I’m A Fan of the #Fatkini

Last summer, I went out and did something I never thought I’d do.

I went out and bought a bikini.

When I was little, summertime was one of my favorite times of the year. It meant playing outdoors, no school, and swimming in our awesome blow-up pool that Dad would set up for us. Swimming meant swimwear, obviously, and I never thought twice about what I wore. Then, I got to a certain age. And I started caring.

When I got to about fourth grade, I realized that not everyone was encouraged to wear a bikini. It was really only the girls that could “pull it off:” the girls with the bodies for it. So I covered up. I traded bikinis for tankinis and swim shorts, and said goodbye to the summer wardrobe staple I’d worn for years without a second thought.

It wasn’t until this last summer that I reconsidered my idea of a “bikini body,” after seeing my similarly-sized sister take the plunge and buy a bikini top.

To others, bikini tops might be considered immodest, a protest against the patriarchy (a la 1950’s), or the wear of models. To me, however, the bikini has always felt like freedom, and other swimwear a scarlet letter, letting everyone know I’m not in “good enough shape” to wear a bikini. I always felt like my physical attractiveness/fitness was in part measured by my ability to fit into two tiny pieces of fabric and look absolutely flawless doing it. Needless to say, I was falling short.

The “#Fatkini” movement affirms what I’d already decided last summer, after being fed up with hiding myself: There’s no such thing as a bikini body. If you aren’t acquainted, #Fatkini has accompanied thousands of pictures of curvy women wearing bikinis, women that wouldn’t typically wear one due to their size. The movement is about eliminating the idea of a “bikini body” and about empowering women of all sizes to embrace their bodies.

Critics of the movement complain that #Fatkini is going to encourage women that are overweight and unhealthy to stop trying to be healthy, but I think their argument is vacuous.

Not all curvy bodies are unhealthy. There are plenty of women who eat well, exercise regularly, and still aren’t “thin” by general societal standards. Also, self-love is the first step to self-improvement. Allowing curvy women to believe they are gorgeous the way they are allows them to divorce beauty from fitness and pursue a healthy lifestyle while believing they are worth the final result.

The #Fatkini movement is a positive step toward shattering the illusion that “beautiful” is defined by waist size or weight. And I’m a fan.

I thought I’d feel self-conscious wearing a bikini top, but I actually feel the opposite. I find myself feeling better about embracing my body for what it is (awesome shark-attack-esque scar and all) than feeling like it has to be hidden. At the end of the day, my opinion is the only one that matters. And I think I look pretty great.

How do you feel about bikinis? The #Fatkini movement?

Xoxo, Taylor

Queen Bey and the Grammy’s

Sunday night was the Grammy’s, as you probably know. In my opinion, a Facebook friend put it best when she said, “Who invited all of these people to Beyonce’s award show?” Beyonce and Jay-Z obviously stole the show with their dramatic performance of “Drunk in Love.”

As I watched Beyonce look super hot on stage in her un-clothes, I couldn’t help but think a bit about Beyonce and what an interesting case study she makes in the area of female empowerment. Beyonce has said multiple times that she is all for making women feel empowered and beautiful about themselves, and this is clear through her music, especially her new song “Flawless.” Yet her clothing choices and racy music videos could suggest that she has submitted herself to the sexualization of women that has become so prevalent today. So what should we make of this?

First, let’s be honest here: if I had Beyonce’s body, I probably wouldn’t ever wear clothes, so props to her for even covering it up at all. But all sass aside, I think she poses an interesting challenge to many people’s traditional notions of female empowerment.

The issue of women’s modesty has been long contested, it seems. Most people fall into two camps. One believes that modesty is empowering because it allows a woman to own her body and share it with whom she wishes instead of being pressured to share it with anyone and everyone. This group then believes that immodesty is degrading to the woman, that it limits her, makes her lesser.

The other group views the option to wear less modest clothing as empowering, as a step toward shaking off the chains of sexual oppression. This group views immodesty (with no negative undertone) as a symbol of equality, that women may wear what they’d like and expose what they’d like in the same way that men can without the stigma of being “promiscuous” or “inappropriate.”

