Body Blogging #1: The Ins & Outs of a Woman
Not another bloody body blog... Well, yes, yes it is. But we do things differently. Looking at her body honestly, our NSP writer interrogates the personal, cultural and political to see how they all play out within her own relationship to her body...
Full disclosure: I identify as a woman and I have a body.
But nevertheless, for so long I was so bored of women’s bodies. Bored of woman’s weekly articles on how get glowing skin, bored of Instagram pictures of Instagram stars loving their bodies by filling up on kale smoothies, bored and angry by snippy sidebars that describe every women with bare legs as ‘showing off her killer pins’. I am a lefty feminist and I was even bored of intelligent Guardian articles on the very real political issues that surround the female form. But nevertheless, I am a woman and I do have a body, so I read these articles and looked at these pictures, at times nodding my head in approval, at other times shaking it with scorn.
Then I harped on to anyone who would listen about how women should not be defined by their bodies, I dug up my undergraduate philosophy spiel and maintained that bodies are accidental to the person, it’s minds that are essential. And then when no-one would listen I told myself over and over again, that bodies shouldn’t matter, it’s our minds, our thoughts and actions that should define us. Which it is, and I still believe this. But the reason that I was trying so hard to convince myself of this was not, ultimately, for the good of womankind. It was instead, I now realise, a desperate attempt to save my self from the eating disorder that had consumed me, and ruled my life for the last fifteen years. I was a total fraud, telling friends that their thighs were perfect, cellulite and all, because they carried them around day after day and were strong and reliable, then heading home to measure my own with a tape measure. I railed against skinny celebrities being revered for nothing except their size zero waistlines, when in private I was Googling pictures of these very waists for inspiration. I desperately didn’t want bodies to matter because mine mattered so much to me.
But you can’t recover from something you don’t admit, so recently I had to admit to myself that whilst our minds matter a lot, our bodies matter a bit too. More specifically, my body mattered to me. It mattered a lot. Whether I liked it or not, my mind and body came as a package deal, I couldn’t get away from either or separate them. While I tortured one, I was torturing the other. So I began to engage with the masses of media on woman’s bodies, to seek out blogs, to subscribe to YouTube channels. Many were inspiring, sometimes quite beautiful, but they made me feel shit. I watched and read about lots of women who had overcome such adversity, and struggled so much with their bodies, but were now out the other side, loving their bodies and living their lives. That seemed so far away, I had too far to go, I couldn’t do it. I’m not just talking about the shiny, happy photogenic women for whom yoga and a gluten free diet had been a revelation, but also about incredibly strong women who gave the Ted talks I bookmarked, the politicians I so admired who had overcome situations I couldn’t even imagine.
I do not feel comfortable in my own skin, even though I am trying really hard to. I am not a strong woman, even though I really want to be one. We love a happy ending, and often don’t want to hear a story until we know it has one. We rightly look to people who have weathered the storm to show us that it’s possible, but rarely hear from those in the eye of the storm how crap it is there. I have no success to share or wisdom to impart, but I do have a struggle ahead of me, of which I’m willing to share all the mundane, messed up, confused and confusing details. As John Donne sort of said, no woman is an island, and this isn’t just about me, it’s about the society we live in, the culture we’re a part of and the politics that unite or divide us. Therefore, I’ll be drawing on all of these to help me navigate the way, as I journey through the murky waters of the mind and the media.