Call me strange, but as I was moseying around the women’s swimwear section at JCPenney the other day, I found myself feeling pretty sorry for the swimsuits. They just looked so dejected and confused, like they didn’t know what their purpose was in life. I realized two things as I found myself empathizing with the sullen suits.
One, I have a big problem with personifying inanimate objects. Two, bathing suits have a lot of reasons to feel bewildered by their existence.
Let’s take a look at life through the perspectives of some swimwear, shall we? (I’ll assume you said “we shall” because I dearly want to expand your media literacy horizons by pretending I’m a swimsuit. It’s a thing.)
One-piece: “Boy am I old! I made my début in the early 1900s, and I was very scandalous. My original design was purely for function; today, I have varying levels of functionality, but a lot of people see me as unnecessarily old-school (I’m looking at you, oh people of Pinterest!). I do work hard to help professional swimmers make it to the top—but sometimes they ditch me for the bikini.”
Bikini: “I was born in 1946, but I didn’t make waves in America until the 1960s. I’m confused about my purpose because I can never tell if someone is wearing me to swim or to make a statement.
I’m annoyed by media messages that tell people they can only wear me if they have the perfect ‘bikini body’. If people want to wear me, they can! If not, they’re free to express their confidence in other ways. In the past, I’ve made both positive and negative contributions to the world of body image, but I hope my future holds nothing but positivity.”
“Figure-correcting” swimsuit: “Hey you! Do you have a rogue tummy, no curves, too many curves, too small of a bust, or too large of a bust? I’m here to help!
Or at least I think I am. My favorite activities include squeezing, concealing, pushing up, pushing down, suffocating, reinforcing the hourglass ideal, and taking long walks on the beach. I want people to feel confident, but only if they fit my idea of the ideal body. Sometimes, I can’t sleep at night because I feel like such a hypocrite.”
And, last but not least, men’s swim trunks: “Even though I’ve evolved a lot, it’s easy to forget about me. There hasn’t been a lot of hype about fitting into me or touting your body confidence by wearing me. However, as the media continually urges consumers to look a certain way, men are starting to feel more pressure about wearing little old me. It’ll certainly be interesting to see where things go from here.”
This is a hard time to be a swimsuit—and an even harder time to be a person trying to wear a swimsuit. I think it might be a good time to remind ourselves what wearing a swimsuit is really about: swimming. So swim away from what the media tells you, and enjoy yourself!
Elizabeth Frankel is a Minnesotan who loves psychology, theatre, and anything related to horses. She seeks to understand why the world is the way it is through critical thinking, and when that fails, she just employs sarcasm.