Why the Concept of a “Bikini Body” Infuriates Me

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It’s that time of the year again (in the Northern Hemisphere at least). It’s the time when everyone begins to realize that the sleet and the snow are going to end and people will actually want to wear swimsuits. In tandem, it seems like every site on the internet (or sign on the street) is telling you the right way to make your body ‘bikini ready.’

The idea of a ‘bikini-ready body’ is something I take immense issue with. I don’t care who you are or who you are talking about; the second you say, ‘bikini body’ or ‘bikini-ready body’ you are making the distinction betweens bodies which are supposed to wear bikinis and those that are not, whether referring to yourself or anyone else.

Because bikinis are primarily worn in public, unlike lingerie, the idea of judgment is even more real and frightening. In a society that faults fat, cellulite, stretchmarks, pimples or hair anywhere but on our heads, it’s a miracle any of us can pick up the courage to step outside in such a revealing piece of clothing.

I’ve fallen for it– I’ve been (and probably will be) afraid to wear a bikini because my body is ‘wrong’ for it. My tummy is too squishy. My breasts are too small. My thighs are too big. And into that pile of insecurities you throw the concept of a ‘bikini-ready’ body, something that would be achievable if only I worked hard enough, controlled myself better, bought whatever gym membership or weightloss product you’re selling? Puh-lease. Talk about pouring oil on the flames of insecurity.

Monif C Swimsuit

It can be hard not to say, “Oh, but I’m only trying to make my body fit enough to wear a bikini, it has nothing to do with anyone else.” In some ways it makes sense to keep trying to shield yourself from judgement by fitting in as best you can, whether it is good for you or not. But really, even if it may be impossible to prevent yourself saying that inside your head, think hard before  you utter it out loud– those words can weigh so much more than you imagine. Any body is an acceptable body, and everyone gets to choose why and how they want that body displayed.

Gabi Fresh looking so fantastic in her bikini

The strange kerfuffle about blogger Gabi Fresh’s awesome bikini photo last year is an example of how out of proportion the ideas of what an acceptable body are. Or look at the cover of Star or People or those other truly horrible magazines whose bread and butter is to critique the bodies of the rich and famous and peddle diet trips and fitness tips and all around dissatisfaction.

In the summer, it’s amazing how easy it is to go outside and run around/swim/bike/play and maybe you’ll want to wear a bikini and maybe you won’t. But that has nothing to do with having the ‘right’ body.

——–

Do you struggle with the concept of a bikini-ready body? How do you handle the swimwear season?

32 Comments
  1. Your words are amazing and this is completely true. Even if you have a “bikini body” you would find something to worry about. I was born skinny and within the concept of “summer ready”, but I’ve spent quite a few years without being able to wear a bikini because I had problems with hairs and, later, scars on my belly. And I live in a place where everybody wears bikinis the whole year, so the body cult is almost extreme.
    I still hate when people look at me and say “Oh, but you are so skinny and I feel absolutely fat when I’m next to you”. I was born with my body, you wee born with yours. It is healthy to exercise and eat nicely, and this would probably get you a beautiful body (and skin, and hair…) but it is not healthy to compare people’s bodies and say you are worse than anyone else.

    It’s a pretty hard issue, but I am glad you have the courage to talk about it.

  2. I weigh enough that my doctor tells me to watch my weight every time I have a physical. I hated wearing swimsuits before I could get them in DD+ sizes.

    I don’t wear a bikini to ‘show off.’ I wear one because having wet fabric clinging to my stomach too long feels annoying/vaguely sick-making, and it’s always the last part to dry. My annoyance at this is far bigger than any shame I’d have about exposing fat.

  3. Great great blog. Do you have time to write a guest post for my blog. My readers would LOVE to hear your pov
    :)

  4. Another great post! I for one HATE wearing a swimming costume in public so I can definitely identify with this. I always feel like everyone is judging me for not looking as I should… tanned and curvy and glamourous.

    I even feigned feeling sick last year because I didn’t want to go swimming and wear a bikini in front of my mother in law. In fact the only time I am comfortable in a bikini is under multiple layers and thick sun creme (I’m fair skinned).

    Which is a shame… because I LOVE buying beautiful swimwear!

  5. Jumping in to say that I agree 100%. I’ve worn bikinis since I was considered obese and haven’t looked back. They fit my body better (have a long torso so one-piece=wedgie) and I can buy a better fitting top because I need the support but go cheap on the bottoms (and also buy in different sizes if needed!). Even now at 8 months pregnant I’m still wearing my bikini and proud of it.

