All Bodies Are Beach Bodies

People on the beach, including larger-sized women, enjoying the sun and water.

credit: Davide Rusconi

Each year, as the chill of winter is thrown off by the warmth of spring and summer, we are inundated with advertisements on television or magazines, along with conversations in school or at work, all asking the same question: Do you have a beach body?

The beach body is largely conceived of as a body that is thin or muscular and ready to be shown off publicly in the summer sun. As summer rolls around, so do our insecurities with our bodies.

The more we see advertisements for diets, exercise programs and slimming shapewear, the more we are left to wonder whether or not we are allowed to feel good about ourselves at all. Too often, we end up feeling like a litany of problems in need of solutions instead.

Indeed, the negative body talk used within media or daily conversations with everyone from family members to coworkers, creates and upholds a culture of fear surrounding bodies, especially those that are seen as abnormal or less beautiful (bodies of color, fat bodies, disabled bodies, etc.)

Round Peg, Square Hole

So how exactly is this culture of fear informed by classism? Well, for starters, it assumes that bodies are easily and freely manipulated according to current trends. For instance, there are often advertisements that talk about new body trends, with everything from longer legs, smaller waists, darker or lighter skin, etc. etc. These advertisements put forth the idea that bodies, like houses or cars, can be remodeled at a moment’s notice.

What’s more harmful, however, is that they also put forth the idea that our bodies exemplify our own individual morals. For example, many people believe that fat people are fat, because we are greedy and lazy and lack the motivation to change ourselves for the better.

Not only does this assume that fat people share one universal experience as fat people (a stereotype) but it also assumes that fat people’s lives are inherently less valuable because they are fat. Put another way, it assumes that fat people wear our bad choices on our bodies. And if we would just change our bodies, our morals would follow suit.

The only thing you need to be beach body ready is to be ready to put your body on a beach.”

However, these negative assumptions and stereotypes about fat people’s bodies are rooted in classism. They assume that bodies cannot simply exist for themselves, but must serve a larger purpose (i.e., being physically attractive or being “beach body ready”). These bodies should be readily able to buy any product that would drastically change them from what they are to what advertisers say they should be.

Get Beach Body Ready

However, bodies are not like houses or cars. They cannot be remodeled on a whim, and upkeep isn’t as simple as mopping your floors once a week or changing your oil every three months. Bodies are much more complicated, and changing them isn’t as simple as advertisements make them out to be. What’s more, these advertisements assume that people who “need” to change their bodies have a life that can be scheduled around this constant “remodeling.” For people who work multiple jobs, go to school full time, have families to take care of and more, it is often impossible to look like you’ve just stepped out of a photo shoot – because life happens!

Ultimately, the idea of the beach body is classist because it assumes that everyone can and should strive to be a walking advertisement for diets or exercise machines or any number of products. The good news, however, is that all bodies are good bodies. You deserve to love yourself now with whatever body you have.

And truly, the only thing you need to be beach body ready is to be ready to put your body on a beach!

3 Responses

  1. Dorothy Emerson

    One of the joys of going to the beach in Hawaii is the acceptance of diversity, not only in race/ethnicity but also in body size/type. This is partly because a lot of Hawaiians are large. More, though, because the spirit of aloha prevails–and that means welcoming and respecting everyone. BTW, it’s also a great place to buy large size clothes, including bathing suits.

    1. Taylor Chapman

      Tim,

      Any kind of pun will do, but I especially love the ones that elicit audible groans and eye-rolls from friends.

      This conversation took place recently, while my roommate and I were decorating the kitchen of our apartment.

      Roommate: We have so many oven mitts! Two of them can be functional oven mitts and this can be a decorative one.
      Me: We’ll call that one the Mitt Romney. It’ll sit around and be flashy while the other mitts do actual work.

Leave a Reply