It’s a special day. Pikinis, an app that syncs with your Facebook friends list and allows you to search exclusively for bikini pics, is now available for download.
In accordance with general humanity, the app does not allow you to violate the privacy settings that your FB friends have set. So, if your friends have done a good job with their preferences, you shouldn’t be able to see bikini pics of people who don’t want you looking at their pictures at all. But everyone else is fair game, and it’s a pretty simple process to arrive at bikini town. Once the app is downloaded, you just have to give it permission to access your Facebook, and soon you’re presented with a list of all of your friends. Select the bod you most desire to see, and if there are no privacy issues, you’ll soon be floating in a sea of near-nakedness.
I ran into a few issues when I was bikini-hunting this morning, though. The first is that, to my horror, some of my FB friends don’t have ANY bikini pics. (Happily, I’m in this category — my boyfriend told me he searched my name and came back with zero. Nailed it.) The other is that the filtering system isn’t perfect. One friend of mine came back with 237 pictures — but some were of her in a bikini, and some were of her friends in bikinis, thus exposing people I don’t even know. Another search turned up a friend with her eight-year old sister — and the sister was the one in the bikini. That’s right, the child.
The release of this app unintentionally coincides with a movement started by xoJane to re-define a “beach body.” After the xoJane staff posted a completely un-photoshopped pictures of themselves in bathing suits, they asked others to do the same. The result is a pretty amazing gallery of real women’s bodies on full beach display. Reader comments on the gallery are heartwarming; woman after woman has commented on how amazing the project is, how empowered it’s made them feel, and how important it is that we truly accept and love all body types.
And then there’s Pikinis. Somehow, I don’t think Pikinis’ aim is to empower. Rather, what we’ve got here is an app that not only allows men to ogle the half-naked bodies of their friends and acquaintances, but that also — perhaps even more dangerously — allows women to ogle each other’s bodies. And compare them to their own. And judge them.
I will not lie to you and say that I have never intentionally looked at a female Facebook friend’s bikini pic in the pre-Pikinis world. Cause dude, I have. More often than not, it’s a masochistic act. “Holy shit look at how flat her stomach is!” I’ll think while sucking in my own. Then I’ll close the computer with a new found sense of self-hate. On occasion, and I’m not proud of this, I’ll find myself being judgey and leave the situation feeling thin and mean. Either way, it’s not good.
With Pikinis, it’s easier than ever for men to objectify the women in their lives, and for women to judge their peers. Still, Pikinis isn’t presenting a new problem, but rather exacerbating existing ones. I’m really pale, so for me the beach always feels like an oven — there’s nowhere to hide, and I just bake. With the existence of Pikinis, the beach may start to feel that way for everyone: there is nowhere to fucking hide. Cameras are portals into the minds of every creepy dude and every judgey girl who ever friended you on Facebook.
The spirit of the xoJane beach body gallery was a beautiful, hopeful one. When I clicked through it, I felt like we might really be making progress in the move towards body acceptance. If Pikinis succeeds, the beach will remain a battlefield. Here’s hoping it goes away.