Thursday, May 9, 2013

Taking Back The Body

"Stop worrying about whether you're fat. You're not fat. Or rather, you're sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a shit? There is nothing more boring and fruitless than a woman lamenting the fact that her stomach is round. Feed yourself. Literally. The sort of people worthy of your love will love you more for this, sweet pea." -Dear Sugar

The train whined to a halt in Highland Park and I stepped out into the gentle magic hour sunset air. Prince and the Revolution was my walk-to-Chad's-house soundtrack of choice and as I danced down the street, I decided that it would be a nice change to cease giving a fuck. There are things that are absolutely worthy of a fuck given (see: beloveds, ice cream, yoga) but shiny skin? Breast size? Hip width? Those ain't it, babies.

The sense of self-worth of far too many people is being held hostage by the impossibly nebulous, shifting Standard of Beauty. This standard is decided by the whim of and is in the best interests of a few who stand to profit off of our dissatisfaction with our bodytemples. The beauty/image industry creates problems out of natural occurrences in order to sell us whatever it is they're peddling. What are we buying when we buy their product? Is it just the product or are we also buying into the bigger idea that something outside ourselves is required for us to be okay?

It is not only our sense of self-worth that can get tied up in externals, though. Our very ownership over our bodies is under regular threat from those who seem to think they have some claim to them. This is especially true for women. At best, men think that we owe them conversation and attention. At worst, they think our bodies are at their disposal for whatever purpose they deem appropriate. Women aren't allowed No without being chastised for being a bitch or a tease.

Two years ago I was sexually assaulted and I still reel a bit from the terrible double bind of not being able to say No and the shame of not saying No, despite my lack of agency in the moment. The internal script is typical: "Why didn't you yell it? Why didn't you fight?" I try to be gentle, reminding myself that I did what was necessary to remain safe. And sometimes, increasingly so lately, I get angry. Because were it not for the culture of violence we live in that has so grossly commodified women's bodies, I wouldn't have to.

We should not have to protect or defend ourselves from any variety of unwanted pressure. My body is mine. It belongs to me alone. What I choose to do with it is up to me. I am beautiful just as I am, I am okay sans external "improvements," and no matter what the request, I am entitled to No. I am not obligated to talk to anyone because they want me to, or shave my legs, or lose five pounds. I want a joyous experience of my bodytemple, so I am taking back my body.

Your body belongs to you. It is not here to please the world and you have nothing to prove. Take it back, remembering that no matter what, you always have a choice. No belongs to you.

Can we agree to reject anything that tells us that we are not okay just as we are? Can we raise ourselves and one another up into a joyful, unconditionally loving experience of ourselves and our bodies? Let's evolve into creatures that are as reverent of our bodytemples as we ought to be. We are living miracles. Let's treat ourselves and each other as such.

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