I want to talk about the body.
Lately I have been connecting several dots, many separate instants in my memory: experiences, anecdotes, advice, overheard conversations. I have been remembering various moments in which I was taught – overtly or not – in the same way that many were taught, that the human body is something forbidden, something to hide and be ashamed of. Something dirty and uncomfortable. I was taught that the smallest indication that there is nudity – that there is a woman – beneath all the clothing, some of my “purity”, of my “dignity”, of the most intimate instance of my femininity and my humanity would be lost. A mere sillhouette is already an abhorrent thing to show.
I don’t want to talk much about how the male human body is not as covered by an overprotective, vigilant, controlling and oppressive aura as the female human body. [Nor will I talk much about two of my breast-related pet peeves: 1) women’s breasts are the same thing as men’s breasts – apart from the average size and the ability to lactate which is awesome but not particularly sexy in my opinion – and yet society has made a fetish and a spectacle out of women breasts and an irrelevance that can be shown wherever out of men’s. 2) how is wearing a bikini in front of everyone any different from wearing underwear in front of everyone? same skin, same body, possibly same people. Sheesh.]
What I want to really discuss, though, is how body shame, censorship, discomfort in our own skin is tragically internalized. We are constantly hiding our body from ourselves, from others. When we stop doing it for a moment, not knowing what to do or who we are really, we end up allowing others to dictate what our own body means, what we should show, what we should not. It’s not that I think that we should all run naked through the streets (and not because it would be immoral or abhorrent, but because then there’d be nothing special in undressing – both emotionally and physically, ideally – in front of you alone). It is not that I think we are evolving in some way or another because we show more now than we used to. I think showing or not showing is equally oppressive so long as you are doing it for someone(s) else.
What I do think is that so long as we give moral value to the human body, we will continue to be tied down and doomed to not knowing ourselves at all.
How deep a cleavage is does not indicate the moral, intellectual or spiritual value of a person; a naked sillhouette through a window does not determine any personality trait nor does it express any aspect of a person’s sexuality; a tattoo is not a marker of intelligence, capacity or morality; a person’s weight says very little, if anything, about a person’s habits, hygiene or mental health; attractiveness means lack of personality or intellect as much as “unattractiveness” means great personality or intellect: nothing.
I know, I know, I am talking about a myriad of things that would require a deeper analysis and a blog entry of their own. Think of them as previews, and save them for Christmas time. Anyhoo.
We constantly try to regulate the body, standardize it (now, why would anyone want to do that?! BORINGGGG), morally judge a person basing our judgment almost exclusively on it. But it is US who should be deciding giving meaning to our bodies. Our own bodies only, and no one has any right to change our own definitions, limitations, symbols.
We really should stop feeling so ashamed of ourselves, as human beings. I really think we should play a lot more with our own symbolism, push our boundaries, deconstruct and reconstruct the way we were socialized, learn without judgment and with that knowledge love and embrace every inch of what we are. We really should celebrate how awesome we are, with or without clothes, with or without someone besides us, with or without what society tells us we should be and have.
To have a real revolution, starting by loving our bodies, unconditionally (what longer-term and more worthy of cultivating relationship than that with our own skin?). It is only like this that we can use it to the max, and use it however we want to. Not necessarily as a tool for power, domination of manipulation. Use it to find balance, to express ourselves, to feel better physically and mentally. To be whatever we want and be the best we want to be.
To have a refuge, a shelter. But not just any shelter, but a redecorated one to our own taste and our own abilities, positioned and understood however we choose. A place that is absolutely ours, and that we share it, we share it with whoever we choose. That that is, too, respected. Because it is our place and not the state’s, or the medical community’s, or middle-aged heterosexual white men’s.
That once our bodies are re-occupied, re-invented and profoundly free, we find under our skins the Kamchatka that we all need: that personally decorated place, that weapon of beauty that protects but also connects us with all our other strengths and the universe as well.
[Note: if you don’t know what this Kamchatka business I am blabbing about is, check this out ASAP!]
For more on body image, self esteem and body reapropriation:
Airbrushed Nation: The Lure and Loathing of Women’s Magazines | Gender Focus
And a heartwarming, cheesy, Valentine’s Day video from the Sex+ Channel (which you should totally check out if you haven’t already)