Guest Blog :: Exposing More Than Skin

By Shannon Oliver | Shanny the GrannY

Only a rare breed of female exists who feels completely at ease wearing a bikini…in heels…onstage…being judged. Actively judged. None of this “You’re your own biggest critic” mumbo-jumbo. We’re talking about baring 90% of one’s body under glaringly bright stage lights while a panel of judges openly assesses any “weaknesses.” Truthfully, a pageant’s swimsuit competition is a greater evaluation of psychological strength than of muscular strength.

Alyssa Campanella, Miss USA 2011

In a world where women are demanding to be seen for more than their luscious lady curves, why do swimsuit competitions still exist? Heck, why do bikinis even exist? These questions spark a wide array of answers and opinions. Some say bikinis exist because we still live in a male-dominated society where the objectification of women is subtly (or blatantly) acceptable. Some insist they’re a practical approach to handling heat at the beach. Still others suggest that women enjoy feeling exposed and sexy. Bikinis may exist for a mixture of all of these reasons, but since such explanations are mostly speculative, I’m going to present my own theory as to why modern women don itsy bitsy teenie weenie Kandice Pelletier bikinis (those are the original lyrics, right?):

Bikinis give women a chance to reveal their personal value, starting by proclaiming “I’m not afraid.”

I’m not afraid of the dents on my butt. I’m not afraid of that little pouch below my belly button that would require 800 sit ups a day and maybe some different genes to eliminate. I’m not afraid of the birthmark on my arm or the scar on my back. I’m not afraid that my ankles are too thick or my knees are too knobby. That my chest is too small or my thighs are too big. Who cares about the moles, the freckles, the wrinkles, and the dozens of other natural features so crudely labeled “flaws.” Poor little features. What did they do to deserve such name-calling?

Mallory Hagan, Miss America 2013

A bikini worn with confidence highlights a woman’s soul, not her body. By displaying a lack of fear regarding the assessment of her outer shell, she is suggesting that her value is found elsewhere. And she is challenging you to find it. Is her value in her ability to love others selflessly? Is it in her witty sense of humor? Her business savvy? Her bookworm brilliance? In the way she comforts her friends or supports her family? Does she befriend strangers and pray for her enemies? Is her warmth contagious and her laughter infectious? When a woman throws on a swimsuit unapologetically, she captures the interest of others by way of triggering questions about where she finds her self-assurance- not by way of mere physicality.

The psychological strength it takes to stand before judges in a bikini does not need to remain such a rare attribute. By introspectively discovering, acknowledging, and appreciating the unique qualities of our souls, women can turn that rare confident breed into a thriving feminine genre. Not everyone needs to enter a beauty pageant, but all of us can laugh in the face of societal expectations by shining our inner lights so brightly that no one will be able to focus on anything but the source of that light. So go ahead, slip into a swimsuit and captivate the world with your soul.

Shannon Oliver
Shanny the
Musings of a granny trapped in a Generation Y body

Miss New York 2012, Miss America Organization