Coming back to Beyonce, I personally find her interesting because she has managed to be both powerful and sexual. She is generally well-respected in the music world as an entertainer and singer, while still dressing more provocatively than most of us would in our own houses (and looking about a hundred times better doing it).

I find it to be a “tree in the woods” sort of question. If you’re a sexual object of sorts (she has to be, as she’s like wearing no clothes), but you know you are, are you really? That is, if you have embraced your sexuality without letting it define you, you’ve controlled it instead of letting it control you, are you allowing yourself to be sexualized or are you just expressing yourself as a female?

It’s an interesting issue, and I’d love to hear your opinions. Meanwhile, I’ll be singing “Drunk in Love” at top volume….and trying to be cuter than this kid.

Style: It’s Not a Popularity Contest

A couple weeks ago in my business ethics class, we discussed the ethicality of Abercrombie and Fitch’s decision to not sell clothing in plus sizes, stating that they didn’t want plus-sized people wearing their clothes. One of my classmates commented, “I just can’t live with the idea of a larger girl coming home to her parents crying asking why she can’t wear the clothes her classmates wear.”

The comment got me thinking.

While I completely agree that the implications of A&F’s decisions are upsetting, we can’t necessarily make A&F change their sizing. We can, however, change how we allow our girls to perceive style.

The years of junior high and high school are hard times to be female. I’ve been there. I know. Things can seem so black and white at times. You wear this brand or buy this new gadget, and you’re a cool kid. You don’t, you aren’t. This line of thinking gives young girls two perceived options: conform or be judged. For a girl who isn’t of the body shape to wear tight-fitting AE jeans or graphic tees, the options are to wear clothes that don’t flatter them and they don’t feel confident in, or to wear something different and feel judged.

It shouldn’t have to be like that.

Style is at its core a way for us to express ourselves. By letting girls routinely fall into the double bind of conformity, we are allowing them to believe that their fashion choices should reflect how they are just like everyone else. We are letting them think that sameness is valued, and that there is a “right” way to be yourself. Be yourself, as long as yourself can fit into size zero jeans.

We need to instead teach young girls that style is about confidence, about wearing things that make them feel beautiful, not popular.

Growing up, I was taught that style was about making your body shape work for you. I was taught that there was always a way to fit, to flatter, to accentuate. There was always a way to be the best version of yourself.

Because of that, I didn’t view the “popular kid” brands as some sort of unshakeable standard of high fashion. I viewed them as an option, an option that just didn’t work for me and my body shape. I was (and still am) curvy. I’m just not made to wear tight tees and low-rise jeans. But I never let that stop me from pursuing fashion.

Sure, my clothes didn’t look like everyone else’s. I wore different cuts and fits, and sometimes outlandishly different styles, but I didn’t care. I didn’t see myself as different. I saw myself as Taylor, and Taylor wore what looked good on her. That just happened to be something other than what was popular at the time.

The reactions of my peers were far from the social ostracism that might be expected. I was confident because I felt good about myself, and my peers took notice. While I made some style decisions that today I question (don’t we all do that?) I was never made fun of or excluded. I was myself. And I turned out okay!

I think curvier girls like me (and all girls!) should be taught that it is okay to not follow the crowd, if it means feeling better about yourself. I would rather be a confident me wearing a burlap sack than an awkward me attempting to cram into what everyone else deems “cool.” When style becomes about confidence, conformity becomes irrelevant. Girls are able to dress themselves in a way that makes them look in the mirror and truly love what they see, regardless of their shape.

We can’t always control the media’s messages or protect our daughters, sisters, or friends from them. But we can teach them that the messages are just that – messages. They’re not commandments, rules, or standards. We can remind them, as hard as it can be sometimes, that if popularity means shopping at a certain store, they can opt out. After all, the confidence of a woman speaks volumes more about her than the logo on her tee.