My bathing suit manifesto

this whole thing smacks of gender

My bathing suit manifesto
Photo by Zoran Zonde Stojanovski / Unsplash

Writing this might be futile. For years, I've felt that there was something deeply wrong here, and yet I've never seen others complain about it. But I've been silent too long, and I can't hold it in anymore!

Bathing suits are bullshit!

I'm referring, specifically, to what the fashion industry considers "women's bathing suits," or bathing suits for people without penises. Feminism has made a lot of strides lately, and yet we haven't taken down the bathing suit industry. We haven't even tried.

This baffles me. The standard for men's bathing suits since the 1990s has been a reasonable inseam, allowing for comfort and movement, while women have had to keep their asses contained to tiny little triangles of fabric for decades. When will women get comfortable swimwear? Last summer on a beach trip, a rouge wave ripped off both my top and bottoms. Women deserve to enjoy big waves too!!

In my search for a better alternative, I've found thin (white) Christian bloggers flaunting their "modest" one-pieces, which cover their stomachs but otherwise reveal the same amount as a bikini. I suspect that they wouldn't consider the same suits "modest" on curvier bodies. I've got an ass that absolutely refuses to quit, so any brief-cut suit will likely ride up on me. Is it my body that's being immodest, or the garment?! On the subject, why is it considered immodest to show off your stomach if you're still showing off your entire thighs? Why is this all so exhausting!!?

Modesty culture consumed my upbringing, even before I entered Catholic school, and becoming a feminist helped me unlearn extremely harmful ingrained lessons about my body. I don't feel guilt or shame wearing a low-cut shirt anymore, and I don't judge others for wearing revealing clothing. Some of my complaints about bathing suits can feel like echoes of that harmful rhetoric. But the point of body positivity is that everyone should be able to wear what they want – and my problem here is the expectation that everyone should want to wear the same thing. The standard bathing suit is cut like underwear: some boob coverage on top and briefs on the bottom. The "full coverage" alternative covers your stomach, but still requires you to shave thoroughly and leaves you at constant risk of a wedgie. (There's also the diet culture of it all, the seasonal exhortations to "work on your beach body!" that have been slowly countered by the encouragement that every body should be a beach body. I just want to add: can we get more options for our beach bodies instead of feeling pressured to be confident in a bikini?)

I very much like being comfortable, so I often struggle with leisurewear branded for women. Cute underwear is often uncomfortable, and comfy undies are often hideous. And don't even get me started on pajamas!! Cute pajamas for women are often so flimsy as to be see-through or to threaten to expose you in a slight breeze.

collage of images of flimsy pajamas with captions reading "hello house guests here are my nips," "where your butt cheeks would fall out if your butt doesn't look like this" [the model is very thin] and "want to know all about my waxing regimen?" A large banner at the bottom reads in all caps, "THESE PAJAMA SETS COST $178"

But the other thing is that I do want to look cute. I generally opt for men's workout clothes as pajamas – an oversized, thick cotton shirt with baggy basketball shorts – because they're comfortable, but I do wish I could have the same level of comfort in clothes that make me feel like less of a slob. (Do I have body image issues? Yes! Does dressing nice help me with that? Also yes! Should I just address the underlying problems and live an enlightened life in cozy potato sacks? No, it is the garments that are wrong.)

TomboyX is a company that makes well-fitting underwear that fit bodies of all genders, so when they launched a swimwear line, I thought that it might be the solution to my problems. It's pretty close! Their swimwear is blessedly reasonable, allowing for comfort and actual range of motion.

screenshot of the TomboyX website featuring 2 pairs of 4.5" swim shorts and 2 "unisuits," one-piece swimsuits that look like a tank top and shorts combined
current options available from TomboyX

They're really nice! I appreciate them! They're just... not really my style. Functionally, their unisuit is exactly what I'm looking for. But aesthetically, it's not really my vibe. The cuts feel a little sporty, and I am anything but athletic. For me, personally, I'd love a similar design that looks more feminine and vintage. I'd rather feel like an aspiring pinup than a failed surfer.

I just want more options, man!!! I'd like the standard to be a style that covers me more than my undergarments do, so companies could sell different variations on that theme. Am I being unreasonable? Is this just a me thing? Is everyone else cool putting on this little clothing while men get to romp our beaches freely in sensible shorts?? Is this not a pressing issue of sexism in our times!? I feel like this is a movement waiting to happen. Please stand with me on this. #BathingSuitsAreBullshit

If anyone would like to start a pajama and swimwear company, I'll be happy to come on as a designer, by which I mean I'll come up with ideas but have no idea how to execute them. In the meantime, my search will continue, or I'll just go ahead and buy one of the TomboyX suits because I have a beach trip coming up soon and I need to pull the trigger on something.

three examples of full-coverage swimsuits with notes on how they're still lacking - one is too baggy, one is too revealing, and one appears to fit badly

Please let me know if you have any tips on where to shop, and also let me know if you feel the same way! (#BathingSuitsAreBullshit) I think if we band together, we could shift the public perception on flimsy bathing suits. Bikinis could be the new plastic straws — well, maybe that's going too far. But unisuits could be the new Beyond Burgers: a fully respectable, popular alternative to the standard. Please! I need this! My beach body is ready!

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