    Although, here in Brazil it’s much more acceptable and I’m SO thankful for that. If you go to the beach you see ladies in barely there string bikinis no matter what size/shape they’re in. It’s hot here, so you don’t want to have to wear more layers than you need to! What I find so silly about the concept of a “bikini body” is that often times women who think they don’t have a bikini body could look awesome in a bikini if they just found the right one for their body type. Maybe they need a more structured top of they’re full busted or high-waisted bottoms if they need the extra support. Or maybe just high cut bottoms to elongate their legs etc. It takes some experimenting but there are a ton of different bras out there with fun options that I wish women would consider more!

  6. Although I’m very insecure about my weight, I wear a bikini.
    When I was younger I suffered from severe selfharm and my body still shows that. So no matter how much I weigh, people will look.
    Since they’ll look whether I wear boyshorts or a bikini or a bathing suit – I just decided to wear a bikini (which is my preferred set for swimming). :)

    on another note, I hate that I can’t go swimming topless. It would be so much easier sometimes, plus you don’t get bikini top tan lines ;)

    How to get a bikini body:
    * have body
    * have bikini
    * put bikini on body

    • Those steps are essential :). I admit I’ve never considered swimming topless (I make sure I don’t tan), but you could do it on a topless beach! Or nude beach. Otherwise not much chance for that unless you find one that’s pretty deserted.

  7. I loathe “bikini body” rhetoric, as though the only acceptable public body is one that looks “good” (according to totally arbitrary standards) in a certain kind of garment. It also assumes that if I go to the beach, bringing my body along with me is an act of daring or of invitation for scrutiny. Eff that, I just want to go to the damn beach, bring a book I have no intention of reading, and doze the day away.

  8. BRAVO! Why is the point of this article not obvious to everyone already? I´ve seen this on tumblr recently – How to achieve bikini body: put bikini on your body. Also wanted to share some life-changing personal experience on here: Last summer I bought my first swimwear (bikini) after years because UGH MY BODY IS AWFUL AND FAT. I also kind of didn´t need bikini in my life but I decided to pick up swimming regularly and realised last time I shopped for swimwear was when I was 14! Anyways, my shopping for swimwear also coincided with the period when I started to accept my body as it is and so I got this gorgeous black bikini (my sister has said I look like pregnant Brigitte Bardot. I do not take it as an offence because it still has Bardot in it). I went to holidays by the sea which helped me immensely with whatever I previously thought about wearing bikini in public: NOBODY GIVES A DAMN. I´ve found that it is really just magazines that try to stuff your head with all these terrible “ideologies” (as I like to call it) – once I was on the beach I observed people and none of them was concerned with how they looked like in their swimwear. There were young people, old people, fat and skinny people, people with dermatological problems and rash all over their skin, people with cellulite, pale people and …you know, all sorts of real people. Each of them was just kinda happy to be out of work, sitting on the beach and all of them seemed to transcend their problematic bodies to enjoy a bit of sun.

    • I think it’s wonderful to be in a situation where you can see a whole bunch of people and their bodies and just to focus on ‘flaws’ when there are so many amazing things about bodies. And who decides what a flaw is anyway?

  9. Love this post! I get so tired of hearing the “bikini body” bit myself along with the copious eating, drinking, and exercise tips to go along with it. I’m also very pale, so it’s frustrating to read recommendations to use self-tanner before going to the beach. I’m wearing a bikini this year for the first time in a while, and I will admit to being rather nervous. However, this post is truly inspiring me to be comfortable and confident. As an analogous side note, I read a quote from Diane Kruger in InStyle recently that said something to the effect of: If you have a good body, you don’t have to show it off to look nice. It really irritated me because it was yet another comment classifying bodies into good or bad much the same way “Bikini Body” does.

    • That quote from Diane Kruger is also disappointing– it acts like wearing certain things is ‘showing off’ and that a ‘good’ body is something everyone can obviously recognize. Honestly it sounds pretty snotty coming from her.

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  11. I don’t think “will I look good in this bikini in the public eye” I think “will this bikini make me feel good”

  12. Ugh, this is amazingly accurate. Awhile ago I was out with friends and this one girl who didn’t have a “bikini ready” body wore a skimpy bikini and the only look I saw her getting, if any, was from people checking her out. Maybe because of where I live, but the body shaming seems more culturally imagined than real. Its always talked about, and there’s definitely a disgusting presence, but I always like to think that most people don’t buy into the body-shaming nonsense, because if so many people do that’s an awful way to spend your life. Caring about how other people look all the time sounds absolutely miserable to me.
    But back to swimwear, I have such a love-hate relationship wih swimwear that has little to do with my body being viewed. Because I like to do laps I pretty much need to stick the onepiece, but cute one-pieces with scoop backs like the Sabine de Brumes, don’t have the support I need. While a lot of swimsuits either have a TON of padding with no support or the whole thing is like a corset, not that I don’t love corsets but I’d like to be able to bend while swimming, thanks. It’s like no one thinks that a girl who needs support in the bust area would want to look cute and be able to move too. Where is the cute, sporty swimwear?

