“My daughters were talking to their friends about buying bathing suits, and about what they liked about what body parts and what they were not comfortable showing. One of my daughters is 13 and one of them is 8, and just the idea that girls that age are thinking about that stuff already was sad,” Weiner, 46, tells PEOPLE. “It was sad and it made me angry.”
Although Weiner tells her daughters that all bodies are beautiful, she wanted to do something to really get her message across.
“I started thinking about what they’re seeing every day, and how much that impacts them,” she says. “You go out in the world, and you’re online shopping for bathing suits and you only see one kind of body – it’s very fit, very young.”
So Weiner decided she wanted to introduce visuals that don’t look like what you typically see online and in magazines. She posted a photo of herself in a swimsuit on Facebook, and invited others to #WearTheSwimsuit, and share the photos in the comments of her post.
“I started to think, ‘What would it be like if lots of women did this?’ ” she said. “You could look at the comments, and see hundreds of real bodies, the way we don’t get to see them in magazines and in catalogs and online.”
She wanted the photos to show her daughters – and other women – that every body deserves to be seen in a swimsuit.
“When you start to see bodies that look like yours, it resets your idea of what ‘normal’ is and how you’re supposed to look,” says Weiner. “There’s an actual impact that visuals have, so I wanted to give the world some visuals.”
Weiner has been sharing the photos of diverse bodies with her younger daughter, and hopes that they are having a positive impact.
“She’s seen me in a bathing suit, it’s no big deal to her, but when other women started posting, I showed her all those pictures just to get it in her mind that there are women who look like me, there are women who are larger than I am, there are women who are smaller than I am, there are women who have scars, who have had mastectomies,” she says. “There’s lots of ways to be happy and healthy.”
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Allowing women to share photos of themselves in swimsuits has had a positive impact on other women too.
“The thing that makes me the happiest is somebody saying, this gave me the courage to put a bathing suit on. Or, I’m going on vacation and I’m actually going to be in some of the pictures instead of taking them all,” says Weiner. “It’s about women getting courage, women getting confidence, women feeling better about their own bodies. ”
Weiner’s post now has 10,000 likes, with hundreds of women sharing their own swimsuit photos and personal stories – from eating disorder survivors to pregnant women to moms to cancer survivors to women who have not worn a bathing suit in decades.
“I was really shocked,” says Weiner of how many people shared their photos. “For women to put their photos up there as a way of encouraging other women just blew me away.”