As a fat woman, I often struggle to love my body and find clothes that I feel look good on it. This is especially true when it comes to swimsuits. In fact, I was so ashamed of my body that I didn’t wear a swimsuit for about ten years. Only recently have I been coming around and starting to learn to love my fat and wear the clothes that I want to in public. The one thing I’m still struggling with more than anything else is swimsuits, and specifically bikinis. I know that I’m not alone in this, but thanks to social media, all I have to do is take a look at my phone and be inspired to confidently step out wearing whatever I want.
Over at Colorlines, writer Miriam Zoila Pérez took a look at the trend of body-and fat-positive instagram, tumblr and twitter users taking to social media and showing off their bodies in their #fatkinis (a portmanteau of fat and bikini). I straight up love this hashtag and this article. For such a long time the two piece swimsuit belonged squarely to decidedly non-fat people. As the popularity of this hashtag shows, this is all changing. Especially when it comes to people who are bigger than your usual “plus-size” role model.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my chubby sisters, and I’m not minimizing the pressure you feel to have the perfect body, but it can get damn depressing when so much body positivity is focused on girls and women who aren’t even a size ten. There seems to be this thing where people who are a little curvy or a little overweight or a little chubby, but still very much conventionally attractive, have become the face of the body positivity movement. Yes, it’s great for people who look like Meghan Trainor to know that even though society and culture tell them they’re not skinny enough they’re still beautiful. But what about those of us who are twice her size and don’t have “all the right junk in all the right places?”
Women who are a size 20 (and bigger), women who have a Visible Belly Outline, women with small butts and breasts but big thighs and bellies are often intentionally ignored when it comes to picking out faces of the body positive, and even fat positive movement. Because of that, when I look at things that are supposed to be telling me I’m beautiful no matter what size I am, I often just feel left out. That’s what I love about #fatkini. In these women’s bodies I can see myself. I also love that so many of them are calling themselves fat, which at least for me, is such a freeing thing. When we move away from “you’re not fat, you’re beautiful” and into “you’re fat and beautiful,” that’s when you know that we’re starting to win battles.
Pérez points out that many of the leaders and participants in this #fatkini movement are people of color, and that this isn’t something that happened by accident. In her piece, Pérez quotes Laura Luna P, a “queer fat Xicana femme, vintage purveyor, stylist and community builder,” as saying that “as a woman of color I always try to take up space, it’s kind of self-preservation. You want to make yourself seen. By accepting my fatness, that’s part of it.” In fact, one of the early leaders in the proud #fatkini movement was fashion blogger Gabi Gregg, aka Gabi Fresh, who back in 2012 posted pictures of herself in a black and white swimsuit and encouraged others to post pictures in their own fatkinis.
I also love that this movement is taking place on the beach. What place is more public? What place is more connected with looking the right way? Having to look skinny enough to meet the beach’s standards is an idea so entrenched into our society’s mind that we even have a term for it — beach body. And if you don’t have the perfect beach body, which is defined as looking like a model’s then you better not show up. Now, the beach belongs to everyone.
Pérez also mentions Forever 21‘s addition of a variety of plus-size bikinis as a reason for more people confidently going out to the beach or the pool. When larger retailers like this start to make two-piece swimsuits for fat people, you know that things are changing. I honestly feel like for years there have been plenty of big, fat or plus-size people who would have happily worn two piece swimsuits, they just couldn’t find affordable ones. Gabi Fresh also recently teamed up with swimsuitsforall to create a line of swimsuits, ensuring that there are even more fatkini options for the masses.
For a long, long time I’ve wished that I had the confidence to hang out at beaches and pools, and I think that after looking through all the amazingly fashionable and self-assured people absolutely rocking their bikinis, I actually will. When there are so many people who look like me standing up and showing off their bodies and they sense of style in such a public forum, I can’t help but be inspired. This is definitely the kind of body positive movement I can get behind.