  13. LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! You bring up some very wonderful points about weight/body acceptance.
    However what I struggle with as far as any swim wear goes is that im a trans woman. So my bodily anxieties go far beyond that of weight. However maybe one day I can muster up the courage to wear a bikini despite the dysphoria and anxiety that can come along with it.

  14. Love. I hate the annual cycle of body shame – as much as I try to keep a rational head about these things it’s impossible not to compare yourself and come up lacking. The only thing I’ll say is, when you run in a bikini in to a Northern European sea in spring you soon forget any imaginary ring of shame any onlookers may be drawing around your wobbles. Laughing, shivering and breathless, the only way you can feel is invincible. Bloody cold too. But mostly, invincible x

  15. As much as I agree with what you are saying, I also loathe the other side of the coin. That is to say, the “real women have curves” bullshit. [Keep reading, I promise it's not offensive!] I don’t think that in the interest of trying to stop fat shaming, we- as women, as feminists and as a community- should be shaming ANY women for what they look like. We cannot stop the objectification of women on the whole if we are tacitly saying it is ok to shame thin women because they are thin. Body shaming is body shaming, period, and I personally think it’s high time we stopped dividing “body” shaming into different categories, e.g. fat shaming. I was born premature and underweight. I have stayed underweight my entire life, at times dangerously so, due to an autoimmune disorder. I get shamed all the time- told to eat sandwiches, to shut up and be happy about ‘hitting the genetic jackpot,’ or how if I only had tits I’d be “the perfect woman.” I’ve had more than 3 men offer to pay for breast implants. It’s humiliating.

    The Huffington Post recently did an article [ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/29/real-bikini-bodies-look-like-this_n_2981220.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009 ] entitled, as you can see, “Real Bikini Bodies Look Like This.” Not one of those women look like me. Nor do I have “curves.” Does that mean I A) do not have a bikini body and B) am not a real woman? I suppose it depends on who you ask. Mainstream culture might say I’m perfect; feminists/women might say I’m not a real woman. I feel objectified by one side and shamed by another.

    The point is this: it turns out size doesn’t matter. I hate wearing bikinis, shorts, skirts, tank tops, etc. I feel bony, unattractive and judged by all [and I'm not paranoid. Comments are made. People seem unafraid to comment on how skinny I am]. Shame comes in all forms, from all people, can be directed at anyone and certainly felt by all.

  16. Such a great post. Was just beginning to feel the nagging feeling that my body wasn’t up to par (it never has been, but I seem to notice less in the winter when it’s hiding under big sweaters). What a great reminder that we are all beautiful, no matter what shape we are, and no matter what we are wearing. Thank you!

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  19. BRAVO again on a great post!!!!! Four (two + too) reasons why you didn’t find bikinis in my wardrobe in the past 8 years…two babies…a little too pouchy in the tummy…too many stretch marks…and two full size boobs. Two reasons why i just went out last week and bought two…one …my partner…the other is the confidence she has instilled in my the last 12 months…beauty is in the head. Now just add warm weather and sun.

  20. Men aren’t immune to this either, we’re bombarded with the beach body crap as well. Like I got to have the Ryan Gosling abs before I can step foot on the beach. It’s just another way that the print media pray on certain insecurities that people have in the hope they’ll sell more issues.

    In my opinion it’s about celebrating what you love about your body and showing off those bits, regardless of your gender, shape or size.

    • Agreed! I think the judgement of the type of men who should be ‘allowed’ to wear Speedos is plain ridiculous– everyone should be able to wear what they want to wear and what makes them feel comfortable and sexy.

  21. Thank you for a great post! I have been feeling insecure for many years about wearing a bikini and last year I started to get a lot of varicer and spider veins and that did really not help my selfimage… I also recently started to get acne at the age of 24 so most of the time I just feel that I want to hide when im out in public.

    But I feel a little better after reading lingerieblogs like yours and the lingerie addict and hearing that all bodys are ok and beautiful. Im trying to accept myself even if its hard and I hope that everyone else someday will accept their bodys too.

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