A culture of body-shaming

Posted By Xin-min Lai on Mar 10, 2016 in body relationship

A few years ago, I was at a presentation specifically for women. The very first question that was asked was something like “Is there anything you hate about your body?”

Literally (yes, I mean that literally) every woman in the room raised her hand. But I had to wonder why, because even though I was one of the “all” raising their hand, I didn’t actually want to change anything. Not that I think I’m perfect, but I’ve never (and still don’t) want someone else’s body, or even parts of it. Even when I gained a lot of weight, my body wasn’t something I wanted to replace, or that I hated or was disgusted by. It’s just a body, and I happen to enjoy being in mine.

I raised my hand to “fit in” to the culture of non-acceptance, the need to reject or find fault with our appearance as a common ground. I wonder how many other women in the room raised their hands for the same reason.

I’ve met quite a few women who are emotionally tied to their appearance. Weight is a traumatic experience, not a number. It’s Other Women who have something to admire, not themselves.  And no, this isn’t something that just happens to “fat chicks” or even “former fat chicks”. It happens even to the stunners among us.

Being disgusted with your normal appearance is actually a thing. Like there are actual icebreaker conversations about which body part you hate. While it does happen to men (according to studies anyway – it’s not like men talk about this shit with me), it’s practically a social requirement for women, at least in the US. I don’t mean the looking perfect part, I mean the acceptance that we reject a part of ourselves – how normal it is for a woman to hate her stomach, her arms, her chin, whatever body part.

It is such a strong part of our culture, we have classes and seminars and books to teach women how to stop doing it. If you don’t hate your body, there’s the fear of being considered arrogant/attention whore/insert-defect-here to get you back in line. Heaven forbid you consider yourself attractive and worthy of respect.

It’s a body part. It has no anti-you agenda. It’s there to do your bidding. If you run 6 miles a day, it’s there to carry out that function and adapt to your habit of running 6 miles a day. If you carry 16 bags of groceries at once because you damn well aren’t going to make a second trip to the car, it does that shit for you and makes sure your muscles are able to do it. If you sit at a computer 12 hours a day, yeah your body will adapt to that too.

Don’t hate the hammer for not being a screwdriver. And don’t throw it in the trash, because you’ll still need that hammer. Put the stuff you need in your toolbox, and get rid of the crap you don’t.

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