What Is The Bikini Industrial Complex?

Spring is here, which can only mean that summer is on its way! Yay! And like most of us, I assume anyway, we are both excited and somewhat insecure about the summer months and the decrease in clothing and covering up. I am a sweater all day every day kind of girl if I could be. I love being comfy and secure and honestly, like to cover up what I deem as my “problem” areas. Now, I could list what I think those problem areas are but that kind of defeats the purpose doesn’t it? I feel insecure, I hate bathing suit season and each year as summer rolls around I feel a sense of bittersweetness.

Last year, after reading Burnout by Emily Nagoski, I attempted to embrace the summer and the body I had to celebrate it. She talked about the Bikini Industrial Complex, which is not a new idea, but presented in a different way. She, and I am totally paraphrasing here, pointed out that the way we view ourselves and the unrealistic expectation of what a nice body looks like falls under the BIC. The BIC is a complex that has been fostered by our society and everything it entails from what we see on TV, how we talk about each other’s bodies and how we are treated by medical professionals (i.e. the bullshit that is the BMI). It is in all we see, how we speak and how we act.

So, last summer I tried to combat it. I was newly single, highly insecure and just trying to figure out the ways to feel more comfortable in my own skin. Using her tips (which can be found in her book), instead of focusing on what I looked like, I focused on how I felt.

What did my body need? What could it do for me? Why does it matter how big my belly is? Am I healthy? Can I move freely without pain? Am I not fortunate to have a body that lets me do all the things I want it to?

So, I embraced my body. Or tried to anyway.

I wore a bikini for the first time in years. Going to the beach with my family, I was in a safe space, and was free to just be me. When my nine-year old niece, made a comment about my belly, I replied that this is my body and I am happy with it. I took that chance as a teachable moment for a young mind. We all need to foster mass acceptance of the differences in bodies, and I figured I would start where I could. She rolled her eyes at me, but I didn’t care. She saw someone happy with their body, even for an instance, and for me, in that moment, that was a big deal.

I dressed in clothes, and underwear, that made me feel attractive and/or sexy regardless of who I was with. It wasn’t to attract a man or garner attention, but it was to make me feel okay in my own skin. I flirted with boys because it felt nice. I wore cute summer dresses out to supper with friends because it helped my confidence. I wore things that I would never had worn before and you know what? People complimented me. A lot. They didn’t care about my belly or the things I don’t like. They didn’t care if I felt like my hair was a mess or I was feeling gross. They cared that I was trying to feel good, do fun things, and enjoy myself and my body.

I talked to my friends about it and challenged our negative thinking. When a friend criticize their weight or they body, I challenged them. I highlighted the aspects of them that they were missing, physical and otherwise. In order to combat the BIC, you need to acknowledge that how we talk to ourselves and about each other is part of the problem. I love the people in my life, I didn’t want to see them saying hurtful things either.

And I took pictures. Lots of them. I didn’t scrutinize the ones I took and pick out all the flaws. I just took photos of the things I was doing and shared them with the people that mattered. I was out living my life, embracing my body, as it was, and why would I not document that? I missed too many moments and too many chances for photographic memories because I didn’t like the way I looked on camera. That was dumb.

So for three whole months, and actually into the fall, I lived this mentality. I questioned the way people were protrayed on TV. I charged the narrative for how I talked to myself and the way in which the people around me talked. I ate when I was hungry, slept when I was tired and just listened to my body. And you know what?

It felt great.

It felt freeing.

And it gave me confidence to do things that I would not normally do.

And then I got in my head. As you do.

Winter hit, my insecurities ran rampant and I forgot all the good feelings that I had embraced when combatting the BIC that she wrote about.

So, instead of beating myself up about it, I am going to try again. Summer is approaching and I want to feel free.

First step is writing about it. They say when you write something down, it makes it stick. So, my loyal readers, I am writing it down and am holding myself accountable. Can you do the same?

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