What is with girls’ swimming suits?
I’ll admit at the outset that I am a boy mom–daughters are uncharted territory for me. Also, I live in a cold part of the country where people tend to keep themselves covered up year round. Modestly is all relative, and my midwestern sensibilities are set to a different barometer than those from warmer climes. I get that.
My two oldest boys are spending a week with Grandma and Grandpa in Denver, so Aaron and I decided to take the little kids to a nearby hotel/water park for the weekend. Waterslides, whirlpools, and all sorts of aquatic fun. I don’t typically think about it at the beach, but watching tiny girls run around an enclosed room with revealing and uncomfortable-looking wedgies, and lithe pre-teens struggling to keep their bikini tops aligned on their budding bodies, I couldn’t help but wonder what the people who designed modern female swimwear were thinking.
Well, actually, I think I know what they were thinking. And I don’t like it. Especially when it’s thrust upon little girls.
Now, I’m not trying to be judgmental. I could have happily lived in swimsuits when I was little, and have worn my share of less-than-practical bikinis in my day. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with girls wearing swimsuits, and if I had a daughter, I would certainly let her wear one, even if I preferred cute board shorts and a top that could be relied upon to do its job.
Female swimwear was clearly designed for display. Unless a kid is a competitive swimmer, there’s just no reason to be wearing skimpy, clingy clothing–it’s not practical or comfortable. And while it may be cute, my adult self, sitting at the water park, couldn’t help but wonder if there might be people in the room who appreciated the “cuteness” a little too much.
I know, I know–that’s the looker’s responsibility, not the lookee’s. And I would never insinuate that female bodies are responsible for inciting lust. Lust comes from the heart, not the eyes.
But I couldn’t help but wonder if society is doing these little girls a great unkindness, by sending them out to play in this state of undress.
Here’s the thing. Even in my teens, when I was choosing skimpier swimwear, my (misguided) goal was not to turn the head of every male in the area–it was to be attractive, to show off the physique good genes and hours at the ballet barre had bestowed, to show anyone who bothered to notice that this quiet, awkward bookworm actually did have something that merited popular acceptance. And while I sometimes felt gratified by how friendly boys were at the beach, the attention I got was just as often unwanted, a nasty side effect of trying to reassure myself of my own value, as measured by my peers and society at large.
While I wanted boys to like me, I can honestly say that I never put on a bikini to try to attract men’s attention that way.
I simply didn’t get it.
And yet, now that I am an adult, I am aware that my naiveté probably didn’t keep anyone from looking.
If a woman wants to flaunt what she’s got, fine. But kids?
I realize that a lot of people will probably take issue with this post, but as I watched my little boys barrel down the waterslides and cannonball into the pools in their board shorts, I was thankful for the serviceable swaths of material covering their bums. And I felt uncomfortable on behalf of the girls who were tugging at their swimming suits, or who didn’t know enough to.
No judgement, but I think we all know where this double-standard comes from. If we don’t send our little boys out in Speedos, why should we send our little girls out in bikinis?