Karen Mangiacotti is a writer, comedian and mom – and the blogger behind the Girl On Saturday website. Recently, Karen wrote a post called “I Wear A Bikini Because…Fuck You” – and it went viral, resonating with women all over the world. We were lucky enough to catch up with Karen and pick her brain about beauty, body image and self worth!
I grew up outside of Boston and consider myself an East Coast girl for sure. I currently live in Mystic, Connecticut with my third and last husband and my kids. I have four kids from my body and three bonus kids. My house is very loud.
I went to Wheelock College for Art and Education and I have taught everything from puppetry to circus arts. I am a huge fan of Roller Derby, The Muppets, silver hand mirrors, and walking for entire afternoons around new places.
When did you start blogging?
I started blogging on 1/1/11 – which makes me happy because magic numbers are magical (I was proposed to on 8/8/08 because 8 on its side is infinity). Just before I started blogging, my husband asked if I had everything I wanted in my life. I told him I almost did. I was only missing having some kind of voice in the world. He suggested blogging and said he would take all the kids to help give me time. That was all I needed.
Almost a year later, I wrote a blog called Penis Mom that went viral, and although that was cool – it scared me and I stopped writing for almost three months. I didn’t want any new posts to be compared to it, and at the time I didn’t know who I wanted to be.
Success can be scarier than failure.
I currently write for the Huffington Post, run a Penis Mom page on Facebook, write my Girl On Saturday blog, and produce videos for YouTube under the title DangerSnax (you can find these at DangerSnax.com). I also have an amazing drama series I am looking to produce. Oh, and I am planning a wedding for this summer because my husband and I plan to remarry every 5 years (find out why here).
“I Wear A Bikini Because…Fuck You!”
Here are the top six reasons why I, as a 43-year-old, size 12, mother of four, woman with thunder thighs, feel totally justified in rocking a two-piece.
1. I Don’t Give a Shit
I actually do not exist for your viewing pleasure and your ideas about who should and should not be seen in a bikini are 0% my concern.
I have not always been married to the wonderful, supportive, man among men, husband/editor that I am now married to. I was once married to a man who said things like: “They really should not make bikinis in any size over 8.”
Now, I have not been a size 8 since I was about 8 years old – so this was kind of a dick move on his part. It also confirmed my suspicions that people who make “rules” about how other people should treat their bodies are best left alone – far away from any people who may inadvertently offend them.
I also have sisters who regularly say things like: “She has no business being in a bikini.” Well, lucky for me I am not wearing a bikini to drum up business.
I was on the beach in Miami once when a 300lb grandma walked happily down the beach in a brightly colored two-piece. This was intensely disturbing to a group of vacationing, suburban women talking about yoga addiction, shame eating, and jeggings. There were gasps, there were sighs, and there was one Zanax-deprived woman, so distraught, crying out: “That is just not right.” It is a bathing suit, people. Perhaps we should all just relax.
2. I Have a Bikini Body
I know this because I put an actual bikini… on my body. If you are waiting to break out the bikini when your body is perfect, resign yourself to a one-piece.
3. It is Closer to Being Naked
Swimming is best done naked. When laws of society make that awkward – we should at least be able to swim with the least amount of wet fabric against our bodies.
4. My Belly Has Earned It
If there is one part of my body that should be able to do whatever the fuck it wants, it is my mid-section. Four of the greatest people I know have lived there. Hard working = flauntable.
5. I Have Daughters
I want to show them a woman comfortable in her body, who is active right alongside them. A woman who’s not sitting poolside under a big cover-up, because anything less might be considered inappropriate.
6. It is by Popular Request
Well, maybe not popular – but certainly frequent – requests come in for me to wear a bikini. Ok, it is only ever my husband/editor who asks – nay, pleads, for this particular ensemble. But, he is tenacious and I like to throw him a bone every once in a while.
What inspired you to write “I Wear A Bikini Because…Fuck You?”
I was inspired to write “I Wear A Bikini…” because my sister was over, talking about how she was at the beach and there were women “Who had no business wearing bikinis!” everywhere.
“My daughters were in the room and I couldn’t let that comment just sit in their young developing egos without addressing it.”
Also, I am growing more and more tired of stupid (developmentally arrested?) people thinking women are responsible for others’ emotional reactions. Responsibility for emotional reaction, whether it’s disgust or desire, is solely owned by the beholder.
Women do not have to apologize for the shape of their bodies. Women should not be made to feel like they can’t dress to feel gorgeous because it might be “inappropriate” – God I hate that word.
