My feed

to access all these features

Feminism: chat

A rant about swimsuits (and the sexualisation of female sport)

66 replies

StolenWillowTree · 05/09/2022 18:25

I am prepared to be told IABU even though this is not AIBU, but is anyone else frustrated by the difficulties of finding swimsuits or other sports gear for women that are practical and not just designed to look sexy?

I am a serious sports swimmer, a former competitive swimmer, and it seems basically impossible now to find women's swimsuits that are not impractical and seem designed for Instagram posing, unless you order a plain black Speedo.

I went into four different shops this spring (including Tesco, and a specialist sports shop) and none of them had even one single swimsuit that didn't have padded breasts and super high cut legs that turn into thongs the second you put them on. Why on earth does any athlete need padding when they are competing or practising?? What woman even thinks about whether her tits are big and round enough, when they are in the water trying to beat their practice time? There's absolutely no reason for a swimsuit to have padded cups unless it's specifically a fashion suit being purchased for posing on the beach. Which is fine of course, but that shouldn't be the default. I've been swimming for more than 30 years and none of my old swimsuits (that I've owned for many years) have padded cups, or bottoms cut so high they turn into thongs as soon as you start swimming. But it seems impossible to find suits like that in shops anymore.

I bought what looked like a plain black swimsuit from Sports Direct, and when it came it was clearly designed just for posing as you couldn't move an inch without your breasts and entire bottom coming out, it was so flimsy.

It seems to be an issue with other sports, with female sportswear (even for women competing at high level) being far skimpier and more sexualised than male sportswear.

Honestly, between this and all the gender stuff around swimming, I really do think there's an attempt to force women out of sport or tell women their job is to look sexy and not be real athletes. It might sound like a minor thing, and yes I know there are proper sports suits to be found if you look for them. But women and girls who like to swim should be able to pop into Tesco or Primark and buy a cheap basic one-piece that isn't padded and won't move in the water. Or sports suits in nice colours and patterns you can actually be athletic in.

Sorry am just ranting - I've due at the pool in an hour and my favourite (ancient) suit completely ripped, and of the four sports one-pieces I've bought this summer all are just completely impractical. Am I just a crotchety old woman who sees everything as a feminist issue?

OP posts:
picklemewalnuts · 05/09/2022 18:31

Are you sure the padding isn't about offering extra coverage for nipples and movement?

I can't imagine being comfortable in a swimsuit with only a thin layer over my bust. I'd want some kind of inner- padded shelf or something.

The leg issue I agree with, but wonder if you are longer bodied. You may find a longer bodied suit resolves the issue.

abovedecknotbelow · 05/09/2022 18:45

If you want it for swimming get a sports suit - mine are all from Speedo or zoggs, no padding, not all plain black.

If I wanted a suit for actual swimming I wouldn't think of going to Tesco.

Mushroomlady · 05/09/2022 18:50

I spent ages specifically looking for a padded swimsuit because otherwise my perky nipples will be quite shocking, they stick out like no one's business. But I agree about the thong thing.

EspeciallyDivided · 05/09/2022 18:51

We get all ours from Decathlon now, loads of choice there and graded as to the type of training they are suitable for. I agree that the high street shop ones are more for lazing around on holiday or paddling at the beach. But we have found the same for DS, if he wants training type ones he has to go to Decathlon or similar, the high street only have the board shorts type. But from the feminist angle it is wrong that for paddling etc men can get away with baggy board shorts from Tesco whereas women get a choice of skimpy or skimpier.

BlusteryLake · 05/09/2022 18:52

I'm not sure I agree in this instance. As a PP has said, I buy padded cups because I don't want my nipples showing, it makes me feel uncomfortable. But there are loads of practical swimsuits around - Decathlon sell them, plus most Zoggs or Arena brand suits are sensible. I also find plenty of practical, non-sexual sportswear in M&S Goodmove and Sweaty Betty (if budget allows).

Sweetmotherofallthatisholyabov · 05/09/2022 18:56

I wouldn't be expecting to find a decent swimsuit for swimming in primark or Tescos, similarly wouldn't expect them to have decent bras.

If it's any consolation the Primark men's ones are primarily for posing also.

Sweetmotherofallthatisholyabov · 05/09/2022 18:58

I also got the arse eat of me once because the "first bra" range were all padded and one mother felt it was sexualising kids. As opposed to providing coverage for nipples. If you're looking to enhance your breast size a padded bra is not going to do the job.

chipsandpeas · 05/09/2022 18:59

but some swimsuits are fashion items just like dresses or tshirt, there made to wear on the beach not for proper swimming
proper swimsuits are out there in all fairness the last one i bought was a few years ago and it was a speedo one from sports direct and in the past had adidas ones

chipsandpeas · 05/09/2022 19:01

being bored heres what swimsuits sports direct have most of them arent just plain black speedo ones

ScrambledSmegs · 05/09/2022 19:01

As others have said, try proper swimsuits from eg Speedo (not just plain black), Arena, Zoggs or Decathlon own brands. In fact Decathlon have a very comfortable 'shorty' swimsuit in bright colours if you prefer to be more covered up.

BernadetteRostankowskiWolowitz · 05/09/2022 19:04

Is your complaint that a supermarket isn't stocking athletic equipment? Presumably if you want an authentic swimsuit you visit a sporting goods shop? They typically don't sell football boots (just bog standard trainers) or boxing gloves (just knitted winter ones).

Maybe you need to adjust where you shop for sporting goods.

SvartePetter · 05/09/2022 19:05

I have padding in mine because I feel it gives a tiny bit of support to my E cup. Have to you tried decathlon?

