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My Body

December 22, 2012

When I became very thin in high school (it happened because of my intense training for cross country, not because of an eating disorder), my body type changed considerably.  I was used to having a lot more fat on me, and then suddenly, I had very little.

My relationship with my body also changed at that time.  Don’t get me wrong: I still was hypercritical of myself.  I bemoaned every bit of fat on my body and considered myself to be extremely disproportional (hence the fact that I took great offense when people commented on how skinny my legs were, which I thought were out of proportion with the rest of me).

However, I also felt much, much freer than I did when I had a more womanly body.  I felt that I had much less to hide and that I could pass as “cute” and “little” rather than as a body that would receive unbearable scrutiny and judgment.

Looking at pictures of myself from that time, I can see that I looked much younger than I actually was.  In fact, I looked more like a pre-sexual girl than like a young woman in her late teens.  I think that this “escape” from fat, in many ways, helped me to also escape the somewhat terrifying experience of having a woman’s body that other people could look at and judge without my permission.

Walking around in that very thin body felt like going to the dentist’s office and not having any cavities.  When people looked at my body, there wasn’t very much there for them to criticize.  It was not the same thing as feeling sexy.  I did not feel sexy.  Instead, I felt clean.  I felt odorless.  I felt like a cute little girl, which seemed much safer than being a woman.

To me, one of the most terrifying things about being a woman is the thought of having my body judged when I don’t have any control over the judgment.  This is why walking the proverbial gauntlet of construction workers is so scary…whether or not they make any comments.  If they say nothing, have I failed to impress them?  If they say something, are they mocking and belittling me?  Just by virtue of my having a woman’s body, these men seem to have the right to pronounce judgment on me, and I feel powerless to stop them.

I was very struck by a couple of women at my feminist book club meeting who said words to the effect of “I’ll say it: I’m fat, and I’m OK with that.”  To seize the judgment for oneself seems very empowering and takes all of the insulting power out of the word “fat.”

I don’t know how I would “seize the judgment” for myself, but I would like to.  I would love to have a rallying cry that would take the power away from society’s gaze and give it back to me.  I think what makes “I’m fat, and I’m OK with that” so nice is that the woman saying it is asserting her own opinion about her body: she is OK with it.  Society’s best arguments have been unable to convince her otherwise.

And I think that’s the answer I’m looking for.  To seize the judgment back from society, I need to be saying (out loud, in somebody’s face) “I’m OK with my body” or “I like my body.”  If society is entitled to an opinion about my body, well then so am I.  And since I know my body the best, my opinion holds the most weight, gauntlet of construction workers be damned.


From → body image, feminism

  1. This is a brilliant post, sounds like you are really taking control of your own image, very refreshing 🙂

  2. Thank you so much. It’s a long and up-and-down process for sure, but I do think I’m making progress. 🙂

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