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Swimsuit Season and the Distorted Female Body Image

I want to look just like that this bikini season... wait, I can't eat? Never mind.

With the onset of spring, comes that glorious warm weather that makes us all want to be in the sun, particularly by the pool or shore. However, as I’m highly anticipating those wonderful poolside days, I can’t help but feel myself picking at my body and wishing it were thinner, slimmer, more structured than it is. I have never been overweight, but have also never felt satisfied with the way I look. With the frustration level rising, I have to wonder if other women experience this to the same ridiculous level.

I read fashion magazines frequently and have noticed myself comparing my figure to women such as Gisele Bundchen posing proudly in swimsuits for the new Ferragamo campaign. While I know that attaining a body like Gisele’s is virtually impossible (and that’s including some good plastic surgery one can get for example at eliteplasticsurgeryaz.com) I still feel the pressure to get as close to her look as possible. With last month being National Eating Disorder Awareness Month, and seeing the damage that these illnesses can cause one would think women would embrace their natural shapes, casting aside the unrealistic body ideals set for females by the media. But it’s not that easy. Sure, people can assert that eating disorders/ body dismorphia is harmful, a dangerous and destructive lifestyle that is not only painful but deathly. However, does it help that issues like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition happen to appear at this time of year? Do catalogues like the Victoria’s Secret Swim 2012 help motivate women to make the most of their shape, or encourage insecurity within its client base? These are questions I’ve found myself asking, as I stand sideways in front of the mirror analyzing how much weight I need to keep off this week to feel good about my body. In addition to the severe problem of eating disorders, I see a rise in the desire for cosmetic procedures at this time as well. This year’s cover girl for SI is the busty Kate Upton, who’s blessings up top, combined with a slender waist are surely not granted to every female on this Earth. She has become the new ideal for this summer, the look that will attempt to be replicated by many young women across the country. But why? The answer happens to be quite simple; we’ve been told that’s what beauty looks like. It doesn’t matter that Kate most likely suffers from backaches from having a bountiful chest, or that she is probably on a diet/exercise routine more strict than the schedule for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s Swab Summer. The fact is, she looks like a bombshell.Interesting enough, I was talking to a friend the other night who is  a huge fan of Christina Hendricks, the actress that plays Joan in the HBO hit series Mad Men. I came across an article from CBS News that discussed her battle in Hollywood with proportions, and it really surprised me. Hendricks confided that she used to be a size 16 when she was modeling in Italy, and it was the happiest she felt about her physique. She revealed she “would take my clothes off in front of the mirror and be like ‘oh, I look like a woman.’ And I felt beautiful, and I never tried to lose it, ’cause I loved it” (Aina Hunter, CBS News). This information came as a complete shock to me, as the last woman I remember being a size 14 and being the world’s most famous sex symbol is Marilyn Monroe. In today’s society, it feels like anything above a 6 is considered “roomy” when the average size for American women is actually a 12! How can the other half of the average size be so incredibly marginalized? It’s seems quite easy when the goal is a sample size of 0-2.

Sure, Christina's got assets, but she's also got some extra pounds for support... and we love her for that!

I feel guilty when viewing this conflict from a feminist lens, because I know I’m feeding in to the unrealistic images for women in my effort to slim down. So how do we end the pressure? I believe that health unquestionably comes first. If women are within their healthy range for their height, than let that be enough. If women live a lifestyle that’s not based on depravity, than let that carry on. If women can learn to see themselves as a unique piece of art, custom made for this world, let no person tell her she isn’t beautiful. If a woman loves herself, let her hold on to that value forever.

4 Responses to “Swimsuit Season and the Distorted Female Body Image”

  1. parklena

    I completely agree with your blog post. I know many women, myself included, who struggle with the ideal body for women and our own bodies. There are so many actresses who, in trying to fit the ideal, starve themselves so much that you can see their bones. I don’t really find that attractive. In fact, it’s kind of creepy. Women are meant to have more body fat than that. However, the negative connotation of the word “fat” doesn’t help because when people hear “body fat,” all they can think of is just fat. Losing that much weight is just unhealthy. The bodies of women like those in your pictures are impossible for most women because we all look different. Those differences are what make us all beautiful. :]

    Reply
  2. kaygalligan

    I really enjoyed reading this blog post. You brought up many points and examples that I found interesting. Body image is a huge deal for me, I am constantly analyzing the way I look and how much I have eaten in a day which will tell me how much I need to work out. I don’t starve myself by any means but I do seem to have an obsession with how my body looks. I know I will never look like the women in the pictures above, and that is mostly because of genetics, my addiction to running, and I could never afford plastic surgery. I don’t even know if I would want to look like that though, I just enjoy feeling healthy and looking healthy. I think that it is natural for women to have insecurities in the world we live in today, due to all the social media that we are exposed to. It is very nice to hear other women say that they don’t always see themselves in a positive light, just so I know I am not alone. At the end of the day, men and women all wish there was something they could change about themselves, and I think the real message with that is that maybe we should start to recognize the positive things we have going for ourselves and LOVE those.

    Reply
  3. kiaraann365

    I really enjoyed this post. I was unsure of what I might of encountered on this blog sight even more so unsure of my response to blog posts, (seeing that I have a feminist side). But I was pleased with this post. However, as I read more and more blogs on body image, I find it very funny how based on race and culture, there are different views on body image, mainly some who want to lose weight to be thin and those who want to gain weight in certain area to become more appealing as bountiful or “thick” for lack of terminology. I bring this up, because I have and still struggle with both. I’m fairly slender built, but as the summer time approaches, I find myself wanting a stomach like Gisele Bundchen (above), boobs like Keisha Cole, Hips like Beyonce and an Ass Like Nicki Minaj. I know right (lol) all those extra assets and I want a stomach like ‘Gisele’, little to no support, and the crazy thing is, I have little to no worry about my image until I see a music video, or pick up a damn fashion magazine. lol Then the comparisons start to flow. In the mean time, I’m gonna take my B-cup, straight waist and muscular butt to the gym, (not to lose a massive amount of weight) but to gain some healthy exercising habits and still gonna “ock out with my cock out” this summer in a bomb bikini. 🙂

    Great Post,

    -Kiara Ann

    Reply
  4. adalinetucker

    This article really hits home with me right now. Since coming to college I’ve experienced a sizable weight gain and, with this weather getting nicer and nicer, I find myself worrying about wearing a swimsuit. I’m even in a long term relationship, I’m not trying to impress anyone, but the idea of putting on the suit and chilling in the sun scares me. However, it’s my partners encouragement and people like Christina Hendricks who help me along toward being comfortable with not only feeling comfortable in swim suits, but embracing my wobbly bits.
    Now on to finding the perfect swimsuit…. 🙂

    Reply

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