AnnaMagnani · 05/09/2022 19:12

If you are buying a larger cup swimsuit, it will be padded as there is no other way of providing the support in a stretchy fabric.

If I wanted a swimsuit, I'd go somewhere that was going to sell one that fitted and head to Bravissimo. A quick glance shows none of theirs have the dreaded high cut and I have choices other than black.

MzHz · 05/09/2022 19:15

How can you have been a swimmer at a standard to even enter a competition for any length of time let alone 30 years and not know about Proswimwear?

nobody who swims regularly would buy their suit from Tesco etc

Discovereads · 05/09/2022 19:17

I don’t agree with your example OP, but I do agree that the female outfits for some sports to tend to be sexy rather than purely functional. You look at tennis wear (mini skirts), you look at beach volleyball, ice skating, surfing, marathon running, etc

MzHz · 05/09/2022 19:18

And if you’re training nobody looks at you, not your nipples, not your bikini line, leg hair etc. even if you’re amply built as I am, nobody’s business… plus I could beat most people in a public session anyway

we’re all far too busy training. Honestly we women need to just do our thing, not worry about stuff that’s not important.

CanThisBe · 05/09/2022 19:31

I like a little bit of padding in a swimsuit to cover nipples and make the whole thing less sexualised. (If anyone's looking at me!)

I agree to a point that sports wear for female athletes in lots of sports seems unnecessarily skimpy, but there are no rules making it so, that's what the women competing at high level choose to wear and therefore what's sold to the rest of us.

There may be a wider issue that "sexy" sells so the women wearing the most revealing outfits have higher career earnings, but it's still their choice.

StolenWillowTree · 05/09/2022 22:38

I don't compete anymore, so sometimes I just want a cheap, nice looking swimsuit I can buy in a regular shop that will do me a few lengths of the local pool, or that I can wear on the beach but also do a bit of swimming. That's the point - most women and girls who swim aren't pro-athletes and there should be a middle ground between the sexualised and flimsy swimsuits available in mainstream shops, and the utilitarian black numbers that are more pricy and need to be ordered from specialist suppliers.

I would expect a large chain shop selling a wide range of swimwear to sell at least one basic suit with decent coverage that you can actually swim in. Sure, sell the fashion type ones too, but not exclusively.

It's not just about swimsuits, it's about the way female sport has been sexualised and the way female outfits in general so often sacrifice practicality or even functionality (e.g pockets) because the people who make the decisions don't care what women actually want.

There are absolutely rules governing what competitive athletes are allowed to wear! In some sports the rules are extremely strict (for example female volleyball players are fined if their bottoms aren't skimpy enough, while male volleyball players have no such rule; gymnastics and ice skating have very strict appearance requirements governing every facet of makeup, hair, nails, underwear, pubic hair, mainly related to looking feminine and polished and nothing to do with athletic performance - and these rules are part of the judging criteria. Even if you're competing in the Olympics, you will lose points if your makeup is smudged). Serena Williams was mocked and ultimately banned from wearing a catsuit she had medical need for on the grounds it was "disrespectful towards the sport." In the past female athletes have been censured or banned for wearing shorts instead of skirts. It's an age-old problem.

I googled "female athletes complaint costumes" just now and absolutely tons of articles came up about athletes protesting being forced to wear sexualised or overly-feminine outfits, or complaining that they're being forced to wear outfits that actively hinder performance. So it's not their choice to wear those costumes and male athletes rarely face these issues. (esp the part about Muslim athletes being banned for refusing to wear bikinis).

OP posts:
Ihatethenewlook · 05/09/2022 22:43

I think you’ve mixed a non issue with an actual issue and you’ve made people focus on the wrong thing. You can get nice, functional swimsuits from decathlon/sports direct etc for under a tenner. I think you should start a new thread and leave your lack of shopping skills out of it 🙃

SkiingIsHeaven · 05/09/2022 22:58

The plain black one at Bravissimo is good.

londonmummy1966 · 05/09/2022 23:10
MzHz · 05/09/2022 23:11

I have suits for training, but I’d never wear them on the beach because they’re too weird for tan lines

the pool suits are chlorine resistant, it’s horses for courses and Tesco won’t sell decent suits for either holiday or the pool.

my pools suits aren’t black either. I think I have one black suit, others are blue, red, blue and white

holiday suits are purple, red and a printed one

I agree with you on other points, the volleyball uniforms for female athletes are ridiculous. Their male counterparts had trunks/shorts and t shirts - was it the Norwegian team who rejected their kit at the Olympics?

RichardMarxisinnocent · 05/09/2022 23:16

Ihatethenewlook · 05/09/2022 22:43

I think you’ve mixed a non issue with an actual issue and you’ve made people focus on the wrong thing. You can get nice, functional swimsuits from decathlon/sports direct etc for under a tenner. I think you should start a new thread and leave your lack of shopping skills out of it 🙃

This. I was looking in sports direct at the weekend and they had a decent selection of non padded, nice, functional not all plain black costumes. I also looked in John Lewis who had a fair few speedo ones, including a legsuit. I don't think any were plain black.

HumbleApe · 05/09/2022 23:17

That's the point - most women and girls who swim aren't pro-athletes and there should be a middle ground between the sexualised and flimsy swimsuits available in mainstream shops, and the utilitarian black numbers that are more pricy and need to be ordered from specialist suppliers.

Most of the pools locally sell swimsuits, as do Decathlon, Sports Direct etc. No need to order from specialists or pick one up in Tesco

justasmalltownmum · 05/09/2022 23:36

Modest swimwear is booming right now. Not sure how good it would be for competitive swimming though.

Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.