A Woman in a Bathing Suit

 

It’s International Women’s Day, so perhaps this video is poorly timed. We’re supposed to feel strong today. We’re supposed to celebrate each other and ourselves. And I’ve created a parody movie trailer making light of women’s body issues.

Hmm.

I’ve been accused of anti-feminism in the past. I’ll go on record here and say that I am a feminist, defining “feminism” as a belief that women are, and should be treated as, equal with men. Meaning (to put it simplistically) that our lives are worth as much–our dreams, our life choices–as men’s.

What a radical notion, huh?

Anyhow, I was called anti-feminist for acknowledging the world outside a particular bubble: that people I knew considered a certain behavior as something that boys did and girls didn’t. The person I was talking to took great offense at this, likened me to Michelle Bachmann, and then told a story that contradicted me–a very personal story. In which a girl did the boy-thing. Which isn’t even a boy-thing. Just something that, when I was growing up in my corner of the world, was widely considered a boy-thing.

I did not want to offend this person and I don’t want to offend anyone now–we are all so easily offended these days, aren’t we? (I’m sure someone out there will be offended that I’d assume they’d be offended.)

Anyway. It’s not ideal, but it’s a fact: a lot of women dread wearing bathing suits. (So do a lot of men.) Not only because of unrealistic standards of beauty (check out those mannequins) but because most of the year we cover ourselves and then summer comes and we’re expected to walk around the beach in bathing suits that, in many cases, are skimpier than our underwear.

If we took off our shirts in public and walked around in our bras, we could be arrested for indecent exposure. But if it’s a bathing suit, it’s OK.

WHAT?

Anyway.

As an overweight woman (my BMI is well into the overweight zone and I’m 30 pounds above my goal weight; I’m about six feet tall, so that might seem like a large number, but it’s proportional) I might be making a statement by putting my fat butt on the internet. It’s not the fattest butt out there, nor the thinnest. It’s mine.

The thing is, my body has housed two children. It’s experienced shrinkage and growth based on the stress of raising those children (if anything will make a person skip meals, it’s chasing small children; if anything will make a person stress eat, it’s raising small children). It’s a body that transports my brain from place to place, that is stronger than it looks from holding children, grocery bags, a purse full of snacks and diapers and emergency toys.

I recently unearthed some of my journals from 2002-2005, when I was finishing high school and going through my first years of college. There are these long laments about my weight and how fat I was, daily calorie counts, huge amounts of exercise I apparently did nearly every day–when I was 28 pounds lighter than I am now. I was TWO POUNDS above what I now consider my goal weight, and I thought I needed to lose fifteen, at which point my BMI would have been on the cusp of underweight.

I remember, around this time, putting on a bikini and challenging myself to go to the beach (I lived in Southern California at the time)–a beach far from home, so I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew–and walk around, bikini-clad, with no cover-up. It was a challenge. My heart raced. I did it for about two minutes before running back to my towel and then my car.

Watching myself in this video, in my bathing suit, I feel remarkably at ease. I didn’t expect that–I thought I might chicken out and not post the video at all. But really, I’m fine with my body. For health reasons, I do want to lose a few pounds (get out of that overweight zone so I don’t slide into obese), but at this point in my life I don’t feel much need to be slim and sultry. My husband loves me and finds me attractive. My weight doesn’t impact my life too much (though when I go on an airplane I sometimes wish my hips were narrower for navigating that center aisle) and it’s most certainly not the first thing on my mind.

I feel triumphant in that. Look at my fat butt, people! I’m okay with it.

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