Out of the points you listed in the article, which is the most important to you?
Out of the points I listed, the one about my daughters is most important. I want my daughters, and my sons, to see me as a person, regardless of what I choose to swim in. I want them to see everyone as just another human – no matter where we are on our aging journey or our health and fitness journey.
And when they see the world mocking appearances, or trying to put others down for the way they look – I want them to stand up and say “Fuck you, you don’t get to tell that person (or me!) how they should feel about themselves.” There is no better way to give them that message other than by example.
Do you think there is competition or judgement amongst mothers when it comes to appearance?
Yes. Yes there is. There is appearance competition in any group, but with moms, something interesting happens. Because all kinds of people are moms, they separate themselves into groups based on appearance. I have been in many moms groups where everyone talks about how they hate this mom or that mom for being too skinny. What is that? They actually said things like, “Her baby is three weeks old and she is a size four – I hate her, that should be illegal” or “I just can’t be seen sitting next to anyone not on the dark side (size 12 or bigger).
“Why are we, as women, wasting our time hating on women because of how they are shaped? I have no time for that. Regardless of where you are on the “Dark Side” scale, come sit by me. I want to talk about interesting topics and hear diverse opinions. Those things matter way more to me than the state of your thigh gap.”
Do you think there are certain body image challenges that are exclusive to being a mother?
Hell yeah! When we have kids, we become so invested in them, we lose ourselves in caring for them and totally forget to care for ourselves. They are primped and coiffed within an inch of their sanity while we walk around in hoodies and stretch pants hoping no one gets close enough to notice we haven’t showered in three days.
So many moms want to become invisible – “Don’t look at me! Look at my kid!” I know a lot of moms who post lots of bathing suit pictures of their daughters and never actually put on a bathing suit themselves – much less be photographed in one. We stop thinking of ourselves as beautiful and give that all to our kids. It is like the old Saturday Night Live commercial for mom jeans “I am not a woman anymore, I am a mom!”
How can mothers pass on healthy body image attitudes and habits to their daughters (and sons)?
If you find out – tell me! I don’t know anyone who got through childhood unscathed. I focus on health when beauty questions arise. I tell all my kids what real being beautiful. But I am sure I am still passing along every doubt and insecurity I have ever had in my life. But nothing speaks louder than actually being someone who loves and takes care of yourself.
Did you yourself struggle with low self-esteem or body image issues?
Yes. I am a female living in America, so of course I have self-esteem issues. Of course I have weird body image issues. I come from a family with a strong propensity for obesity. This makes it tough for me to maintain a healthy weight. I have to work hard to simply tread water in the healthy body ocean (of course in the real ocean I float like a buoy). Having to work so hard can be super frustrating for me. Luckily, I have always had kind of an: “If you don’t like me, fuck you” attitude, so that has worked out.
“Also, I naturally assume best intentions all around. In Jr. High, I had a pretty evil gym teacher. Decades later, a friend told me that same gym teacher called her “Thunder Thighs”. It devastated her at 14 and she was still sad about it. This shocked me because the same gym teacher also called me “Thunder Thighs” – but I considered it a compliment. Thunder was powerful stuff, and so are my thighs.
It is all in the perspective.”
When and how did you begin to accept yourself and learn to love your body?
There are two defining moments for me on my path to really loving and appreciating my outer shell. The first was when I was in my early 20s and I read the book Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy’s memoir about her cancer ordeal that left her with a severely disfigured face. She referred to “Beautiful People” and by that she meant, simply, people who had whole, intact faces. How is that for perspective? I never once felt ugly after that.
The second defining moment was when I made a baby. I create life, therefore I am a goddess. “This body makes milk, motherfucker! What can you do?”
After having that amazing experience, it is hard to ultimately see your body as anything less than miraculous.
Do you have any advice for women struggling to put on a swimsuit/accept their bodies this summer?
We are human, we have shape, we take up space, and sometimes little bits of our flesh spread or pucker where people will tell you they shouldn’t. They are wrong. Your body is meant to be doing exactly what it is doing in this moment. Having form and mass and being alive is better than not. Having fun, and love, and experiences is better than not.
Choose happy. Choose feeling comfortable in your own skin. Choose loving yourself. Do it now; you are never going to be more beautiful than right now.
Karen Mangiacotti writes for the Huffington Post and runs the blog Girl On Saturday in addition to running her Penis Mom Facebook page and YouTube channel DangerSnax. She is also a comedian and mother of seven! You can follow her on twitter here!