Monday, May 06, 2013

Swimsuit bodies, shame and nonsense.

For our purposes today, let us remember that in the mainstream culture, no body is ever good enough.

Not. One. body.

Not the models who are supposed to be the most beautiful of the beautiful. Not celebrities. No one is ever good or attractive enough as mainstream media tells us.

How do they tell us?

Pick up any fashion magazine, look at photos from awards shows, read about the diet and exercise habits of actresses before bikini shoots, awards season etc and we'll see that no one is ever good enough.

Working from that premise let's talk about how swimsuit season is made to shame you into doing some things. What things? Here's a short list.

  1. Buying into the latest fashion craze.
  2. Loathing your body.
  3. Removing your body hair.
  4. Buying whatever pills/DVDs/program the fitness guru of the moment is selling.
  5. Buying into the idea that photoshopped/digitally enhanced/surgically altered bodies are the only bodies that are good.
  6. Buying into the idea that in order to be a good/hot/sexy/attractive/confident person you must aspire have your body look like those unreal bodies, no matter what.
I did some casual research on weightloss blogs/news etc and from what I could find the weightloss industry in America is raking in a shocking 60 billion per year.

Let me repeat that for the cheap seats.

60 Billion dollars a year.

To put that into perspective a little bit I found some comparisons about what 60 billion dollars could do from an old Forbes article this one is my favorite (find the rest at the bottom of the article):

If $60 billion earned 8% annually, the sum could indefinitely pay the salary of 104,753 public school teachers (average pay: $45,822 a year).
Holy shit right?

Now let's talk about what we're getting for all that money we as human beings spend on the weight loss/self hate industry?

Many of us get yo yo weight. We go up, we go down, we go up and down and around the world. For some basic info on why yo yo dieting is bad for you here's a link to the wiki article. Do the rest of your own research.

Now if the only means to morality, health and having a good body is long term ill effects on our health, what are we paying for?

What else are we getting?

We get scammed.

If you closely examine the text on any fitness "aid" or supplement advertisement, you will see in teeny tiny print somewhere "results atypical".

That means that you being a typical person, will not get the miraculous before and after shot.

You typical person who spent hundreds or thousands on pills, dvds, classes, special food, meetings, memberships, etc etc will not get that after shot.

Another secret. Examine those before and after shots especially of women. Notice the different postures, sucking it in hard, dour before expressions. The before pictures are meant to be as visually unappealing as possible and give you the idea that you typical person, look miserable and gross.

What else are we getting?

We are getting encouraged to engage in behaviors that go from merely troubling to become pathological. Worrying food and exercise habits which can lead to immediate illness and injury to lifelong struggles with eating disorders.

Other than weightloss, when is anyone ever encouraged to develop habits that are very easily pathological?

Really think about that. Where else aside from issues around weight, do we genuinely think that it's helpful to tell people to starve themselves or exercise until they are injured and keep going?

In other areas concerning health, no one tells us to be more stressed out, to engage in dangerous behaviors in order to be considered acceptable.

Some of us also get the bonus of not only spending our money, but fucking ourselves up for life or dying. Look up the statistics on the aftermath of many weightloss surgeries.

Let's leave money for a moment and talk about what we are taught about swing suit bodies.

At every opportunity we are taught that there are only very specific types of bodies that are acceptable to be seen in public in a bathing suit.

One can be none of these things:

  1. Hairy
  2. Fat
  3. Jiggly
  4. Old
  5. Trans*
  6. In any way non gender role conforming

We are supposed to believe that not only must we be continuously striving for that good body, we must also display that we are fighting our natural bodies and conforming to gender roles, age roles and above all else we must be sexy to unknown dudes.

If we are not fuckable, we are not to be seen in our swim suits in public. 

If we are seen, we are to understand that it's okay for strangers to take pictures of us to make fun of us on the internet, if you are famous you are fodder to be absolutely ROASTED if you don't look like the retouched photos of yourself in magazines. We are to understand that the onus of having peace or being allowed to be seen in public in a swimsuit and not have it be a traumatic or abusive experience is on us and our bodies.

