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Fatkinis and Frustrations

I’ll admit that I personally dread walking past the magazine stands in the grocery store as summer approaches. I don’t think of myself as a fat girl, but I’m pretty sure my breasts alone will keep me from ever looking like those women on the covers of magazines. I hate that this time of year seems to bring out the really judgmental side of people, so I was really thrilled to see this feature on xoJane getting so much press. 31 women sent in pictures of themselves wearing bikinis to prove that a beach body is any body that you currently have. I love the concept, but like many of these campaigns I’ve found the various reactions a little frustrating.

Lots of the women who submitted photos have been criticized for being “not fat”. I’ve heard plus size models complain about this as well. They’re too big for regular modeling, but too small for plus size campaigns. Other women are larger and working it, which seems to take people by surprise as well. The article has gotten so much press that it will be on the Today Show (at least according to a tweet from the lovely Tess Munster) which is simultaneously very cool and very depressing. I love that these photos are getting so much positive attention, but I also really wish that we lived in a world where women of various sizes wearing bikinis on the internet wasn’t such a cultural shock. Despite everyone’s efforts, we’re clearly a long way from being okay with a wide range of body types as a society.

It’s hard not to feel like people are still sorting these women into categories. The ones that conform to more conventional beauty standards “aren’t really fat” and the ones that don’t are left in the fat category. While I admire the women who sent in these photos tremendously, it’s hard not to feel like fat is still a socially appropriate way of saying “unattractive” for many people. All of these women are gorgeous and confident, but if 31 size zero through six women put something like this together I don’t think you’d have people putting them into groups in the same way.

Until we can separate weight, shape, size, and skin tone from societal standards of attractiveness we have a long way to go. Until then though, we’ve got brave women like this leading the way!


  1. Fat = unattractive still. That’s definitely starting to change in the more switched-on areas of the world, but it’s nowhere near mainstream. The thing is, though, that if fat =/= unattractive does become mainstream, it’s likely that thin = unattractive will then regain its 1950s position of prominence. I’m halfway to convinced that humanity as a whole doesn’t actually ever get less intolerant, it just goes through cycles about what it’s intolerant about. I hope that I’m wrong, so please somebody give me examples to prove me wrong!

    I have to admit that when I saw some of the photos I thought “what…she isn’t fat!” but then I realised that fat’s actually a pretty subjective thing – if not completely subjective. Even when it’s to do with health it is varied for every person – there’s no real level to say “anyone who reaches this is fat”. Who am I to say whether someone else is “fat” or not? If a woman believes she has the right to be in that gallery of photos, she does. And they all look wonderful.

  2. Jame (@jameane)

    So true, it isn’t enough to be confident in your own skin and your bikini. You have to sorted into “not really fat” “fat in an attractive way” and “fat.” We have come so far. *rolls eyes*

  3. Sadly, I think that if it was a bunch of slim girls, the smaller ones would get bashed for “not being real enough” or for “promoting anorexia”.
    For the record, I see all the women in the fatkinis pictures as fat, which I use as a neutral descriptive, like tall or blonde, and not as a code word for unattractive. In any case, I love their confidence!

  4. You know, I’m glad that there’s this push out there to show that regardless of weight women can be gorgeous. When I hear all this non-sense about “getting fit to have a beach ready body” I just want that person a tour of a Brazilian beach. One thing I love seeing here is the diversity and how women of ALL shapes and sizes appear to be much more comfortable in their bodies. It’s nice not to be constantly blasted with the idea that fat=unattractive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s here too but somehow it doesn’t seem to have sunk it as much. I saw it too when we went to carnival and there was a lot of diversity on the floats.

    Oh, one article you might like: I couldn’t agree more with it. It’s just insane that 1. you’re supposed to crash diet to go to the beach 2. that tiny=fit, which is certainly not always the case and 3. that fitness is only a temporary thing, when in reality we all need exercise regardless of the season.

    I do think contrary kiwi brings up a good point too. I also fear that the push towards finding larger bodies more attractive might also end up in more people saying thin is unattractive. Shoot, you hear it a lot in the media already with those photos that go viral and if a plus-sized model decides to lose weight all hell breaks loose! Wish we’d evolve enough to reach some middle ground.

    I also think it’s crazy that there seems this need to define who is fat or thin. When I was wearing size 6 pants I was called fat by a doctor here. Technically I was overweight (17lbs at the time) but still I wasn’t *that* overweight either. Never was there a mention of looking at my body fat % or asking how physically active I was. It’s incredibly frustrating when even the medical community tries to eyeball someone and determine their health from it. 🙁

  5. I’m just not really sure that I get it. Maybe it depends on where you are in the world. I went to Panama City Beach, Florida this weekend and I saw women of all shapes and sizes in a bikini (including similar to the photos above). It wasn’t a big deal to them or to anyone around them. The last place I’d expect to see women of all shapes and sizes is Florida, a place known for bikini bodies. But really if it is possible there, what will it take for everyone else to catch up? I get the feeling that it will swing from one side to the other, one person’s body will always objectified and targeted. Too many sociology and psychology classes tell me that we are asking for too much out of society when it comes to standards to beauty.

  6. Those girls look better that some of those models who only weigh like 80 pounds though! 🙂

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