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in defence of my bikini body

I don’t know about the rest of Australia but in Brisbane it’s pretty stinking hot. When you step outside the heat whacks you in the face like a hot sticky pillow and for a moment you can’t breathe. If you stand too long in one spot you’ll begin to feel droplets of sweat crawling down your thighs, weaving their way through your leg hair. Everywhere you look people are fanning themselves with books or rolled up newspapers. You try to stay indoors or in the shade but by the end of the day your face is shining as bright as a Cullen in sunlight.

During this sort of weather it is understandable that people wear less. We peel off the winter layers, the tights and scarfs are packed away and swapped for shorts and bikinis. A change in weather necessarily means a change in clothing. So far the logic checks out. But what confuses me is the idea that we need to change our bodies according to the weather. We need to prepare our “summer body”.

At the moment there is a plethora of articles about how to get the perfect bikini body and how to tone up for summer. I can’t go grocery shopping without passing a dozen magazines telling me that I absolutely MUST find out what Jennifer Lopez is doing to get a hot bikini body and the top ten tips for zapping away a jelly belly. Normally I accept this influx of ridiculous articles as a tradition of the season like Christmas carols and reruns of The Grinch. But now they’re starting to annoy me.

Last week I went to the beach with some friends. We piled into my tiny car and went to one of the popular beaches a few hours away from Brisbane. One friend decided not to swim. When I asked her why she replied that there were too many people around and she didn’t want to be seen in her bikini.

‘My thighs touch,’ she said sadly.

Just the other day I was on the bus and a group of teenage girls sat down behind me. They began talking about the amazing new bikinis they had bought and how excited they were to wear them on the holidays. One girl lamented the fact that she would need to shave and fake tan before she could wear the bikini to the beach. The other girls sympathised and started swapping their summer diet tips.

These two instances horrified me. Why are we made to feel as though our bodies aren’t good enough for summer? Why do we have to change our bodies for a piece of clothing?

Of course it can be daunting to bare our bodies during summer and at the beach but we shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed. We shouldn’t be made to feel like our bodies aren’t suitable for a bikini.

While many magazines I’ve seen lately support healthy eating and sensible exercise, there is still this idea at the core of the articles that we need to have a certain type of body for summer. We need to have a flat stomach, toned arms and dimple-free thighs. We need to be golden and glowing and hair-free. Apparently that is what constitutes a “hot summer body”. Heaven forbid your thighs jiggle as you walk along the sand!

It’s hard to develop body confidence especially when we are bombarded daily with images of what the perfect body is. I used to worry about my body in summer. I avoided shorts because I thought my legs were too fat. I would stock up on fake tan because I thought I was too pale and I would hide under baggy shirts because I couldn’t work up the confidence to bare my bikini body. But now I really don’t give a damn. I’m not going to change just to conform to the idea of the right summer body. I’m not going to diet or tan and I’m not going to stop myself from having fun at the beach just because I don’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model.

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