The responsibility for these things is NEVER put on the abusers.

We are also taught that we should be ashamed of all of this.

We should be ashamed that we are abused by random people in public, by the media, by whomever.

We should be ashamed that our bodies, even if we are trying with our dollars and wills to have a good body.

The shame is supposed to make us engage in funding the diet industry, in us covering up. The shame is supposed to drive us into change.

The change that once our thighs are smooth, our bodies are hairless and "even better" than they were when we were 16 or whatever, then just maybe we can be good.

If you notice, I have used the word good in italics today.

There is a reason for that.

The italics I'm using denotes bullshit.

When it comes to swimsuit bodies, shame, the diet industry etc good is usually supposed to mean any of the following:

  • sexy
  • moral
  • smart
  • attractive to heterosexual men
We are supposed to believe that if we are attractive in the real of the Thin White Lady ideal, we are then good people. 

That my darlings is pure shit.

The plain truth is that very very few if any human beings on the planet roll out of bed in the morning and fit that ideal.

If you do a simple google search on photoshopped celebrities, you'll see that even the most beautiful of the beautiful, look like thinner versions of everyone else.

Perfectly acceptable does not exist by and large.

Let's be nakedly honest here.

What is the point?

What is the real point of spending your money, time and energy, or risking your health and wealth to attain an ideal that is beyond reach even for those who we believe look that way?

If doing these things and engaging in that part of culture doesn't make you happy or give you the perfect retouched ass, what is the point?

We know that in this day and age things like yo yo dieting, stress, the Obesity Terror as portrayed in the media have devastating effects on us as humans, why are we doing it?

here's the thing.

If you like to diet go right on ahead.

If you like exercising until you feel like you will shit out your spleen, go on with your bad self.

What I'm saying is that you don't have to.

You don't have to engage with health, exercise, or your swimsuit body in that way.

Here's what I believe.

Do what makes you happy.

Be a fat babe in a swimsuit on the beach and be happy.

Be a thin babe in a swimsuit and be happy./

Wear the tiniest suit you can jam your ham into or be like a dear friend of mine and opt for total coverage with something like a Burkini.

Shave or don't shave.

Tan or don't tan.

The only thing I will tell you to do absolutely is stop buying into bullshit that hurts you.

Not only does swimsuit bodies culture hurt fat people, it hurts thin people. It hurts little girls, it hurts little boys, it hurts kids. It hurts old people. It hurts all of us whether we even want to wear a bathing suit or not.

Let me tell you a quick story.

Years ago I met a very nice very fat lady who lived right on the beach for twenty five years and she did not set foot on it one time. Not. once.

She knew how to swim, she was not afraid of the water or sand. It wa because from childhood through her whole life everyone (family, media, doctors EVERYONE) told her that no one wanted or should EVER see her in a bathing suit.

She moved away from the beach she loved so much. She occasionally went swimming at friends houses but always in tshirts and shorts. Not that swimming in tshirts and shorts was bad, but they did not make her happy.

At one point we were talking bathing suits and I mentioned that i really wanted this cute retro style one I'd seen. She told me she hadn't even tried on a suit in 15 years muchless bought one. She kind of laughed it off and made some self deprecating remark about how nobody needed to see that.

I told her what I'm telling you.

There is no reason anyone should EVER feel that way about their body.

None. Period point blank.

We know that things like depression, stress and long term emotional abuse is not good for human beings.

Shame is not a good way of life for anyone.

So how about let's not?

Let's not participate in that. Let's not encourage it. Spend your money on something else.

Instead of buying the latest greatest diet books or DVDs etc, how about buying yourself something cute to wear to the beach?

Instead of joining in the talk about how someone's ass has cellulite, or they have clearly visible pubes, or a beer gut, why not talk about something else?

You can do it, I believe you can.

This is also a good time for fat allies to flex some ally muscle.

What can you do?

You can say no, outloud when people start body snarking. Shut that shit down.

One of my favorite tactics for that, is when the joke is about a fat ass or whatever, ask why it's funny.

