A few years ago the cover story on my Mount Holyoke alumna news magazine was about Gabi Gregg, alumna, designer, and activist who had taken on fat-hating culture with a vengeance. Gabi is the brainchild behind the Fatkini, a two-piece bathing suit close enough in style and cut to be the bikini of choice for the full-figured woman. As a plus-sized gal myself I was totally intrigued by this. So, I went to the Gabifresh website to investigate. WOW! The models, their Fatkinis, and their bawdy poses – I was sold! The photos of Gabi herself modeling her swimwear poolside and being served by handsome and buff guys looking like they were trying to find their way into her Fatkini were my favorites. I told my spouse all about this and showed her which Fatkini I loved most. She was acknowledging and curious but then asked: And to what end do you love the Chartreuse Fatkini? When I told her I was going to buy it she said with a loving, but no-nonsense voice: That will not be happening. You will not be wearing a Fatkini this summer or any summer - unless you just wear it in the house. I was stunned and crestfallen. What started as a body affirming experience had been completely extinguished by the very person who tells me she loves my body in all its sizeable grandeur.
Robin’s response to my disappointment prompted a thought provoking question: Do you think Gabi might be missing a great opportunity about what swimwear should encourage, i.e. swimming? It was clear by the cut that one lap or dive into the water would loosen the top, turn my large breasts into flotation devices, and leave a graphic and lasting memory on the minds of my neighbors at our town beach. The Fatkini is not for swimming. Like every other bikini it is for showing off a woman’s body.
The Fatkini still captivates me BUT, I now believe Gabi would have been more successful addressing the politics of fat-hating – or fat fetishism – had she created beautiful, plus-size swimwear with athleticism in mind - handsome pool boys included. Feminists continue to toil in their efforts to enlighten us all about the cruelty and dangers of objectifying women’s bodies. My wearing a Chartreuse Fatkni would be like using a green highlighter pen from head to foot accentuating every curve and roll I have. Given that I love to swim and am motivated to do so why spend my hard earned cash on swimwear that would make swimming impossible and reinforce the myth that fat women are never athletic?
Once I got my bearings and recovered my sensibilities, I ordered my new, boring, monochromatic Speedo.
See you at the lake!
© E. Resh