I am one of those girls who generally does not like to swim. It’s not that don’t know how to swim, but I just haven’t ever enjoyed it that much. My innate fear of fish probably does not help the case, either. (Guys, fish breathe out of the side of their face. Lakes literally are giant fish toilets. Need I say more?) However, with summer right around the corner, I have noticed that there is an issue with pools that reaffirms my hesitancy to venture out to the pool with my stack of summer reading list books.
My inner history major is coming out, so I’d like to start off with a brief history of the bikini. Louis Reard was a French man who worked in his mother’s lingerie shop. He went to work every day and looked at women in their underwear. I’m sure his complaint list was pretty low in relation to his work environment.
One day he had the idea that women should wear these kinds of style in public, and the place that made sense to introduce the fashion trend was the beach. So he made a swimsuit that was, essentially, water proof lingerie. If you look at the style through the lenses of the modern era, this swimsuit is now considered “conservative” in comparison. However, back in the year 1946, it was scandalous.
Time came for the fashion show to introduce the debut of the new swimwear, and Louis began to recruit his runway models. It was harder than he thought – no model would have anything to do with waterproof lingerie, poolside wear or not. So who did he have model this fashion?
A Paris stripper named Micheline Bernardini.
So we have water proof lingerie, and today it seems that most swimsuits actually cover less than what is worn under our clothing. Even if modern opinion of the appropriateness of a swimsuit has changed, the brain has not.
Let’s try this in a different situation with a different vantage point – this first scenario is from Jason Evert.
As a young woman, you are at your house getting dressed and, for some unknown reason, your bedroom wall fell down. If a group of people were running by, would you stand there in your underwear and wave hello? Basically the same coverage as a bikini, right? NO! In this case, you would dash for cover as soon as possible.
Then why is it socially acceptable to wear this kind of coverage, if not much less, if there is a body of water around?
Some will say “Well, a guy’s brain is his own responsibility and if he can’t control himself, it’s his fault.” Others say, “If a woman wants to dress in a way that will objectify her, it is her fault.”
Bikinis and modesty are not a 'guys issue' or a 'woman's issue.' Modesty is a human issue. And the problem concerning the blatant objectification of women in the fashion industry and the world in general was never solved by point fingers and blaming people. We should be viewing our interactions with others as a way to help each other to Heaven. It needs to be a mutual endeavor, and finding ways to place blame will not help the situation improve.
It is not that a bikini shows too much of a woman - it reveals too little. Saint Pope John Paul II wrote extensively on the subject of modesty in his Theology of the Body discussions. A bikini does not reveal a woman's worth as a daughter of God. It does not reveal her brilliant mind, beautiful heart and eternal soul. It reveals only her body - and that is not nearly close enough to describing who she is as a child of God.
How 'hot,' 'fit', or 'attractive' a woman looks in a bikini does not define who she is as a human being with an eternal soul. Her figure is not her greatest accomplishment. How sun-kissed (or, in my case, sun burned) one looks at the end of the summer and where one's tan lines are is not the sum of a person's being. We are more than just bodies and we are more than the tone of our skin...regardless and despite what society screams from advertisements, billboards and get-fit-quick ten day programs on Facebook. On top of this, women reduce themselves to the level of objects when they wear bikinis. That statement is not a stab-in-the-dark guess or a matter of opinion. There have been multiple studies done, but one of the most convincing is the scans of a male brain while looking at pictures of women in bikinis. The study was conducted by National Geographic (Fiske and associates, 2009). Men look at pictures for a portion of a second, while their brain was being scanned in a laboratory situation. In the rotation of pictures was nature, cities, random events, and, of course, pictures of women in bikinis.
Without the men consciously willing their brains to do so, the scans revealed that when showed pictures of women in modest attire, the part of the brain that uses the terms “She walks, she talks,” and other third person verbs was activated in a guy. Yet when shown pictures of women in bikinis, the brain automatically switches to the part that is used when using tools, objects and first person verbs (“I move, I walk”)
What does this mean? Why is it significant? Because bikinis are not helping any of us (regardless of gender) get closer to God or Heaven.
Ladies, I'm not asking you ditch your bikini because you are ugly. In fact, you are a beautiful daughter of God. So if you are beautiful, why cover your body? Not because it is horrible. Not because we don’t want to see you.
I'm asking you to not reach for a two-piece this summer because we veil things that are beautiful. Why are veils encouraged at first communions? Because those girls are beautiful, and going up to receive the very body and blood of Christ for the first time. Why does a bride wear a veil on her wedding day? Because she is a beautiful treasure. Why do we have a curtain in front of the tabernacle? Because it is beautiful.
No one looks at the first communicant, the bride, or the tabernacle and says “Oh, how ugly. Glad we got that covered up.” The mystery surrounding the girl, the woman, or the Eucharist is amplified because something is left to the imagination.
Do you want people at the pool looking at you and appreciating you as a child of God, or do you want them looking at you and appreciating what you would look like without any clothing on?
Sisters in Christ...you are loved. You are cherished. You are desired by a God who would rather die than risk spend eternity without you. You deserve more than water proof lingerie.