Tell your friends or family that that person's body is not doing anything to them and it's none of their nosy ass business.

Change the subject. Give a dirty look. Whatever you can do.

What's important here is that we are all mired in this shit together and it hurts all of us and doesn't need to.

So, get ready for swimsuit season in the Northern hemisphere and buy bathing suit of your choice, apply to ass, go play.

I love you my homies.

Homo Out.



Anonymous said...

is where I bought my super-awesome Burkini. Let me tell you how fabulous it is: it is incredibly light-weight with NO drag in the water. It dries within 15 minutes when you get out of the water. It covers you from neck to wrist to ankle with SPF 50+ fabric, so you don't have to grease up to be outside. It protects your expensive tattoos and keeps your skin smooth and cancer-free.

I've worn normal swimsuits and spent far too much time pulling the fabric out of my ladycrack and trying to get my boobs back into the top after they've pulled out during a vigorous swim. Even the supposedly high-cut athletic suits creep up, cut my ass-cheeks in half, and don't keep my boobs strapped back and out of my way. Man, F*CK THAT.

In my Burkini I have total freedom of motion with no creeping up and no accidental exposure. And when I'm doing laps it adds no weight or drag...the extra coverage doesn't affect my speed or time at all. I wish I'd bought a Burkini years ago, but I didn't find out about it til this year.

What I like best is that my body remains absolutely private and not up for public consumption. I'm fairly athletic, size 12, female-shaped, with very little body hair, so I could probably wear a normal suit without much public shaming. But F*CK THAT. I love that my body remains absolutely private while I swim. There are plenty of women in skimpy suits for jackasses to stare at, laugh at, and leer at. I give no fodder and even less f*cks.

FWIW...I hope it's okay to give links here. I'm not being paid by this company, I just really like their stuff. It's expensive as hell but it's also incredibly well-made, and the fabric is space age light (but completely opaque) and doesn't pill, even in salt water.

I love totally denying the idea of public body exposure/judgment. Every time I put it on I feel fast, athletic, and sexually protected. Which does wonders for my lap speed.


Anonymous said...

Oh--have to PS here. I'm not a Muslim lady so I don't put the hijab (hood) up. I just let it hang behind my neck like a hoody. It hasn't annoyed me in any way--it just sits under my bun or braid and doesn't float around. The fabric is stretchy so the actual volume of the material is tiny.

lilitu1uk said...

Love you back, Shannon.

It took me so long to get back to swimming once I stopped being a tiny child because oh I've got fat pale legs (I'm, like, glowing skimmed-milk white with see-through skin - perils of being Scottish and white), oh I've got that weird might-be-varicose vein thing, oh there's that thing that looks like a bruise, oh I don't want to have to shave ALL THAT LEG AREA, oh my boobs are so massive and I can't get a costume that supports them because of the cost and oh yeah, I'm fat and OMG all those poor people who would have to stop their swimming and be offended at the sight of me... so now me and my hairy fat squashed-boob self go swimming and show off my tattoos and my fat arms and everything. No one has fainted at the sight of me yet.

I totally absorbed all that shit about how women are 'supposed' to look, even though I've never been on a diet in my life (can't be bothered with that - life is too short). Instead for a long time I meekly accepted that I was not supermodel or filmstar gorgeous and therefore was of no worth ever to anyone and completely unattractive to all. I should just hide away as best I could and get through life without attracting attention. Just... no. I remind myself now that fuck that, I'm going to do what I want and everyone else can help or get out of the way. Also I remind myself that we're actually all in the same boat because the advertisers don't make as much money selling things to contented people so they make damned sure we're not content.

Anonymous said...

There is a therapy pool in the facility where I work. I work the night shift so I come in at a time when no-one else is likely to be using the pool. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but even though I've been involved with Size Acceptance for a couple of years now and have stopped yo-yo dieting and saying the most hateful things to myself, the idea of someone seeing me in a swimsuit is absolutely traumatizing. I wear a size 3X, and although I've come to a point where I accept that, I still don't want anyone seeing me in a swimsuit. I don't know if I'll ever get over this irrational anxiety either.

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