According to Jessica Rey, former Power Ranger and current swimsuit designer, antiquated descriptions of the bikini state it's a garment favored by 'licentious mediterranean types' (me) and that only someone who lacked 'decency and tact' (also me) would wear it. As she goes through the history of women's swimwear in a recent video, she acknowledges that opinions of the bikini have clearly changed, and that she created her Audrey-Hepburn-inspired line, Rey Swimwear, as an alternative in a bikini-crazy world.
Which is cool. And I’m on board until about 4 minutes and 22 seconds into the video.
At this point Rey references a 2009 Princeton University study on how the male brain reacts to seeing different people in different types of clothing. “Scantily clad women” are considered tools, men have disregard to their “thoughts, feelings and intentions”
In short, women in bikinis = objects. So, according to Rey we should buy modest swimwear instead so they'll "respect" us. Um.
Let’s pump the breaks and analyze the good before we go into some serious rage territory.
There is nothing wrong with producing an option that goes against to the mainstream, and in fact, I think that’s a wonderful thing. There’s definitely a pressure throughout society to be sexy, and manufacturers do push out a lot of triangles-on-strings masquerading as bathing suits. I respect her decision to design things that cater to a more “modest” crowd. I do. To try to empower those who aren't trying to cave to the societal pressures of dressing "sexy" is a noble thing.
And you know what? Some of them (as you can see in this post) are really cute. I don’t know if I would wear those cuts personally, but I totally respect polka dots and their place in the world of fashion. Same for Audrey Hepburn and her place in the fashion world: even I’ve stolen inspiration from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
The second she goes on about the Princeton study my head wants to slam down on my desk. Basing your company on the threat that if you don’t dress modestly men will treat you like objects is, put gently, kind of a messed up way to empower women. It reinforces that whole "asking for it" mentality that breeds rape culture, that blames women for inspiring the lust of men, creatures that are apparently in no control of their actions. Stahp.
If we stopped doing or saying or wearing something because of the idiocy and impulses of men – I’m sorry, the idiocy of the patriarchy - we wouldn’t get anything done. It would still be scandalous for us to show our goddamn ankles.
And on it's own, shaming a woman's choice to wear sexy triangles and insinuating that covering up is the better approach and the way to be viewed with respect is just not cool. To say the least.
These insinuations, sometimes subtle, sometimes not, have been creating sides this entire time. It puts women on different teams, Sexy vs Classy, both for the purposes of pleasing men rather than themselves, and that is problematic.
Conclusively, the intent and original idea may be benign, the designs I find no true fault with, but some of those selling tactics should be...rethought. But perhaps I'm being sensitive.
Feel free to check out Rey's swimsuits here, watch the whole video below, and share your own perspectives in the comments.