Written by Rebecca Clark (@thefreshfeminist)
I am a woman and I have a body. That is a very controversial thing. Women’s bodies are often discussed publicly without much thought about the women who actually own the bodies.
From a young age girls are taught to be concerned about their bodies. They can’t be too fat but they need curves in the right places. They need to be attractive to men or they aren’t worth anything. Girls and women aren’t treated like they own their bodies because boys and men comment on them, judge them and feel entitled to touch them without consent.
With all this messaging about my body. This is what I wish I knew.
1. I'll have a complicated relationship with my body
I used to think that there were women who loved their bodies and women who hated their bodies. The truth is it's more complicated than that. Even women with stereotypically perfect bodies have issues with their appearance. They feel the pressure to stay that way and they feel the pressure of the male gaze, constantly trying to consume their body for their own gratification.
There are times where I hate my body and there are times where I love my body. It is normal to have this kind of fluctuating relationship with your physical appearance. It is a journey we all go on because mentally and physically we are always changing.
2. It is a target of misogyny
Everyone has a body that they physically exist in but it feels like women’s bodies (in my experience) and the bodies of other oppressed groups (including people of colour) are particular targets. Showing more of my body is controversial. Showing little of my body says something about me. What I do with my body is a reflection on my value depending on what the person in question wants me to do.
A lot of people have a lot of different opinions about women’s appearance and what they should be doing with their bodies. I felt a huge amount of pressure to do what other people wanted me to do instead of what I actually wanted to do. I wish I knew I could reclaim my body.
3. Nobody can claim ownership of it
Relationships are tricky. No matter how committed you are to your partner, they never own your body. There are certain expectations about women in relationships. Women take a serving role and men take a protective role. These stereotypes have long been criticised but remnants can still be seen in relationships today.
No one, even if I choose to be in a relationship with them, owns my body. I can wear what I want. I don’t have to change my weight to please anybody. Whether others touch my body or not in any way is my choice and my choice alone. No one ever owes their partner physical intimacy. That kind of pressure is not healthy.
4. The mind and body are inseparably connected
At least in Western culture, we tend to see physical health and mental health as completely separate. That’s just not accurate. Anyone who has suffered with anxiety knows that there are intense physical reactions to mental distress. Having to deal with physical pain is mentally exhausting.
I need to look after my body and my mind to stay healthy. I’m allowed to rest when my body signals it can’t take any more. Going for a walk can help me with stress. It is all a system that I need to look after.
5. Appreciating your body is a revolutionary act
There are a ton of industries that are reliant on women not liking their bodies. Makeup, skincare, weight loss products and bras that are supposed to reshape your body are just some examples. Not everybody who uses these products dislikes themselves. It's just a lot of the marketing feeds into the feeling of not being enough.
So it is unlikely that society as a whole is going to support me loving my body. That means choosing to try is revolutionary. I am claiming back my bodily autonomy and telling everyone who tries to comment on it or change it that I don’t care. I don’t even need to love my body to fight the system. I just have to appreciate it and the fluctuating relationship I have with it.
In the chaos of contradicting messages about what your body should be like and what you should do with it, decide what you want. You are never too young to tell people you don’t care what they have to say about your body. It is yours so it is down to you.
Thank you to Rebecca for sharing this amazing piece. Check out this post which is also up on her website www.thefreshfeminist.com
If you would like to submit your own article, please feel free to DM me or email me :)