Your Body Might Not Be Perfect
Fat acceptance is great and all, but I love my boyfriend and I want him to be excited, aroused and attracted to me. Sorry, that might mean that I have to hit the gym and forego the fries, ladies. I’m OK with that.
Gosh, I can almost hear you screaming…Patriarchy! It he loved you he would accept you. Et cetera.
Yeah, it’s so hard being a woman…bla bla.
I remember once in my Freshman comp class, they had this big thick text book. And in the book were contemporary articles about culture. I started counting. There were about forty articles in this one text book that in one way or another were about how hard it is to be a woman in this patriarchy.
Many of those, more than ten, were about body image.
Apparently, it’s the media who cause women to feel bad about their bodies — thanks Dove.
Yeah, I don’ t buy that either.
I’ve studied ancient Rome. You know what the ladies were obsessed with in ancient Rome — make-up, beauty, fashion. Looking beautiful. Like 24–7. That’s all they talked about, that’s all they wrote about.
And there was no Instagram, there was no TV. There were no ads.
Sorry Naomi. You’re wrong. Hollywood did not make women worried about beauty.
So what did?
Competition for mates, duh. OK, I’m not a hard core scientist. But I completed a graduate program in a medical field. It’s pretty easy for me to grasp that there is a biological explanation for a lot of this evil male gaze culture. It’s not that the patriarchs are so horrible. It’s that nature made them choose mates based on visual cues. Women picked up on those cues and started obsessing over them.
End of story?
Of course not. Our media culture is fairly perverse, in lots of different ways. The most obscene thing about today’s culture to me, though, isn’t about the way it depicts women. It’s about the way it depicts identity itself — as an isolated project, a pose, a Foucauldian spasm, and an actualization of eternal solitude.
Whither the collective?
Isn’t the collective made up of men, too? Where were all the articles about how hard it is being man? I wondered, during my freshman comp class. There were exactly none. Strange. Because I knew that men were just as anxious and fucked up as the freshmen girls. We were all having a hard time.
Dove, thanks for trying to make me feel better about my flab. But do you know what would make me feel even more wonderful? No, not losing my flab, because I know that will never happen. I’ll always be voluptuous.
How about showing us some images of women and men loving one another, and nurturing one another, and hugging one another. And being together, post Metoo.
Can’t we get to the other side of this horrible moment in culture where we’re all in these separate boxes, strident and sure of our marginalized identity, pissed off at the hegemony, throwing darts at white males, especially old ones. Shrieking and hissing at one another. Gnawing at a bone.
I’ve gnawed enough. My teeth hurt, don’t yours?
My patients have taught me the way out of this conundrum of beauty. I remember the first time I fitted a woman with a prosthetic leg. She was a funny kid, about 19. She had been born with one foot.
“It’s not a birth defect,” he told me. “It’s a gift.”
“Not for me,” he explained. “For other people. Because when they see that I’m OK with my body, just the way it is, just the way that nature intended, maybe they can feel a bit better about their own.”
I put the prosthetic on her, and she looked at me, like she was looking right through me.
“And not be so critical of themselves,” she added, staring deep into my eyes like she knew what was going on in my deepest soul.
That was a real challenge to me — after all, the whole raison d’etat of an orthotist is to fix broken, defective limbs and such. I thought I was doing everybody such a service, making such a difference.
But if you don’t feel OK about your body, no prosthetic, diet or gym workout is ever going to change that. It might help you limp around a bit better. But don’t we all want more than that, to not limp around, but to stride?
How can women stride alone, without the other humans?
I knew that day that I didn’t have the media to blame for my self-criticism. I was born into something much deeper and more insidious than that.
We have a big, structural self-loathing problem in our psyche, and fat is just the tip of that iceberg, folks. It’s not only that we’re not thin enough, we’re not smart enough, rich enough, happy enough, enough enough! The endlessly dissatisfied ego. The superstition “I.”
The only way out is we.
All of us.
We’re strangers in a strange land.
And ours is a pilgrim’s progress.