Dear Makers of the Pool Rules,
I’ve been thinking about your family-friendly set of pool rules, which include safety rules like “no running”, “no diving”, and “no glass bottles at the pool”. Among these, you also have a rule about acceptable clothing: tankinis and swim shorts and one-pieces are okay… but please, “no bikinis”.
Dear rule-makers, when you say that I can’t wear a bikini, this is what you are also saying:
You are saying you don’t trust me to make good choices as a woman.
You are saying you don’t trust me as a parent to be having conversations about self-respect and clothing with my children.
By spelling out a dress code for women, you are saying that, at some level, you agree with the problematic (and offensive) societal message that a woman’s acceptability and welcome is based on her body.
Spelling out a no-bikini rule adds to the horrid fear and shame culture which the women in our day are struggling with: we cover because we fear men’s eyes, we cover because it is shameful not to. I, for one, think we should cover for different reasons (to protect intimacy) – but when your rules are policing what I wear, the issue gets tangled.
As it happens, I prefer not to wear bikinis in public. I took my children to a swimming pool a few weeks ago and was miserable to discover I had accidentally forgotten my rash guard at home. I personally like to cover not only for the sake of keeping my body for my husband’s eyes, but also because I have a near-pathological fear of the sun. But that’s my choice. On that day, being found in 105F heat with three wilting and whining kids – should I have had to turn around, forfeit the $15 I paid in entrance fees, and taken my kids home because I only had a bikini?
Modesty and dress code are culturally relative things: it seems like bikinis are almost mandatory in Hawaii, whereas in France, Bermuda shorts are forbidden and speedo-type swimwear is mandatory at public swimming pools!
Yours is a family-friendly, faith-based facility, and I respect and appreciate that your pool culture prefers more coverage rather than less: Bermuda shorts rather than Speedos for men, one-pieces rather than bikinis for women. However, the way you’ve phrased the rule strikes me as legalistic, and we women are already facing such a horrid battle against being sexualized and objectified. Your rule, as it stands, is saying you’re on the side of policing women’s bodies, rather than being on the side of respect.
Can I respectfully suggest, then, that perhaps you rephrase your policy? Perhaps something like this:
“Our family-friendly community values modesty, and we trust you to show respect for yourselves and others in your dress code. Thank you.”
A move like that would be consistent with all the other, wonderful, life-affirming programs and activities you hold. And, such a rule surely would be better at teaching us about dignity from the inside-out, rather than trying to impose it from the outside-in. As Gina Dalfonzo’s helpful rule of thumb says: “Dress like you respect yourself.”
Just a thought.
A self-respecting and respectful woman.