Reclaiming The Bikini Body
'Bikini body', it's a loaded phrase. One that's come to represent a certain look, a look that's arguably predicated on ideals determined by the male gaze. It's a body that's slim but not skinny, athletic but not bulky. It's pancake flat abs, bubble butts and perky boobs. It's sexualised and designed to sell. It's unachievable, but every product is a shortcut to success. It's got a shaming, negative undertone, it suggests you have to look a certain way to wear a two piece and it's created backlash. Posters have been defaced and pledges made not to use the phrase.
Kayla Itsinis recently expressed regret that she'd named her hugely popular workout guides the Bikini Body Guide. A regret I imagine is linked to the negative undertones the phrase has developed, and the subsequent backlash. Kayla explained that the name came about after conversations with her clients, who told her their goal was to feel comfortable in a bikini. The goal wasn't to say you need to look a certain way to wear a bikini. However, that's now the connotations the phrase has.
You can look at the issue two ways. You can argue that women feel the need to condition themselves in a certain way to feel comfortable in a bikini due to societal pressures. They feel they can only wear a two piece if they fit the ideal constructed by society, which I outlined above. I totally get this argument, I really could go to two on it and the fact that every body is a bikini body. However, let's think about things differently. Wearing a bikini is essentially running around in something smaller than your skimpiest undies, in broad (very unforgiving) daylight, in front of a bunch of people. To pull that one off you need confidence. It's widely recognised that sport and exercise help build both self-esteem and confidence, helping women realise what they're capable of and helping them feel more secure in their own bodies. It can be argued that this self-esteem and confidence supersedes any physical change they under go. So, if you're someone who isn't very secure about yourself then maybe working on your bikini body is more about working on your confidence than trying to get abs.
I'm not ignoring or playing down the pressures society puts on women to look and act a certain way, I am a woman and I am affected by it. Even though magazines have said they won't use the phrase the same messages will be spread in other ways, the sexualised ideals thrust upon women are a massive issue that can't be solved by rebutting one phrase. However, what I am saying is that maybe we can reframe the phrase. Maybe we can take ownership of the terminology, wrestle it back off those who've adopted it to represent a misogynistic ideal and make it about confidence.You're bikini body is whatever the hell you want to be, but how about we stand up with pride when we say we're working on our bikini bodies, because we're not working on our abs, we're working on our confidence and self-worth so we can walk out there in a teeny tiny two piece, in broad daylight, on a crowded beach, feeling strong and sexy no matter our shape of size and shout 'I've arrived'.