I have a complicated relationship with bikinis. I think they're beautiful, in that carefree retro sort of way reserved for swimsuit calendars and Huey Lewis music videos. Post-puberty, I've never worn one (in public). I've tried on dozens of bikinis and monokinis in dozens of fitting rooms, striking poses in the privacy of a mirrored room, wondering if I could ever be a girl who exposes a maximum amount of skin surface area on a beach.
Until recently, I'd always believed that mine was not a body worthy of the iconic swimsuit. Because my body is flawed. And, in my mind, women who wear bikinis are flawless.
“Wearing a bikini as a fat woman is an act of rebellion,” fat activist Rachele Cateyes wrote on her blog Fat Babe Designs. “I felt glorious and glamorous all at the same time.”
A photo the gorgeous plus size woman posted of herself rocking a blue and white nautical bikini was later stolen, appearing on Facebook ads for weight loss products. The social media backlash was intense, with Cateyes leading the fray, but the incident proved that we obviously have a long way to go; not just as individuals with body hang-ups, but as a society who declares particular body types and shapes to be either "right" or "wrong."
Thankfully, Cateyes isn't alone when it comes to publicly flaunting her "flaws" and rebranding them as beautiful.
Finnish artistic duo Nutty Tarts (Katriina Haikala and Vilma Metteri)are on the vanguard of exactly that. The women were contacted by a woman named Elina Halttunen about two years ago. The breast cancer survivor required a suitable swimsuit after having a second mastectomy and had no interest in having reconstruction surgery.
"She knew about the thematics in our work as artists, and asked if we could do something about the normative attitude concerning the problem," the artists wrote iVillage Canada via email.
"We wanted to do the project to expand (people's perceptions) of what is a whole and healthy woman. You are beautiful as you are, even with one breast or no breasts at all."
And so the Monokini 2.0 was born. The duo have created beautifully detailed swimsuits exposing skin and scars, seamlessly incorporating perceived flaws into a gorgeous design.
The Monokini 2.0 Kickstarter
recently kicked off. Nutty Tarts are hoping to crowd fund $55,000 to get some monokinis into production and onto the market. "We will promise that if we get the money required we will work harder than ever to make sure that the world will be a little bit nicer place for women who have to deal with their different body-image daily," they pledge.
I've only ever worn a one-piece swimsuit - often black and strategically ruched -- but women like Halttunen and Cateyes have inspired me. This summer, I'll be donning my first bikini. I will wear it in public with pride. I may even post a photo.
I hope you do the same. Lumps -- or no lumps -- and all.