Swimsuit season is upon us (or if you live in a perpetually warm place like me, it’s always with us). As a mom of teenagers, I am perpetually dealing with bathing suit issues. I once had a teen foster daughter with a rather large chest. She desperately wanted a two-piece swimsuit, but after visiting dozens of stores we found it impossible to find one that actually kept “the girls” in check. In fact, it almost seemed like the very point of a bikini was to show them off instead of cover them them. Eventually we found a one-piece in a style that not only supported her but also kept everything from falling out. Wow — who would have thought it’d be this difficult just to get a kid ready for the pool? Anyone else ever have this problem?
While I wore bikinis when I was younger, I’m now much happier when my belly is covered. And contrary to the argument I often hear about bikinis giving women the power to be proud of whatever shape or size they are, this has absolutely nothing to be with me being ashamed of my body. I am just not comfortable with other men looking at me “that way.” And before you say they wouldn’t, consider the studies by a Princeton researcher that found men often objectify women when seeing them showing that much skin.
The study found certain areas of the brain associated with tools, objects, and action verbs were activated when seeing photos of women in bikinis. In other words, when men see “half-naked” woman, they aren’t thinking about how the woman feels or whether she might want to talk about her hopes and dreams. In fact, they aren’t really thinking about her at all. Researchers found the men couldn’t recall the women’s faces, only their bodies.
I don’t know about you, but that kinda creeps me out. I don’t want anyone looking at me that way. And you know what? My husband doesn’t want others looking at me that way either. There is certainly a time and a place for a woman to proudly strut her stuff, and it is for her spouse’s enjoyment only… (To my daughters who are reading this: Yes, I know you have just vomited in your mouth, but that’s OK because some day you’ll get it!)
I recently heard another mom tell it like this: “Last summer one of my boys made a comment about a girl being naked at the pool. She wasn’t, but she was in a bikini. I told him she wasn’t and he said, ‘She might as well be. It almost looks the same.‘ We have never talked to him about things like that, but that was his own observation.”
The most common reasons I hear girls state for why they wear bikinis are:
- Everyone is wearing them. (In other words: I want to fit in.)
- All of the non-bikini suits are ugly/frumpy/grandmotherly. (In other words: I want to feel beautiful.)
I recently watched a highly informative video about the evolution of the swim suit. It started off discussing that oldy-but-goodie tune: She wore an itsy-bitsy-teenie-weenie yellow-polka-dot-bikini. Do you recall the lyrics? The first part goes like this:
She was afraid to come out of the locker
She was as nervous as she could be
She was afraid to come out of the locker
She was afraid that someone would see
One, two, three, four,
Tell the people what she wore
In the video designer Jessica Rey explains her thoughts about the evolution of the swim suit and how it relates to the lyrics of that song, “I believe that the woman was afraid to come out of the water because she had a natural sense of modesty about her that has been stripped away by today’s culture… and we need to bring it back.”
In speaking to groups of girls and young women around the U.S., she realized there was a serious lack of modest swimwear that allow us to feel beautiful. This led to the creation of her own swimwear line. She further explains, “Modesty isn’t about covering up our bodies because they are bad. Modesty isn’t about hiding ourselves. It is about revealing our dignity. We were made beautiful, in His image and likeness. So the question I’d like to leave you with is: How will you use your beauty?”
Here are some samples from her swimwear line:
And here are some others from another designer:
Having said all of that, I do not see this as one of those throw-down-the-gauntlet parenting issues. When I was selecting their swimwear, it was always modest. Now that they are older, my husband and I continue to reiterate our ideas about modesty, and do our best to model them in our own clothing choices. But at this point we feel it is something they — as almost-adults — must ultimately decide for themselves.
I love Jessica Rey’s correlation between modesty and how it actually uncovers something about ourselves. I pray my girls choose to dress modestly — so it reveals their inner beauty — rather than forcing them to wear something that only covers a bitter and resentful heart.
If God chooses to give have them marry, I want my daughters to find future mates that are deeply interested in their hopes and dreams. I want them to be cherished by husbands who see them as created in God’s image and make them feel beautiful no matter what they are wearing (or how much baby vomit covers the front of their shirts). And I want them each to be loved by a man who encourages his wife as they together follow Christ toward His Kingdom, even when they’re [still] not there yet.
What do you think? Have you found swimwear to be a bone of contention in your life and/or with your daughters? How do you handle it?