New Swimwear Inspired by the Patriarchy

DSC_1360_largeUsing the tagline “Who says it has to be itsy bitsy,” Jessica Rey, former Power Ranger, has designed a swimwear line, Rey Swimwear, created for modesty. She attributes her inspiration to Audrey Hepburn. The suits, manufactured in Orange County, Calif., range from turquoise halters to skirt suit floral patterns, and I would actually consider wearing them depending on the weather or my mood.

However, someone should never feel compelled to cover her body because of shame or how others will perceive her if she wears a bikini—which seems to be how Rey is selling her line.

When presenting her swimwear on, first she details the evolution of the bikini and its history. Along with showing images of old-style modest bathing suits, she mentions the sexual revolution and the women’s movement and how the rise of the bikini “has been attributed to the power of women, and not the power of fashion.”

Next, she brings in a study by Princeton University which focused on how the male brain reacts to seeing women in different amounts of clothing. The study showed the area of the brain lit up that normally reacts to tools such as hammers and screwdrivers. “A Princeton professor said, ‘It is as if they are reacting to these women as if they not fully human,’” Rey tells her audience. For Rey, bikinis give women power, but it’s only the power “to shut down a man’s ability to see her as a person, but rather as an object.”

Cute as her swimsuits may be, Rey is harking back to a time of flagrant gender inequality and characterizing one-piece swimwear as evidence that men can only think sexual thoughts while looking at bikini-clad women. And that attitude can support rape culture, defined by Lynn Phillips, a lecturer in the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s communication department, as normalizing “male violence against women and [blaming] victims for their own abuse.” The subtle message Rey sends is that if women wear bikinis, they’re asking to be thought of only as a sexual object.

What we choose to wear is up to us, whether it is a one-piece or two. Enough with the body shaming: Bikinis did give women power, and that was the power to dress our bodies however we like.

Photo taken from Rey Swimwear website


Lucy Vernasco is a senior at the University of Illinois.