(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! 

 

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Published by Kate Sutton

Writer, Mother, Dater.

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21 Comments

  1. Men just do not have this kind of dilemma. My last holiday (3 years ago…weep!) was the first where I considered a swimming costume. Tried a load on and felt more self conscious as tummy seemed more evident. At least in my bikini it gets tanned and as the week goes on, nice and toned from all the ice cream and cocktail fun. Mmmmmmm
    Viva la bikini!

    @lizzi_wallace

  2. I’m forever grateful for the invention of the tankini – allows you to cover up when you feel the need, but get a bit of sun on your tummy when you’re feeling confident. Sadly I haven’t felt confident enough to go for a bikini since my 20s (and I’m 40 now)

  3. Great post Kate! A worthy debate.

    I do wear a bikini, because it is hot and I can’t be bothered about what others think, but I hate seeing my overstretch tummy.

  4. I usually wear bikinis because I am petite, and find that swimsuits tend to shorten me even more. This said, I’m also big busted, and have had to endure the leering, and also the comments – yep, I’ve had “slutty”, and “you’re asking for it” (charming, right?), and worse. It’s not just about being plus-sized, although that’s definitely a debate – you’re right, where is the solidarity, why all the judgy judgement? It’s sad but having been busty since I was 12, I shrug things off, and figure, damnit, if I want to wear a bikini, I will, regardless of what anyone else thinks of me. I like them! (this said, I’ve just bought a cut-away one-piece, and am summoning up my courage to wear it!). Thanks for a great post, sorry I missed the convo x

  5. I am currently a size 6-8. I am this size because of a chronic illness which rears its ugly head now and then. I used to be a nice, healthy size 10-12 and I miss being that size. Due to said illness, I have 2 nasty looking scars on my tummy which go together with the baby belly stretchmarks that were already there.

    I feel uncomfortable in a bikini as people stare at me: 1) because I have the scars, and; 2) because I am quite thin (this has been confirmed to me on more than one occasion. I was nicknamed “Skeletor” by one nasty individual). If I do pluck up the courage to wear one, the bottoms need to be a Simon Cowell-type high waist. Also, I do not know what this “bosom” is that you speak of. I am rack-less (I really couldn’t think of a better word. Reading that back, I couldn’t think of a worse one either…).

    I look at plus size ladies with envy. I can only hope that one day I am back to being larger than I am now.

    Go girls of all shapes and sizes in bikini’s! Why shouldn’t we?

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment Julie and you’re right, this whole issue is one for women of every size. I think the gig is embracing what you have, rather than being envious of what you ‘don’t’ have … but that’s easier said than done. I would like to think that you’d wear a bikini and sod the naysayers … but only if YOU feel comfortable. I just rather like not conforming and am happy to flaunt what God (and cake) gave me, regardless of what people think 🙂

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  7. Sad I missed this twitter convo too, you should DEFINITELY wear a bikini and you are right this is a women’s issue and we all need to feel more confident. Funny as 2 c sections later my scars are so low, they are not really visible and I never think or care about them but I have gone from a toned, curvy tummy to a wobbly one yet I buy supportive bikinis and think go girl. I also think the more you wear one (as soon as the sun says hi I’m in one even round the house) the less it becomes a big deal.

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  10. Hi Kate, I found your blogs through our mutual friend, the lovely Lizzi Wallace. I just had to comment on this one …
    Having been a feminist since Uni days (quite a long time ago now), I am well-versed in all sides of the body image debate, and what we as women “should” or “shouldn’t” wear. Like you, I have always pretty much pleased myself re clothes (black leather mini skirt to my 21st when all my friends wore ‘nice’ dresses? Yes! …).
    I still love dressing up, which I do given any excuse (and sometimes just because), although I do wish I had the body of my twenties still. The truth is, I am now in my 50s; my body is a temple that I have worshipped with cake and other goodies for many years. I exercise (I’m a Pilates and dance teacher), I eat lots of healthy food, but I also enjoy the unhealthy stuff too (the afore-mentioned cake, new potatoes with butter, Pringles, Party Rings and Percy Pigs, to mention a few). I enjoy food, it is one of life’s great pleasures, and I choose not to deny myself the treats I enjoy.
    The body I have now has lived through 50+ years of good and bad times, has been slim and been more rounded, has birthed and raised two children; all of its parts still work pretty well, and let me live a full and active life, including dancing several times a week (my passion). For me, this is enough. In fact, it’s flipping fantastic! And if I want to clothe my middle-aged body in a pink fringed cut-away one-piece swimsuit, or a blue rhinestone covered bikini, then I will (watch out Dorset, I’m coming …).

    1. After feeling a little down about negativity I received, your comment has really lifted my spirits! This is exactly what I was hoping for … to hear stories like yours of embracing who you are, regardless of hte haters. I think you sound amazing … just my type of woman! Thanks for taking the time to comment – you made my day x

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