Opinions and thoughts of visitors on the topic "Liberation versus sexism".

"I think everyone should feel comfortable in their body and wear what they want.
The bikini museum is mega! I have so much more confidence now! THANK YOU!"

"It's nice to see how far liberation and self-determination has come and yet I question how much free will this is and yet how much collectivism is driving it all."

"On one hand, I'm angry and sad that women had to fight for so long to get the freedom to decide for themselves what to wear. On the other hand, I'm very proud that women have made it!"

In the field of tension between emancipation and sexism

Around 1890: Exclusion from public bathing

Women of the 19th century usually undressed in so-called bathing carts in order to enter the water unobserved. This circumstance can be traced back above all to the repressive sexual morals of a patriarchal society, in whose interest it was to maintain the separation of the sexes when bathing and to prevent female nudity in particular. Although wearing heavy layers of cloth in the open sea often endangered life, violators could expect denunciations and punishments.

1922: Arrests on the beach

In the course of the first wave of feminism in the early 20th century, female swimmers such as Annette Kellerman and isolated women swimming enthusiasts initially fought against the stigmatisation of the female body. Courageous protagonists wore one-piece swimming costumes, which were primarily reserved for men, despite controls by the beach police, as they allowed freedom of movement while swimming and helped to improve body image.

1946First bikini exposes the navel

The invention of the bikini by Frenchman Louis Réard sparked a massive scandal in 1946 because it was the first swimwear item to expose the navel. The two-pieces established since the 1930s always kept this covered. Réard's creation was demonstrated by a nightclub dancer, as ordinary mannequins feared that the presentation would ruin their reputation. However, the sexually conservative and body-phobic 1950s initially delayed the establishment of the bikini in broader social strata. 

1971Sexual revolution and the triumph of the bikini

In the course of the sexual revolution and the burgeoning emancipation movements, from the mid-1960s onwards, women from broader sections of the population began to wear the bikini more and more when swimming at the lake or in the open-air swimming pool. The revolutionary two-piece was gradually freed from its disreputable image and given an emancipatory connotation in view of the burgeoning feminism.

1980Between Sexism and Emancipation: "Everybody Jumps at That!"

From the 1970s onwards, swimwear gradually left its terrain of sun, holiday, pool and beach and was finally instrumentalised as an advertising outfit for products that had nothing in common with it: Cars, construction equipment, drinks or cigarettes - with a bikini, interest increased. The degradation of a woman to a "sex object" occurs when the depiction is without any recognisable reference to a product associated with swimwear and the model merely functions as sexualised decoration. 

2016Bikini ad causes scandal in Munich city centre

In 2016, a bikini advertisement by the brand "Calzedonia" on Munich's Marienplatz, showing the Brazilian model Adriana Lima in a two-piece suit, caused an immense scandal: the criticism was above all of the sexualised depiction, which would suggest to young girls and women that only a slim, trained body could be considered attractive. Today, the voices of those in favour of banning sexualised advertisements are becoming louder and louder. Nevertheless, a closer look reveals that the discourses on the female body that have been conducted over the centuries are characterised by a great ambivalence: They meander between objectification, sexualisation and emancipation and reflect both time-specific values and moral concepts as well as gender orders.

Today, discussions around sensitive topics such as sexism and feminism are more topical than ever and of political as well as social importance, not least due to movements such as #metoo. The current treatment of swimwear is an attractive basis for discussion, as there is hardly any other area of everyday life where the lightly clad body of a woman is publicly visible. Nevertheless, this discourse should not take place regardless of the previously explained historical context.

In order to promote a timely formation of opinion and to advance a common discourse, the BikiniARTmuseum has initiated the forum "Liberation versus Sexism". We not only want to shed light on the historical development of swimwear, but also to foreground the discussion - weighing liberation versus sexism.

In order to create a dynamic process, your opinion is needed:

  • To what extent are bikini representations today to be seen as emancipatory acts, to what extent as objectifications?

  • What does freedom mean in relation to physicality today? When are boundaries crossed in this regard?

  • What thoughts and emotions does the topic evoke in you?

Share your views and pictures with us via #bikinivoices on Instagram or Facebook! This way we create a forum for joint discussion!

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