Redefining the Beach Body: Breast Cancer Survivors Challenge Bikini Standards

by Emily Robinson

It’s (almost) officially summer: school is out, days are hotter, days are longer, and people are shopping for bikini season. One important group of women that is consistently left out of our annual haul of Memorial Day bikini sales and Victoria’s Secret summer catalogs are breast cancer survivors. 

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, almost 1.7 million women were newly diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, making it the second most common type of cancer for women worldwide. Survivors often undergo a mastectomy, which is the removal of one or both breasts in order to remove the tissue causing the cancer; it can also make finding comfortable, exciting clothes and swimwear exceedingly hard due to our global culture’s two-boob fashion mindset. 

Finnish art duo Tärähtäneet ämmät, or Nutty Tart, totally destroys our Sports Illustrated, patriarchal notion of beach beauty and simultaneously embraces the strength and confidence of breast cancer survivors with their swimwear collection, Monokini 2.0. Proudly stating “Who says you need two?”, Monokini 2.0 is described as a social art project that challenges standards of beauty and strive to help women feel empowered and included, with or without breasts. Without a doubt, the work is impressive – it is avante garde and glamorous, with suits ranging from wearable and athletic to high fashion art pieces. 

Elena Halttunen (PhD), seen wearing the sporty orange Monokini, is the brain and heart behind the project, as she developed the idea of the Monokini after struggling to find bikinis after her own mastectomy. Not wanting to cover the breastless side of her chest, she made a DIY-monokini that inspired Nutty Tart to expand the new swimsuit into a whole collection. Even cooler, all of the models are survivors of all shapes, sizes, and ages that have reached out to the project, wanting to share their own story and support the cause. 

As the granddaughter of a breast cancer survivor, the development of new fashions like the Monokini are much more exciting than watching my grandma buy mastectomy bras from JcPenney that she thinks are uncomfortable and ends up never wearing. It’s a hopeful look towards our culture’s acceptance of different bodies and beauties. “I do not want to hide,” Halnutten states,”I do not want to stop swimming, I do not want to undergo extensive plastic surgery operations, and I do not want to be forced to use the uncomfortable prosthesis on the beach. I want to feel as free and active as I did before my cancer, and Monokini 2.0 gives me a chance to do exactly that.”

Currently the line is just a few pieces that are unavailable for purchase from mainly European designers, but Monokini 2.0 will open up to crowdfunding in order to manufacture more suits on May 30th – check their website on Friday for the link!


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