I had the good fortune to spend a week in Hawaii back in January, although I’m not really a tropical island person. I’ve never really understood the appeal of the beach — I sunburn instantly and don’t really like being wet and covered in sand — so I had to get some swimwear while I was there.
Now, I generally think of myself as body-positive. When one of my male traveling companions turned to me and asked whether some people just shouldn’t wear 2-piece swimsuits I felt righteously feminist turning back to him and asking, “Are you body shaming?” (he felt bad). But my body positivity wilted a bit when faced with the “beach/bikini body” concept. Deep down, I wasn’t quite sure I could or should wear my new purchase.
It didn’t take long for me to feel super ashamed about this lack of fortitude. You see, one of my travelling companions was a very lovely woman who happens to weigh at least 250 lbs. Here I was, a perfectly healthy human being, worrying about my beach body. How was my companion supposed to feel? For the record, she had a very fetching swimming costume in which she had a great time snorkeling for the first time. #@*& all the haters.
After this realization, I started to notice all the beach bodies around me and quickly figured out that 98% of them wouldn’t fit the typical magazine-cover concept of an acceptable beach body. There were small children, pregnant women, and a lot of old people who (rightly) don’t give a damn about what you think of their swimsuit. There were military personnel, fit but not sticks. There were also many, many Pacific Islanders who were beautiful without fitting our Western body standards (think Gauguin, not Milan fashion week). Every body type and size were represented and everyone was having a good time.
I think I saw 3 “perfect beach bodies” the entire time I was there and each time it felt like seeing some strange alien creature stalking the sand. One perfectly bronzed Australian beach babe strutting along in her thong bikini just struck me as absurd.
By the time I left, something fundamental in my psyche decided that the whole body shaming thing is super dumb. What is the point other than to oppress people? There are billions of people going about their lives, who has the audacity to make body shape and body size an issue? Now, when I see advertisements for liposuction in the subway or wall sized photoshopped Victoria’s Secret underwear models in the train station, I get annoyed. #@*& all the haters. We have better things to do.