By Carly Coutts
My name is Carly Coutts, a student at the University of Tampa, and one of the models in the fashion show during Midnight Madness. What I am about to say in response to the article that covered this event is not intended to change your mind, but to simply open it to another perspective.
I would like to begin on the statements posted regarding feminism and sexuality. Without confronting a primary source, which in this case would be one of the models, the article made assumptions stating, “I am sure that the student models felt like they were being sexualized…” I can assure you that this statement is not only judgmental, but untrue. Having grown up like any of you in a society that highlights thin as beautiful, I have always suffered with body image issues. Being one of the more voluptuous girls in the show, it took a lot of confidence (and maybe even a little anxiety) to walk out in front of an audience and be proud and comfortable in my own skin. Having Surf Outfitter and IndieSWIM approach “average-sized” girls to rock their bikinis encouraged me to accept myself the way that I am; that it is okay to not be a size zero. The feeling of walking in the show did not make me feel sexualized, but liberated.
In the same way that the western culture often finds it difficult to understand the conservative culture of the Middle East, I urge you to open your minds to a new culture yet again.The Caribbean. The bikini line on display was born from the islands of Trinidad and Tobago; the islands that I am fortunate to call home. A vibrant culture known for the world famous Carnival, steelpan and of course, the circular movement of the hips termed ‘the wine’ . Though the bikinis are intended to be a little ‘cheeky’, this is the beach culture. While I celebrate the difference in opinion for that is what makes our world beautiful, I believe that though the article may have had good intentions in protecting women, by suggesting to women that they should be ashamed and hide their bodies is even more dangerous to our society. If upset by the reaction of the crowd, is it not possible that rather than (as always) blaming the females for being objects of lust, we consider how we raise our children to respect and respond to the human body?
Following this were the comments of a lack of male models and cover ups. If accurate research was done, it would be known that the swimsuit show was to promote the brand IndieSWIM, a new line coming to Surf Outfitter; this brand is solely women’s swimwear. Additionally, the Minaret failed to report that the fashion show did in fact intend to exhibit a male brand with male models. Unfortunately, the brand had cancelled at the last minute. In true theater fashion, the show must go on! It should also be known that the event that has been categorized and portrayed as a floozy excuse to exploit the female body, was actually a professionally constructed show coordinated by a female herself. Regardless, I must question the call for male models. How would the addition of males have made the show more acceptable for those in disapproval?
With all of the seriousness aside, the show was intended to be in good fun. Meeting the kind, intelligent, hardworking and multi talented girls who participated in the show was a joy. I would kindly recommend that before attempting to defend the honor of the ladies in the show, you allow them to speak for themselves. The models, IndieSWIM nor Surf Outfitter wished to offended or sexualize anyone, but hoped to bring a little excitement to the school we all love. The experience pushed me to have the confidence to accept myself the way that I am, and I had a blast. No regrets.
Despite the distaste shared in the previous article, there were many students who reached out to share their positive thoughts on the event. As I mentioned before, a difference in opinion should always be celebrated, but the beauty of true journalism is to allow room for an open dialogue, not simply to report the biases of a few. Spewing negative words towards sponsors who put their time and effort into a show will not ignite the possible change you may seek. May I suggest that in the future when we comment negatively on an issue, we then propose a solution to improve and move forward as a community.
I would kindly like to thank the Minaret for opening their platform for students to share in this dialogue. Life is all about perspectives; thank you for taking the time to listen to mine.