The act of sharing a single photo can be interpreted as a mark of self-confidence or an indication of low self esteem, as an act of rebellion against unwritten cultural law or the subscription to it. Nothing but sheer personal bias tips the scale.
Hola, querido lector. I come to you today from thirty thousand feet above what looks to be the Gulf of Mexico, though I cannot be sure, given that any topography from this altitude always seems to have the same faded, bluish hue. I’m on my way to enjoy my first-ever all-inclusive vacation with my lovely family of six at the Royal Hacienda resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where I fully intend to gorge upon endless fish tacos and strawberry margaritas.
I’m inclined to say that in addition to stuffing myself into oblivion, I’m also looking forward to sharing selfies on Instagram showing off my new bellybutton piercing (IT’S S’CUTE) on the resort deck while donning one of my new $20 Old Navy bikinis— but truthfully, I’m concerned.
Before posting anything on social media, I always ask myself, “What does what I’m posting say about me, and is that a message I want to promote?” (I don’t believe that doing so prevents me from having the seemingly dichotomous “f*ck you, I’ll post whatever I goddamn please” mentality, by the way. Very few things in life are as mutually exclusive as we treat them, as we’re about to find.)
As I prepare to answer that damning question for when I’ve achieved that perfectly-lit selfie on the resort deck, I quickly find that the politics of posting a bikini pic on social media are exceedingly complex. The perspectives and opinions that people have on the topic of sharing near-nude photos are vast and nuanced; because a bikini pic by definition requires such a low degree of—*ehem*—coverage, posting one seems to say much more about the person who posted it than any regular old, fully clothed selfie, and has the potential to influence its viewer to a higher degree.
So on that note, I’d like to dive right in and analyze a few of the perspectives bikini-clad women and girls like me have to face, and how they might affect how we answer the age-old question: To post, or not to post?
👍 To post 👍
1) Posting a bikini pic promotes a body-positive mentality to your followers and enhances your own self-image.
It surely takes confidence to post a half-naked bikini pic, and in a world where so many girls and women feel self-conscious about their bodies, the act of posting that photo helps chip away at the prevailing notion that we ought to feel so.
Poster: “F*ck your ‘perfect’ body— this is my un-airbrushed, natural self, and I love it.”
Follower: “Wow, this girl feels good about the skin she’s in. Maybe I can do the same!”
2) Posting a bikini pic directly combats slut* shaming.
According to the Geek Feminism Wiki, “Slut shaming is the act of criticizing a woman for her real or presumed sexual activity, or for behaving in ways that someone thinks are associated with her real or presumed sexual activity.” Posting a bikini pic could be interpreted as an act rebellion against this very notion. By sharing the pic, the poster takes ownership and pride in their body, and advocates for the body’s strength, power, and beauty— nothing at all to be criticized or obscured.
Poster: “My body is strong and sexy and beautiful and I will NOT succumb to any cultural/societal pressures to hide it.”
*Loaded word. Have women reclaimed it? Can we? Should we? It’s a mess. But that’s a-whole-nother post.
3) People who think I have a nice body could be inspired to get fit and eat healthy!
I like to think that I have an athletic body, made so by a complete, balanced diet and daily exercise. Perhaps people—and women and girls specifically—who view my bikini pic will know this and be inspired to take on healthier habits as well!
Follower: “Wow, she looks great! I want to look like that, too, so I’m going to take this buffalo wing out of my mouth, stand up off this couch, dust off my old running shoes, and go for a light jog!”
4) People who don’t think I have a “perfect” body could be inspired to love their body, too.
I don’t think my body type matches the one 99.9% of beauty/runway/Instagram models share. If a girl/woman looking at my bikini pic doesn’t think so either, then they could interpret my posting it despite my “perfect” body as a source of inspiration to be confident in themselves despite their own “imperfections.” (“Imperfections” purposefully marked with quotes.)
Poster: “I know my body isn’t what so many people have deemed to be ‘perfect,’ but f*ck that. I think I’m beautiful anyways.”
Follower: “She’s not perfect, but she’s okay with that. Maybe that means I can embrace my imperfections, too!”
👎 Not to post 👎
1) Posting bikini photos isn’t classy.
Not necessarily negating any of the arguments for self-love or body positivity, this perspective simply states that it’s sexier/classier/better to be subtle and leave more to the imagination. Love love love that body all day long– but save that sugar for a special dessert 😉
Poster: “I’m not going to post this bikini pic because it reveals more skin than I believe is appropriate. I’d rather stick to sharing more thoroughly clothed pix of myself!”
2) By posting a bikini pic, I’m letting people objectify me.
In a world where prostitution rates run high, human trafficking corrupts entire countries, and rape culture twists people’s minds into believing women are nothing but disposable sexual objects, posting a scantily-clad photo of yourself is yet another message to the world that a woman’s worth comes from her physical being. Posting bikini pix perpetuates the notion that a woman’s physique matters more than her intelligence and personality.
Poster: “I know I’m worth so much more than my body, so I’m going to refrain from sharing this photo and suggesting otherwise.”
3) People who think I have an aesthetically appealing body may compare their body to mine, and negative effects could ensue.
There are already a bazillion photos of thin, athletic women out there (and by ‘there’ I mean in our pockets)– it’d be best not to contribute to the firestorm of images that make women and girls already feel the need to compare their bodies to everyone else’s. After all, constantly comparing yourself to others will inevitably take a serious hit to your self-confidence, and could even result in physical harm, such as in the form of disordered eating.
Follower: “Gosh, here’s yet another photo of a woman in a bikini. I wish I looked like that. Man. Now I feel like poo.”
We’ve only scratched the surface of the vast and nuanced perspectives that revolve around this topic. Some other questions to consider include: Are some bikini pix okay/”classy”, but not others? Is there such a thing as “too many” bikini pics? Is it okay to edit/photoshop them? What is there to be said about the fact that once the photos are out on the Internet, they’re out there forever? How do people’s comfort levels with the amount of skin they’re willing to reveal play into this? (Feel free to wrangle with these in the comments below!)
Given the perspectives I’ve detailed, my conclusion is that in my case, the “pros” of posting the bikini pics outweigh the “cons.” I’m optimistic that by posting bikini pics from all angles (from flattering to less-than-so) and sharing hefty disclaimers like the one you’re reading right now, I have the opportunity to inspire self-love and positive body image for myself and others.
Consensus: 👍 To post! 👍
Overall, I believe people have the right to post photos of themselves however they goddamn please– clothed, butt-ass naked, robed, covered in peanut butter, whatever. It’s their life. And the only thing I believe in even more strongly than that, is that others ought to let them do so in peace.
Post and let post,
P.S. More than bummed that I’m not able to post generic, yellow thumbs up/thumbs down hands on here– Like wtf, WordPress? Why does a yellow emoji hand translate by default into a lil peach-colored hand 4 u? Y u so ethnocentric? Y u so l@me? #diversityiscool #fuckyou
Update: We landed and went to the beach and Michaela got down real close to the sand and took this VERY flattering photo of me, featuring my body. YEA BOIII~~~ #kneessandy #butthatbuttclean