Let's All Agree That Every Body in a Bikini is a Bikini Body

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Being a woman is a never-ending attempt at trying to balance contradictions. We’re supposed to be pretty without investing time or money in our appearances. We’re supposed to be sexual but untouched. And, to my great disdain, we’re supposed to be skinny without caring about what we eat.

With spring break just around the corner, “bikini bodies” are everywhere I turn. Whether it's on social media, advertisements, or my own friends talking about how they need to get in shape, there is a constant bombardment of messages saying I’m not doing enough. At the same time, there is the more subtle, underlying expectation that I should not be trying.

Of the lines I remember distinctly from “A Cinderella Story” (and, trust me, I remember quite a few), the one that stands out to me most is when Austin Ames asks Sam whether she would prefer a “rice cake or a big mac” and she responds “A big mac. Why does it matter?” Ah yes, why does it matter? Because it is not enough for her to only express that she can eat whatever she wants, whenever she wants, but she needs to have a blithe, easy-going attitude about it. Austin laughs and says “Because I like a girl with a hearty appetite. Plus you just eliminated about half the girls in our school.”

Not only is she carefree and natural, she is not like other girls. Implying that there is something inherently wrong with other girls. (Not to mention, the majority of her characterization is built around the idea of her being a tomboy, suggesting that all of her best traits are borrowed from men.)

Now, I don’t mean to get down on “A Cinderella Story”. I genuinely enjoy that movie, particularly because Jennifer Coolidge is a gem. But there are some serious flaws with the way that movie, and many like it, target vulnerable pre-teen and teenage girls, setting up unrealistic and contradictory expectations for women.

That movie comes with the message that you need to be completely low-maintenance and natural, “unlike other girls,” while at the same time, Sam is a conventionally attractive, skinny, white girl who embodies stereotypical Western beauty standards.

A quick Google search showed that Hillary Duff actually works hard to continue to fit that mold. This is where the dichotomy lies. There is nothing inherently wrong with working out, or not; eating salad, or not; spending time primping, or not. It’s the expectation that if you don’t naturally fit into this standard mold, doing something to fit into it is wrong, and not trying to fit into it is also wrong. There’s no way to win besides extraordinarily specific genetic differences and an unyielding metabolism.

Shedding those expectations is easier said than done. It is only in the past few years of my life that I have even come to question those expectations. But understanding and seeing women of every size, shape, and color learning to own their bodies and their differences has helped me to re-examine the expectations I put on not only myself but on other women.

Being skinny is not inherently tied to being healthy, and having fat on your body doesn’t mean you are unhealthy.

The bottom line is that working out and eating healthy shouldn’t automatically be tied to trying to fit the “bikini body” mold. You can do those things because fruits and vegetables taste good, because you want to be stronger, or just because it feels good. You also by no means have any obligation to do any of those things, because every body in a bikini is a bikini body.

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