BY MIKE REYNOLDS & ANDREA TOMKINS
This article was originally published in the Summer 2015 print edition of
The wearing of bikinis is one of those perennial hot topics, especially when it comes to children. Do bikinis sexualize little girls? Or is that notion taboo in itself? And what about exposure to sun? Two parents, both with two daughters, weigh in on the great bikini debate.
Mike Reynolds on saying no to the two-piece
Let it be known that I am a dad who does not have a shotgun, and no, I’m not looking forward to the day when I can take my daughters to a purity ball. My partner and I are working hard — even at their young ages of three and five — to make sure they know they are the keepers and rulers of their own bodies.
We have rules in our house, as parents are known to have, but we’re doing what we can to teach them that they have the ultimate say in what they do. Their opinions matter and their voices count, and as they grow older, we’re trying to prepare them to have more and more autonomy over their own bodies.
But this summer, they will not be wearing bikinis. There are obvious reasons for this, the strongest of which is teaching them the importance of covering up from a welcome but sometimes dangerous sun. But there are other, less obvious reasons too.
Bikinis are sexualized attire — the less fabric, the more so — which is absolutely great for women young and old who have chosen to express themselves by wearing them. But not for our kids.
As they get older, they will be afforded more and more green lights, including attire for the beach, the backyard, or wherever one chooses to wear a bikini — or a big orange towel.
But they’re children, and at this point, we encourage them to have a healthy relationship with their bodies and their sexuality through the use of correct anatomical terms, discussions on acceptance, and expressions of love. If done right, there’s a good chance they’ll eventually feel comfortable wearing a bikini no matter what their body type. At least that’s the hope.
Andrea Tomkins on letting her daughters decide
I was pregnant with my first and shopping for baby clothes when
I saw infant bikinis for the first time. Imagine three triangles connected with strings. I didn’t even know such a thing existed.
As a first-generation Canadian of Eastern European parents, I naturally assumed that babies swam around naked. In fact, in my childhood, babies swam naked at beaches and lakes until the age of eight or nine. Maybe this is why I’m not that hung up on nudity or near nudity. We’re all naked underneath our clothes, aren’t we? So what’s the big deal about showing some skin at the beach?
Slathering on the sunscreen is a must (and admittedly I’m a bit of a nag about it), but a bikini is A-OK in my books. I let my daughters wear bikinis because they are long-legged beauties who deserve to feel great about themselves, and if a bikini (or a one-piece or a bathing cap with puffy flowers on it) makes them feel great, I will support their decision to wear one.
I do reserve the right to veto anything that looks too trashy (subjective, I know, but there it is), but as long as they can swim and dive and move around comfortably and freely without having to tug at the bits of fabric that are holding everything in, I’m cool with a two-piece.
Here’s the thing: they don’t have that much time until they will probably start to worry about their softer bits and want to cover them up with suits that have magical slenderizing panels that promise to hide, rather than reveal. I want them to enjoy their youth and their beauty and this time as much as they can while there is still plenty of it left.