfort in mind rather than a movement to ban one type of suit.

    Peace. :)

  18. Mina Says:
    June 15th, 2011 at 9:09 am

    I totally agree with all of Aaron’s points up there.

    I’m all for standing up to the industry and I love Jean Kilbourne.

    Here’s where I struggle…because then I feel like we are made to feel “bad” for wanting to feel attractive (even to ourselves). To me, true enlightenment (and make no mistake…I’m not there yet) would be when I can adorn myself/dress myself the way I find beautiful…and that might be wearing a bikini…or it might be a piercing or a tattoo or something less “traditionally” beautiful.

    When it comes to the beach or the pool (and I’m rarely at either without my kids), I usually wear a bikini because I feel most comfortable in one. Sometimes it’s a bikini with a sarong. If I reach a point where that’s no longer my most comfortable bathing wear choice, I’ll find something else I guess šŸ˜‰

  19. Marz Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 3:04 pm had a great articule about the history of beauty in relation to the bikini.
    would ANYONE care about how they looked in a bikini if there weren’t at least 3 articles on the front of every magazine about hw to look perfect in your bikini??? Humans aren’t “perfect,” we’re not barbie dolls. We have skin, skin has flaws. We have stretch marks. We sometimes have 5 or 10 extra pounds. That goes for men and women.
    It is our imperfections that make us human, that make us so perfect and beautiful to look at. The irony of the Bikini Battle is that bikinis are supposed to be about feeling free– and yet we’ve let Redbook and Cosmo make us feel trapped.

  20. Jamie Says:
    July 13th, 2011 at 5:07 am

    These days I’m wearing a tankini top with a swim skirt. Part of this is because I feel that I can be around anyone in the water (from in-laws, to friends’ husbands, to my Muslim neighbors) without feeling over-exposed. And the other benefit is that I don’t have to get all vigilant about shaving/waxing. I can do some inner thigh touch up with a razor, but that’s all I have to worry about. I know that no one is staring at the crack of my butt when I’m turned around and I can find many tankini top styles that flatter my small bust (because I refuse to pad them- gotta represent for my small busted sisters) But yes, having a “bikini body” is definitely a type of status symbol. When summer is nearing so much of the talk isn’t excitement about the sun and water, the chatter is about body shape and “hitting the gym”. It’s a bit tiring, no?

  21. melissa Says:
    July 15th, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    ok, so I will be completely honest here and I do not want to sound rude but I have 4 boys and I bought a bikini and my son was embarrased. The reason why is because he says society associates any kind of nakedness or exprosure in a sexual way and he felt bad that people were looking at me that way. He’s almost 16, I bought a tankini to wear to the beach and I kind of got what he said. if you have kids and your prancing around in a bikini, well it doesn;t make much sense. You are bending down, lifting up, crouched in the sand, sliding down slides with all your bits and pieces hanging about. How is this kid friendly at all? How is this comfortable? When I took my teen and his friends to the beach the first thing the girls and guys do is size up the people, and laugh. So do not care what anybody else thinks, that’s great, do what you will but let’s be realistic. A miniscule amount of people can pull off a bikini, even if you go to the gym and work out, eat right, etc. Also, you know people are looking at the beach, so if you go to the beach in your bra and underware you know people are going to stare, and you do it anyway? Then you say it’s for you, is there a mirror at the beach? You want to looked at, you feel you deserve to be looked at, bottom line. So I will do me and let my son’s comments put me in a tankini, and you be you but come on and be honest about it.

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