The Male Gaze and "Desexualising" Swimwear

October 14, 2019

The Male Gaze and "Desexualising" Swimwear

In March 2019, Forbes wrote a brilliant piece about us titled "This Company Is Desexualizing Swimwear". The article featured an interview with our Founder Rosie about her struggles to find a swimsuit for her weekly swim and the decision to take action into her own hands by launching Deakin and Blue in 2017.

After the piece had gone live lots of women got in touch with us to ask what was meant by "desexualising" swimwear. Can't, after all, women feel sexy in their swimwear if they want to? they asked. 

The swimwear industry and the male gaze

The fashion industry has historically been highly sexist in its portrayal and representation of women. Male gaze (the depiction of women as objects of sexual desire for a male viewer's pleasure) is everywhere in fashion marketing but never more so than in lingerie and swimwear advertising. Too often men are shown surfing the waves or swimming lengths at the pool, whilst women are depicted lying down on a beach, usually in a sexually alluring pose. We have to ask what message this sends to women and girls about their bodies and their value.

At Deakin and Blue we believe the use of male gaze to this extent contributes significantly to the complex set of emotions that women can feel when they venture out to buy a bra or swimsuit. 

Impacting women's image identity and body confidence

Research shows that more than 500,000 women have given up swimming in England and one in two mums have stopped taking their children to learn to swim because of body image concerns. At Deakin and Blue we believe the responsibility for these failures sits across the entire fashion industry value chain - from product design, sizing and fit development all the way through to the language used to sell swimwear (who, tell us, feels good in an "extra large"?) and the choice of models - their shapes, sizes, ages and races. 

"You can't be what you can't see" is a phrase used widely (and rightly) today in relation to women in a variety of contexts including regarding women reaching the highest levels of their careers, industries and more. 

We believe that "what you can see" really matters in consumer purchasing behaviour too. We believe that if you're already feeling nervous about going to the local pool or beach, then being constantly bombarded by a singular image of women in swimwear (typically very tall, very slim, very white, very small busted) can significantly exacerbate the feeling that your body is not 'right' for the beach or the pool. And yet - how wrong we know that to be! Just as Nike's Founder once said "If you have a body you are an athlete", we say "How to get a beach body? Take your body to the beach." 

Reinventing swimwear

When we decided to launch Deakin and Blue we looked at everything we didn't like about the swimwear industry - from the flimsy fabrics that go see through too quickly, and the poor sizing options for women of different shapes to the highly airbrushed and edited sexualized models used to sell swimwear to women via the male gaze.

We decided, from the outset, to do things differently. And so, in reinventing swimwear, we decided to remove the sexualisation of the woman wearing swimwear. "Sexy", we decided, is something you can own for yourself, choose for yourself and wear if you want to. But no-one should have the right to sexualise you, without your consent.

So can you feel sexy in your swimwear?

Hell yes of course you can! At Deakin and Blue we are determined to help women feel however they want to feel in the swimwear - whether that's strong, confident, streamlined or sexy - your swimwear, your body, your choice.