(OK, I know today’s blog post title is a little provocative, but bear with me.)
So last night, as I sat and watched Millionaire Matchmaker on Tivo (I know, I know!), I started thinking about my impending holiday abroad. I am SO excited! I haven’t had a beach holiday for 7 years and as I watched all these lovely thin young LA girls on TV I turned my thoughts to what I would wear on a beach – bearing in mind I’m not a lovely thing young LA girl.
As most of you know by now, I’m a plus size woman. I hate labels but there you go, that’s the one society has given me, so be it. I’m a size 18 on most days, and very proud of it – I’m working on that whole ‘fitness thing’ but have never really had many ‘issues’ being a bigger girl. I’m just wired that way. I’ve done my best all my life to ignore society’s judgements about me not being slim, and, for the most part, I do pretty well. Some days are easier than others, but as Gloria Gaynor so eloquently put it, I am what I am.
But it got me thinking, I’m happy wearing a bikini on holiday because I’ve always had this ‘screw you world’ attitude (even more so since I turned 40 – more of that in a future blog post), but I wondered whether other plus size girls felt the same as me?
So I asked Twitter.
And the massive (and unexpected) response I got broke Twitter on my phone!
It seemed like people had a lot to say – I was inundated.
Of course, the answer to this blog post title should be a resounding YES … IF WE BLOODY WELL WANT TO, AND WHO DICTATES (OR CARES) WHETHER WE’RE BIG OR NOT! But nothing is ever that simple.
Here’s a selection of comments I received in answer to my Tweet:
- Yes, but only pre-kids.
- I would not wear one full stop (unless I could have a sarong superglued to me!)
- I wouldn’t because I’m lumpy and bumpy because of 2 c-sections.
- Yes, thinking of buying one this year.
- Nope – life as a fatty brings enough judgement and shame (plus there’s all the wobble).
- Nope. Wish I would but nope. The thought petrifies me.
- Hell no! Swimsuit and cover up all the way!
- I’m a size 16. Hell no!
- I wouldn’t but I’m not very body confident.
- Yes – no one really cares what you are wearing and even if they do, so what?
- No – I still remember being a size 10 so there’s no way my size 16 c-section tummy is being flashed in a bikini.
- No – I haven’t worn a bikini in 10 years.
- No – I spent my teens covered up because people would constantly tell me to eat more. There will always be dicks. (Amen!)
- No – mainly because I lost my waist and gained stretch marks with baby no. 3.
- No – I hate my body at the moment, simple as that.
- No – I’m usually the biggest person at the pool and always catch people looking at me. Wish I didn’t care, but I do.
- No – I am not and never was a bikini girl.
- Even after 2 kids, yoyo diets and significant drooping, I get comments if I wear something that in any way displays the boobs.
- Yes – I’m not keen on my body but can’t stand being hot so wear what’s comfortable.
- Yes – I’m a size 26 and just get on with it.
- Yes – whether I’m up or down on the lard, I always wear one on holiday.
- No – my belly would scare people.
Trust me, these comments were just a snapshot of the conversation that happened online last night and as you can see, it’s a pretty mixed response.
But aren’t some of those comments incredibly sad? I personally know, and have met, some of these women and I certainly don’t see what they do. I see big smiles, curvy bodies, smart minds and long eyelashes – I don’t see wobbly tummies, too much cleavage or bodies that should be hidden.
But then a couple of ladies Tweeted me photos of themselves in bikinis and it suddenly got ALL kinds of awesome! Women were sharing photos of themselves on holiday and there was suddenly a feeling amongst us that it shouldn’t really matter what anyone else thought, as long as you yourself were happy! But unfortunately, these women were in the minority – their voices were loud and proud, but few.
I think the upshot was there was a fairly even split amongst plus size women as to whether they’d wear a bikini on holiday or not, and I wasn’t really surprised about that, but what was interesting was the amount of women in general, size aside, who had real issues about showing off their bodies – not just in public, but privately too. These ‘issues’ ranged from not wanting to show off a C-section scar or cellulite to stretch marks, to drooping boobs … the list was endless. Some of these women are a size 10.
In fact, one lady even said that she’d been called ‘slutty’ before for wearing a bikini because she happened to have an ample bosom. Can you believe that?! So now she has a complex about even wearing vest tops in summer. Great work whoever said that to her!
I was speechless. From a personal POV, I’ve had men leering at my breasts since I was a teenager, so I understand that being well endowed provokes this sexual reaction amongst some men, but fortunately I’ve never heard anyone openly say anything negative to me. The thing is, when you’re big breasted, and you choose to wear a bikini or a skimpy vest top, it becomes a sexual thing for a lot of men when in fact, as women, we just want to wear a bikini or a skimpy vest top because the weather’s warm! We’re really not doing it for any other reason.
I didn’t start the online conversation to be controversial and in no way was I saying what women should or shouldn’t do … on the contrary. But I wanted to highlight the fact that wouldn’t it be nice if we were just a little kinder to ourselves? Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of worrying what another woman around the pool thought about our cellulite, instead we gave each other a knowing glance that screamed a metaphorical YOU GO FOR IT GIRL!
Where’s the solidarity? What’s happened to our self-confidence? Where’s the support among us?
This really isn’t a ‘size’ issue .. it’s a woman issue and unfortunately, I don’t have a magic wand to help women feel better about themselves. But I hope that just by starting this conversation, we can all realise that we’re not alone, that our worries and fears aren’t unique, we ALL feel society’s pressure to conform, whatever our size … it’s just whether we let it affect us or not.
But for now, a tweet from a blogging friend this morning made me feel at least a little positive, and I’m delighted that just talking about the subject made her feel even a tiny bit happier …
* Thanks to everyone who contributed to last night’s conversation and I hope you don’t mind me borrowing your comments!