Hey y’all. I want to veer away from the frills and the food to talk a little about the bodies wearing said frills. I have lots of thoughts (shocker), so I’m breaking it up into parts. I’m primarily going to cite personal experiences as examples. In many cases, I am very, very fortunate that these examples are the worst that have happened to me. There are many women who suffer much, much worse, yet feel the same shame. They shouldn’t have to suffer, they shouldn’t feel the shame, and you shouldn’t either.
Also, because these are my personal experiences and thoughts, I’d love to hear from women and men out there who may have different reactions or conflicting opinions.
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I’ve mentioned what I think of the media’s self-professed skill for sizing women’s breasts by sight. Namely, I think it sucks: sizing on sight based on a paparazzi photo is hopeless, and arbitrarily deeming certain cup sizes acceptable and others shameful is terrible. But it’s really subtle, it’s really insidious, and it’s EVERYWHERE. Especially now that temperatures are climbing and beach weather is slowly creeping in. When’s the last time you passed a weekly tabloid/fashion magazine/article in The Daily Mail that didn’t contain some variation on this headline: “Actress McSuperstar flaunts her bikini body!”? It feels like every week there’s a new one.
Look, maybe Actress McSuperstar looks fan-freaking-tastic. Maybe she checks every box in the mainstream-standards-of-beauty checklist. Good for her, you know? But I HATE these headlines, especially the “flaunts” part. It’s like her body is wholly unrelated to her; it’s just something she beats into submission for beach season and then takes out with her to submit to the public for judgment. The “flaunt” implies that by wearing a swimsuit, Actress McSuperstar is screaming for attention or begging for criticism. Worse, the word seems to be an invitation to other women to condemn her: “Hey ladies, look at this slut, taking her body out in a SWIMSUIT at the BEACH. How dare she? You should judge her.”
A woman cannot simply go to the beach, lie in the sun, swim in the ocean, and read a trashy novel because those activities are fun and supply Vitamin D. According to the tabloids and gossip magazines, she’s “showing off”, “flaunting,” “revealing,” or “daring to bare” her body/figure/curves. There is no conceivable reason that Actress McSuperstar could possibly want to take her body with her to the beach other than “She is submitting said body for public scrutiny and evaluation.” While some male celebrities suffer the same analyses, women’s bodies in particular are highly charged. Online tabloids are starting to use “bikini” as a verb, as in “Actress McSuperstar bikinis in Boca with boyfriend!” They’re betting that the combination of Actress McSuperstar’s name + bikini in a search engine will draw readers flocking to their article to cast judgment.
Fuck that noise.
I’m sorry, this makes me ragey. A little hot puddle of bitter anger bubbling away in my chest. Dear world: just because a woman is out in public doesn’t mean she’s up for evaluation. She’s out in public because she has a LIFE. She’s out because she’s a human being and she needs to go to the bank or the drugstore or the office or to school or the gym or, yes, to the beach because she’s finally gotten some vacation days and she can read the Hunger Games in peace while racked out on the sand, with the gentle sounds of ocean waves crashing to soothe her tired soul. She’s out doing her thing. Her body is a part of her. She’s out in public, and it’s along for the ride. Potential judgment from EVERYONE AROUND HER, male and female alike, should be the last thing on her mind. For many, many years I felt ashamed every time I set foot outside, let alone at a pool or the beach, because I was convinced that my body was a horrible thing to afflict on a general public howling for perfection. I, and my manners, character, thoughts, and talents that made up my being, was a fraud, and my body was my betrayer.
Tomorrow, Part II