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Forget telling the people what she wore. Tell them what she was doing. - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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Forget telling the people what she wore. Tell them what she was doing. [Aug. 22nd, 2013|11:26 am]
Marissa Lingen

I read this Slate article whose title is, “Should a Woman in a Bikini Expect to Be ‘Taken Seriously’? (Yes.)” And I read the things linked to it, and they sensibly talked about cultural notions of purity, and that’s all well and good, but nobody brought up the thing I thought was important.

What is the number one reason for wearing a swimsuit?

No, I’m sorry, you there in the back, “Because they love us and want us to be happy,” is not the correct answer. The correct answer is–wait for it–swimming.

Nobody seems to be talking about the swimming. Like, at all. Do we have an epidemic of young women showing up for job interviews, orchestra concerts, and addresses to the UN wearing bikinis? Well, not here in Minnesota we don’t, because we don’t have orchestra concerts. (Sorry, SPCO, the bitter joke had to be made.) But seriously. I have not seen girls and young women wandering into the grocery store in bikinis. When Mark and I went to the bank last week, nobody was applying for a loan in a bikini. Yes, bikini-clad women are used to sell things. But couldn’t you just as easily look at a young man in a pair of ordinary swim trunks and say, “Boy-o, no one is going to take you seriously wandering around with your shirt off like that”? This is not a problem for ordinary life. If you want your favorite products to use fewer bikini models in their advertising, that is a different issue you are having and should not be conflated with what I personally–or my nieces or goddaughters or young friends or, hell, old friends–can or should wear to–let me say this again–go swimming.

The least modest garment I have ever owned was a one-piece swimsuit. The world was not exposed to the brazen horrors of my navel–for which I think we could all say thank God were it not for the fact that I have owned–and wornout in public–something like half a dozen bikinis since–but since I am a woman of a non-average build, much of my attention was given to making sure that the term “breaststroke” did not get an updated new meaning while I was wearing this one-piece suit. Getting a two-piece TYR suit not only made my Norse myth-geek self giggle*, it made swimming immensely faster, more possible, and incidentally quite a bit more modest.

Swimming. You know, the thing I had a swimsuit for?

I know, I keep harping on that. But it seems somehow relevant. To the topic. Of swimsuits. It’s not that I don’t agree with some of the people who have come in and said, for the love of pete, seeing someone’s navel doesn’t make them less of a person, or kids of all sexes/genders need to deal with their sexual attractions appropriately and not put their own self-control issues on others’ shoulders, or it is just a navel gahhhhh what year is this what are you thinking. It’s just that I feel like returning this kind of discussion to some semblance of functionality is useful too. And seems to go missing a lot.

*One-handed swimsuit! Swimsuit of the LAW! Swimsuit with more mothers than you can shake a stick at! Okay, I will stop now.**

**And by stop now, I mean stop writing it down, not stop doing it, obv.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux


[User Picture]From: harvey_rrit
2013-08-22 05:08 pm (UTC)
I hope you don't get pestered by the NSA for this.

Your post involves navel intelligence.
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[User Picture]From: janni
2013-08-22 05:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, man, every time I hear something about getting "ready" for swimsuit season or looking good in a swimsuit this very thing annoys me. I don't have to earn the right to wear a swimsuit by making my body worthy of it. I'm not wearing a swimsuit to be seen. I'm wearing a swimsuit because I love to swim.

(For me one-piece suits serve the job better, but this has nothing to do with modesty and everything to do with what I can swim well in.)

The number of women's suits that are clearly not functional, however many pieces they have, is a source of deep frustration to me. Especially for large size women, where they're filled with ruffles and faux skirts that actively get in the way. (Those little skirts float up into your face. They're so not meant for swimming, but only for being seen.)

If not for Speedo's web site, not sure how I'd manage it, really. Swimsuit shopping was a huge ordeal until I found that, because apparently women, especially large women, aren't supposed to buy suits just to swim in.

While I don't know that I've ever seen a men's bathing suit, however modest or immodest, that couldn't be swum in.
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[User Picture]From: adrian_turtle
2013-08-22 05:51 pm (UTC)
I see a reasonable number of women running errands on their way to (or back from) the beach or swimming pool. Generally with something vaguely skirt-like around their waists, but often with their whole upper bodies exposed around the tops of their swimsuits.

