Feminist Dictionary: “Bikini Body”

If you’ve ever clicked on a link purporting itself to be “news” and been transported to a tabloid website such as TMZ or The Daily Mail, you know that the bulk of the material composing such websites is commentary on female bodies. If you’ve ever wondered how Jessica Simpson’s thighs are faring after squeezing out her latest brood, or whether Lindsay Lohan’s nose is looking more narrow these days, or what kind of thong J.Lo wore over fishnets at her latest attempt to lure the millenial masses by gyrating her camel toe at them onstage, celebrity gossip sites are all over that shit. There is no forehead zit that goes unnoticed, no love handle that goes unexamined, no bad hair day that goes unannounced. Nip slip? National Enquirer is there to snap a photo. Fashion faux pas? Daily Mirror’s got you covered. Unsightly leg hair? Globe wants to make sure you hear all about it. The vulnerable female bodies of celebrities have been mocked, maligned, and marauded to kingdom come, all for the sake of our schaudenfreude-laden entertainment.

Who needs to read Dickens when you have this high-quality literature?

Who needs to read Dickens when you have this high-quality literature?

Their favorite feeding ground comes from snapping photos of celebrities in bathing wear, photos which then get dissected and analyzed the way Harvard medical student study a cadaver. Whether at the beach or in their own backyard, no celebrity is safe from the glaring eye of the camera, ready to capture them at their most exposed and parade their flaws in front of the ravenous masses. Sometimes these article are accusatory (“Looks like Kim Kardashian may have indulged in a few too many mai tais on her luxurious vacation with Kanye!”) and sometimes they are laudatory (“Miley bared her perfectly toned stomach on the beach in Maui this weekend!”) Either way, I cringe to think there are people in this world who actually give a shit, but I supposed these websites wouldn’t exist if they didn’t get hits.

The phrase “bikini body” is a favorite stamp of approval of these columns. It is used to denote a celebrity who, through either hard work, genes or Photoshop, has achieved the “acceptable” appearance that celebrities in America are acquired to achieve. (I believe Tina Fey described it best.) “Salma Hayak flaunts her bikini body in Barbados!” they crow. “Exclusive photos of Selena’s bikini bod – Bieber’s a lucky man!” And let’s not forget their favorite: “Check out Heidi Klum’s post-baby bikini body!” As long as there is no ass spillage, arm jiggle or belly rolls, the headlines will trumpet the depiction of the infamous Bikini Body. It must be a body that fits society’s standards for bikini-appropriate physique. Sometimes I even see workouts on women’s lifestyle websites that parrot this terminology – “5 Moves to Get You That Bikini Body this Summer!” Women’s Health squawks, affirming that you only need to do this workout every day, and then you will be permitted to appear in public in the garments of your choice.

Yeeeeessss, that's right. Suffer, pig. Sacrifice at the altar of Ladies' Home Journal.

Yeeeeessss, that’s right. Suffer, pig. Sacrifice at the altar of Ladies’ Home Journal.

It’s this kind of shit that is putting a firm hand on the female head and pushing it right down to dick-level. We’re not used to seeing imperfect people in bikinis, so we’ve deemed it Not Okay, to the point where we actually have terminology for a body that is allowed to be in skimpy clothing. (I wonder what you’d call any other kind of body. A Sweatsuit Body, perhaps? A Burlap Sack Body?) We’ve divided the population up into two categories – those with Bikini Bodies, and those without; those whose bodies we are accepting of, and those whose bodies we are not.

Unfortunately for this distinction and those who would make it, ANY BODY THAT IS WEARING A BIKINI IS A BIKINI BODY. Every woman is allowed to wear a bikini, whether she has a socially acceptable body or not. Just because you do not want to see a fat woman in a bikini does not take away her right to wear one. Just because you do not think it is appropriate for someone with stretch marks or sagging breasts to be showing off their torso doesn’t mean they have to appease you. Bikinis are just more comfortable swimwear for some people, and that is just the way it is. Thank you, Bikini Police, but snapping a photo of Emma Roberts in a bathing suit and acclaiming her bikini body does not make her more worthwhile than any other woman. I am sure Amy Adams would much rather discuss her illustrious acting career than her toned abs. And so would I. (P.s. Did you see her in Man of Steel? She can achieve real depth sometimes.)

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