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There is no such thing as a bikini body, as this author realized. The term is just one used to stereotype and shame women.
This happened a couple of years back.
I was chatting with a male friend from my Law School. We were generally sharing each other’s travel plans for the future and places that we would love to see. I mentioned that I really wanted to go on a beach vacation, maybe to the Seychelles or to the Andamans.
In response, he asked me very matter-of-factly, “So, do you have a bikini body?”
I distinctly remember that I felt a rush of blood to my head. I wonder whether it was anger, or was it embarrassment, or general discomfort with the pictorial representation of me in a bikini, or was it a state of mental confusion as to how to respond. Anyhow, without taking the question too seriously, I found myself replying, almost apologetically, “Ummm … not really…”
Post that, our travel tales continued without any ado about the bikini body question. Neither my friend responded with a sneer or smile, nor did I consider it a matter of serious consideration!
Moving to the present.
Last week, I attended a couple of intellectually stimulating sessions at the Times Literature Festival 2016 at Mehboob Studio, Mumbai. Among the many session, there was one titled ‘Body Politics – Should ‘we’ fit ‘their’ mould?’ which particularly caught my attention.
The issue of body image, stereotyping of the ‘perfect’ female body, notions of beauty and the debilitating pressure to appear pretty and young at any age, are all extremely relevant issues. At the aforementioned session, fashion designers Masaba Gupta and Nitya Arora, American scriptwriter Kia Corthron, actor and marathoner Milind Soman and fashion columnist Namrata Zakaria spoke their minds fearlessly. Though many bold and practical views were shared on body and fashion, to me, the most important takeaways from the discussion was on the requirement of a bikini body.
There is nothing like a ‘bikini body’! There is a bikini and there is a body. To wear a bikini, you need a body. And that is it! There is no other requirement. A bikini and a body can very well exist independent of each other too! Who ever said that you need something called a bikini body to enable you to wear a bikini?
When you go to a beach, you wear a bikini. Just as when you go for mountaineering, you wear trekking shoes and trekking pants. On the beach, the bikini helps you to feel the water, the sun and the sand to the fullest. To achieve this purpose, the shape of your stomach or the width of your waist line obviously have no role to play!
I immediately found myself revisiting the question that my Law School friend had asked me couple of years back. Wow! Now I understand why I felt such discomfort when he asked me – “Do you have a bikini body?” The very phrase bikini body is nothing but an example of body shaming, deeply rooted in sexism. I distinctly remember this small tit-bit of my life till date, a rather unpleasant thought, which means that somewhere deep down, the question had definitely disturbed me. It disturbed me because it injured my dignity. And I believe, the very ‘goal’ of attaining a bikini body as opposed to a healthy body should disturb any self-respecting woman!
As this realization dawned upon me, I felt liberated.
Now I know why, when I vacationed at Maldives four years back, my bikini continued to stay in my travel bag, packed and closed. And then, when I vacationed at Krabi last year, I did not even take my bikini with me and replaced it with a one piece swimsuit. Without even realizing it fully, the ‘bikini body’ notion, nicely planted in my subconscious mind, acted as a roadblock. Even though, all along, my humble bikini was always ready to embrace my body just as it is!
Now – I would like to answer my friend’s question once again – with utter clarity of thought.
Because today, I refuse to cage my body in any ‘type’ or ‘mould’.
Because today, I refuse to encapsulate my mind by anyone else’s notions of what should be the shape and size of my thighs and waist, to be deemed worthy enough to wear the bikini!
Because today, I am ready to give my bikini a chance to come out of the less visited corners of my closet and finally see the light of the day!
Because dear Bikini – on my next beach vacation – I cannot wait to experience the pristine waters and the golden sands with you hugging me tightly! Our love affair has just begun!
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