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Women if they’re ‘bikini ready’

Come summertime, women’s magazines have already spent weeks convincing their readers that there are those who are “bikini ready” and those who are not. They splash on their covers Photoshopped images of skinny women to depict the beach body ideal. They say: Ladies, this is how you must look to be desirable.

With that kind of pressure, it’s no wonder women have become conditioned to harshly critique their bodies.

But this year, at least one top magazine took a first step against that kind of body shaming. Women’s Health Magazine no longer puts the phrases “bikini body” or “drop two sizes” on its cover, the Los Angeles Times noted Friday. Instead, the magazine continues to impress upon its readers the importance of a healthier lifestyle, but it doesn’t have to come in a size 2 package.

They’re often a topic of discussion at each Summer Games — some find them practical and easy to move in, while others find them to be too revealing. Either way, though, Team USA is certainly rocking their bikinis — so, can you buy USA women’s beach volleyball uniforms?

The debate surrounding beach volleyball uniforms has long been an interesting one. The rules have shifted a lot over the years — bikinis are definitely still the norm, but board shorts, body suits, and one-piece bathing suits are allowed as well. This year, the Egyptian beach volleyball team has made headlines for competing in long-sleeved shirts and pants, which is an exciting landmark for the Olympic event.

For her part, three-time beach volleyball Olympic Gold Medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings is completely at peace with her uniform. She told The Huffington Post, “The original way to play beach volleyball was in a bikini and board shorts, and I don’t know what else they want us to wear.” She also explained that her uniform, which she designed alongside Asics, is built for performance rather than flashiness. It’s a chic, yet utilitarian look, and even if you don’t happen to be a beach volleyball champion, it’s a great look for the beach. So, can you get one for yourself?

Well, unfortunately, they’re not for sale — yet. Asics sells a whole line of beach volleyball bikinis, but there aren’t any styles similar to the ones Walsh Jennings and her teammate April Ross have been wearing for the Rio Games currently for sale.

Studies over the years have shown that young women internalize the media’s image of the perfect body. Nearly all the research about body image shows that most women are generally dissatisfied with how they look, leading to lower self esteem and, sometimes, eating disorders.

But in recent years, there has been a noted cultural shift in how society celebrates physical appearance. Social media is filled with “body positive” campaigns, urging women to love their bodies. Normal-sized women like Amy Schumer and Mindy Kaling are romantic leads in movies and TV. Sports Illustrated featured a plus-size model on the cover of its annual swimsuit issue. Barbies now come in a variety of body shapes. Regular women of all sizes post photos of themselves on Instagram rocking crop tops and bikinis.

In Women’s Heath the focus is still wellness, but Laird said it’s more about fitness and empowerment, rather than thinness and perfection. Readers will still find thin, toned women on the cover and tips for weight loss or flat abs inside, but there is also an effort to show there isn’t a “one size fits all” for beauty, Laird said.

“People are always going to worry about how they look,” she said, “but I would argue that what we need is not a different way of talking about how women look, but instead not talking about how women look.”

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