And they go into the supermarket or the drugstore, or wait in line outside the little place that sells the frozen custard. And it would be nice if people took them seriously while doing business with them (as they do business with their more covered neighbors.)
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[User Picture]From: klwilliams
2013-08-22 06:33 pm (UTC)
A story I think of (though it's somewhat dated) is "A&P" by John Updike. The concern there was more that the girls' shoulders were exposed, though.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-08-22 06:39 pm (UTC)
Absolutely true, women in bikinis should be taken seriously (unless they are goofing around etc.). Also women in one-piece swimsuits, as I don't think you specified one way or the other.

But these are, to the best of your ability to tell, not people who just decided to go out in their swimsuit because it's cute. They're on their way to or from the beach or the pool.
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[User Picture]From: adrian_turtle
2013-08-23 03:27 am (UTC)
not people who just decided to go out in their swimsuit because it's cute.

I don't think there is a clear distinction between deciding to go out in your swimsuit because you think it's cute, and deciding you don't need to be ashamed of being seen in your swimsuit. People who are somewhat ashamed of being seen in swimsuits might wear them in the water and put a robe on the minute they get out. I understood the Slate article as talking about that continuum.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-08-23 12:48 pm (UTC)

So I think the thing that is hitting me here is that the language of being taken seriously is being applied out of context. This language is the stuff people use when they are talking about "OMG don't you want yourself/your daughter to GET A GOOD JOB AND GO FAR IN LIFE?" And...most people do not get their adult jobs, good or bad, based on what they wear for swimsuits. Even if it's to the post office and the beach rather than just the beach.

So while I think that not body-shaming people is important, what I'm doing here is objecting to these buttons being pressed out of a context where they would be sane and sensible.

We already have enough to worry about with people who genuinely believe that showing one's navel in a swimsuit is a moral danger and failing. I don't want the people who don't care about all that to fall in line with them on the grounds that they want girls and young women to succeed (in some highly desirable and completely nebulous way).
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[User Picture]From: janni
2013-08-23 02:02 pm (UTC)
Actually, I totally fall under don't think my swimsuit is cute, not at all ashamed. I wear it to swim, don't cover up after, but don't think I look either attractive or unattractive in it. It's just the thing I wear so I can enjoy moving through the water, is all, and I'm not particularly concerned about how I'm perceived when wearing it.
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From: thoughtdancer
2013-08-22 08:44 pm (UTC)
I saw this all the time. I lived in Grand Haven in Michigan: prime Lake Michigan beach. Very prime, very packed (us locals knew a better one a bit out of town to use).

People in swim clothes were in the shops all summer long, and mainly other people just kept selling them stuff.

But it's a tourist town, and a small one. It takes money pretty seriously. ;-)
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[User Picture]From: blue_hat_guru
2013-08-23 03:20 am (UTC)
I didn't realize that much serious business happened while swimming. I thought it was fun.

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From: swan_tower
2013-08-23 09:30 pm (UTC)

(I really need a swimming icon, now that I've taken it up again.)
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[User Picture]From: rmnilsson
2013-08-23 03:17 pm (UTC)
I think they're actually talking about social events that involve wearing a swimsuit but not necessarily swimming, like a pool party or social beach outing.

I have a practical and modest Tyr suit, too, and a Bond Girl bikini. If I were going to a pool party with a guest list that included some of my coworkers, I wouldn't wear the Bond Girl bikini because it's too revealing, and I wouldn't wear the Tyr suit because it's too practical, like wearing jogging gear to a party. I'd probably make a run to the mall for something somewhere between, and it probably wouldn't show my navel or much cleavage.

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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-08-23 03:24 pm (UTC)
I think this is a pretty good reason not to make pool parties your go-to work socializing event if you are the person planning work socializing events. But I haven't really seen any indication in the stuff I've read that they're limiting discussion to that in the least.
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[User Picture]From: blue_hat_guru
2013-08-25 03:25 am (UTC)
Also pondering the difference in engineering between one and two-piece suits....
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