Politics of the Swimsuit

This morning, a 2014 piece by Jessica Turner titled Moms, Put On that Swimsuit, came across my FB feed. 

Turner’s message to mothers is good and necessary: put away your vanity and body issues & play with your kids at the beach or pool.

No quibbles there. 

My issue with the piece came when Turner started to help women – mothers only – accept their less-than-perfect bodies because the “imperfections” like a soft, stretched belly and larger thighs are the leftover evidence of pregnancy and childbirth.

Ouch. I hate articles like that because they fail to acknowledge the experience of women who build their families without the physical acts of pregnancy or childbirth. So even though I am a mother, my extra pounds are just fat? I have no justification for it according to Turner.

I’m probably reading way too much into her piece and allowing my own history to influence my reaction, but it is difficult in a society in which conversations about motherhood are dominated by the physical parts.

And what about non-mothers? The child-free? Are they supposed to have perfect bodies since they weren’t ravaged by pregnancy and childbirth?

How about we change the piece to this:

Dear women, you are beautiful and wonderful the way you are. You wear whatever you want at the beach or pool because you are a human being with dignity and deserve to be at the beach or pool regardless of appearance, parental status, income, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity. You are a human being and that is what matters.

We are much anticipating leaving for our first beach vacation of the summer next weekend. It’s been a long time since I was a size 6 18-year-old who prided herself on being close to model height and weight. I weigh more than I’d like and dread seeing family and friends who knew me when – and I have no excuse for it other than food and age. But I will be rocking my Land’s End tankini with the skirt bottom and I think I will look pretty damn cute! I’ll still be the palest person on the beach, but that’s OK. I’ll slather on copious amounts of sunscreen and build sandcastles with Daniel and play in the water.

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5 comments

  1. that post annoyed me, too. This is spot-on. And while that wrinkly skin over my belly button is definitely from pregnancy, there are lots of other body changes that are simply the result of being close to 40.

    1. Oh and I hate this kind of advice that is really for WOMEN being targeted to MOMS. (and even more, I hate that this kind of advice IS targeted only to women. because men can look however they want at the beach and don’t seem to be stigmatized in any way for it)

  2. APPLAUSE!

    I wholeheartedly agree. While the message in and of itself is a great one, targeting a specific group of women to embrace body acceptance isn’t helpful. I recently saw a photo online of two “regular women” in their swimsuits in front of one of those Beach Body ads with the caption “How to get a Beach Body: take your body to the beach.” WORD.

    I exercise to be healthy, not look good in a swimsuit or “be in shape”. I have a soft body that is starting to feel vital and alive again. HURRAY! It’s taken a long time to feel good in my body and I finally do. I have seen a few women I know become obsessive about their fitness in the last few years… it worries me a little. Body image is HARD SHIT.

  3. I like your edit better. I’m wary of any message that puts one group down to elevate another, or, moreover, ones that create exclusivity by saying, “it’s okay for us because of X.” Since the hidden message is that it isn’t okay for others because of Y.

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