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making peace with our bodies

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I initially wrote this in response to a post at Pursuit of Harpyness. It's been lightly adjusted to support moving from that context to this one.

How are we supposed to “make peace” with our bodies when they’re a continual cultural battleground?

This is not hypocrisy. It’s not a flaw. It’s what happens when we set goals like “accept our bodies as they are” in the middle of a culture that will not accept them, and then expect it to work when we, the victims of this broken system, are the only ones actually working on it.

The best we can do is the best we can do. As one of those people who is sometimes Publicly Fat In A Bikini, I freely admit that oftentimes, I’m faking it. It gets easier with practice to stuff those insecurities in a dark hole and go out anyway — but the insecurities haven’t gone away. How could they? The pressures that created them are still happening!

When I’m out there with a size-8 friend who wouldn’t dream of wearing a bikini because she’s too ashamed of *her* body, it’s a little easier to remember that this shame has absolutely nothing to do with my (or anyone else’s) actual fat. And even then, even when I’m explicitly remembering that this twisted culture uses whatever tools it can find to make us all feel ashamed, I still cringe sometimes. We all do. AND IT’S NOT OUR FAULT.

It’s so important that we engage in body-acceptance activism -- because IT’S NOT ENOUGH for just us individuals to try to change the inside of our heads. It is also necessary for the culture to change. So, let's please please please do not beat ourselves up for this phenomenon. (see also: the personal is political, blaming the victim)

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
cappyhead
Jul. 10th, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC)
Awesome post. *hugs*
saoba
Jul. 10th, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)
Yes.

Just- just yes. Full stop.
firecat
Jul. 10th, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
Excellent post!

I'll add that making community with other people affected by cultural pressures is a helpful midpoint in between "changing our own attitudes" and "changing the culture."
sevoo
Jul. 17th, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
oooh. Yes, that.

I think that people who foster communities do important activism work. Because changing the culture is hard work, and the people who do it need someplace to go where they can be understood! Or something like that.
malafrena
Jul. 14th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
A story to share (about radically positive body image):

Several years ago, I was in a new parents support group. All great moms, but zero radical feminists in the lot. We were joking around, and I forgot I was the lone wolf, so I said, "Raise your hands if you've ever squirted breast milk on your husband!"

Dead silence.
sevoo
Jul. 17th, 2009 07:49 pm (UTC)
ha ha ha ha! I'm glad you said it. Every little exposure helps -- who knows, maybe in thirty years one of those kids will say, "My mom used to tell me this story about a woman she knew when I was a baby ... and that's why I'm a feminist now."
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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