The Girl in the String Bikini.

By Kenton Greening (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A mosaic of Roman women playing sport, Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily.

What a difference a few metres can make. It’s summer in Melbourne, and for many that means sun, sand, and salt, spending time on our bay and surf beaches. I was in Rye the other day. For those who don’t know it, its on the Mornington Peninsular, south of Melbourne. As you travel south towards the heads of Port Phillip Bay the land narrows (peninsular!) and the long stretches of beach are only a few metres from the shops and houses that line the beach road. On a hot day the beach and streets are buzzing with people enjoying the relaxed summer vibe. Whilst I was in one of these stores in walks a young woman in a string bikini. As I notice her I am struck by how NAKED she looks. Context is everything. If she had of been a few metres away on the sand she would have looked distinctly less NAKED. So what’s the go here? It struck me that clearly there is a generally accepted consensus  that when you leave the beach you add a little more to your body. There were definitely other woman around wearing very little, perhaps just a pair of short shorts, a skimpy singlet top, even just a pair of thongs. Yet there was still a big difference between how NAKED they looked and how she looked. The other influencing factor here is body size. She was very normal. Not terribly over weight, but definitely not thin. A voluptuous girl. It’s pretty unusual to see a woman shaped like that naked in the streets. Another consideration is the amount of fabric that constitutes the bikini, this one had a rather minimal amount. I’d love to include an image, to illustrate my point BUT do you know it’s really, really hard to find an image of a girl in a bikini that is available to use AND appropriate! That might be another blog post…

Now I personally (in hindsight – I was a little taken a back at the time) think she should be applauded for being so comfortable in her own skin. There is no way I ever could have walked around like that. Yet she was clearly completely comfortable and unapologetic. Realistically, it would be amazing if we were all as comfortable and accepting of ourselves as she appeared to be. Another part of this I find interesting is that we are all quite accustomed to seeing complete strangers nearly naked in media and advertising. Whilst I do recall hearing of the odd billboard that has been forcibly removed due to the nature of its content being potentially incompatible with safe driving practices, in general we still see a fair amount of skin in every day life, out and about. But it is sooo different when it is hot, sweaty, and jiggling next to you, isn’t it?

I listened for an accent too – Australian. Reason being for this is when I Iived in Bondi years ago I would see many tourists similarly clad (or unclad!) fairly regularly, also when I traveled through the Mediterranean regions. This just illustrates how different cultures have different unwritten codes around what is the social norm. Yet we all have them. We have them because these codes provide a degree of comfort to the majority. But society and social conventions are constantly evolving. I remember when I was a small girl that it was very common to see males walking around with no shirt on. Now with our understanding of skin cancer that it relatively rare, although not exactly head turning. I hope she had tons of sunscreen on!

So what if this had of been a guy? Walking around in one of those European man-style thong bathers?  Now that would have turned heads!



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