Body image: Body love

Inspired by the #LoveYourBody tweet chat coming up today (1pm Pacific), I wanted to share this classic Siren post on body image that I wrote for the Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival back in October:

Today is Love Your Body Day, an event designed to remind us about the power of negative energy and imagery that is all around us. There are a lot of ways that this comes to pass, from sexist marketing campaigns (like the ones I write about in the Tired Marketing FAIL series) to self-esteem crushing Fat Talk to rigidly set gender norms that confine people in ways that feel uncomfortable for them. There are so many ways that the messages that pervade our society serve to denigrate women and set up a false idol of an impossible beauty standard.

If you need some examples of what I’m talking about, try this clip from Killing Us Softly:

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of this shit! I’m sick of the way ad execs want to create mythical ideals and then sell me “solutions” to my “problems” that don’t exist. I’m sick of the nagging suspicion that I’m somehow less-than because my body doesn’t fit a certain mold after going through pregnancy — that my breasts which fed my daughter sag a little too much or that the slackness of my skin where it stretched to make space for a growing womb somehow means I can no longer lay claim to being sexy (in the eyes of the media). I’m sick of having to remind society that you can’t own beauty. And you definitely can’t own my body, whether you appreciate it or not.

Today is about taking the power back.

And so today, on Love Your Body Day, I want to celebrate beauty. I want to celebrate strength. I want to celebrate love, which is what it’s really all about.

In her book Bossypants, Tina Fey has a chapter called All Girls Must Be Everything in which she lays out exactly how fucked up the unrealistic beauty standard is in ways far more witty than I will ever be. Lest I waste my night transcribing the entire chapter into this post, let me share this piece, which comes after a list of the many physical features she has that may be considered undesirable by societal standards:

If I ever go back to that beach in Wildwood, I want my daughter to be able to find me in a crowd by spotting my soda-case hips. I want her to be able to pick me out of a sea of highlighted-blond women with fake tans because I’m the one with the thick ponytail and the greenish undertones in my skin.

Hell yeah!

Inspired by Fey, I want to write a list of things I like about my body because I want my daughter to know me in the crowded Vegas landscape. And if nothing else, this can serve as a reminder to myself that my most important beauty standard now is to set the tone for my daughter as she learns how to love herself. These are some of my better assets:

  • Beautiful blue eyes. And even if no one else notices them behind my glasses, which I’ve worn since I was eight years old, I still know they are there. After all, I can see them looking back at me every day on my daughter’s face.
  • My hair is ridiculously low maintenance in all its stick-straight, impossible to curl glory. And my perma-mom-ponytail highlights my mid-life grays beautifully.
  • I am ambidextrous.
  • My skin burns easily and is just short of having a total absence of pigmentation, which makes me easy to spot on a sunny day. Just look for the rays bouncing off me like a mirror. You might think that would make living in the desert where there are only 10 days of rain a year a problem. I say, I like a challenge.
  • I’m 35 and I still have freckles.
  • I have long legs that have supported me at all kinds of weights and throughout a healthy pregnancy when I gained 70 pounds.
  • Speaking of pregnancy, I did not before and daresay I will never have an hourglass figure. Mine is more in the line of ancient fertility goddesses, worshiped for their life-giving bellies and ample bosoms. Except my limbs are kind of long and thin and I have the hips of an androgynous model, which in the “right” clothing combinations can make me look a little like a snowwoman (see fleshy paleness, above) in the flesh.
  • This goddess’ belly has the “tree-ring” stretchmarks to prove its power. Maybe I’ll never look good in a bikini. But who needs a bikini? That saggy belly pillow seems to make my daughter very comfortable when she sits on my lap. Baby snuggles beat tight abs any day.
  • Speaking of abs, 16 months after giving birth I am still routinely asked if I am pregnant. Sometimes this gets me down. But sometimes this gets me to the front of the line or the last seat in a crowded lobby. Win!
  • I have always had a great rack. Trends come and go. My ass is flat as a (delicious) pancake. But boobs are never out of fashion (unless you’re Olivier Green from Project Runway, who declared that one woman’s size double-Ds were “trouble”). And my boobs were never more valuable to me than when my breasts became the sole source of nourishment for my baby girl when she was born. Maybe that’s not sexy. But it is love.
  • My long, thin, size 10 feet are impossible to buy shoes for but always look great after a pedicure.
  • I have my father’s square jaw.
  • My teeth are unfashionably crooked with a Simpsons-esque overbite that gives my dentist fits.
  • And I have the same dimple in my left check as almost all the members of my mother’s family. It’s like our family crest, on our faces.

So, what would be on your own list? What do you love about your body? What better time than today to declare that you love your body, warts and all?

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3 thoughts on “Body image: Body love

  1. Wow, simply wow. Sure, I knew that I had unreasonable expectations, most of them I shrugged off. But DAMN. I had NO idea how insidious this truly is.

    I hate my breasts. Well, lets speak the truth here. They are tiny and asymmetrical. One is an A the other is a B.Now the fact is my breasts have only just been growing for the past year ! Of course they are small. Thats NORMAL, but I see all these ads “Breast augmentation just 125.00 a month” and think “Wow, that would really improve my looks” I bought into the illness. Im not a woman, I am a pair of engineered breasts, if I wish to look “pretty” for everyone but me. Of course, I will lose sensation in my breasts if they are augmented but thats the price of beauty. right ?

    WRONG ! I love my tiny breasts, my belly roll, my thick thighs, my flabby arms. Because this is Me, not someone else s idea of what I should look like. I cannot thank you enough for the video. I feel so much better right now.

  2. In order to sell products, advertisers have created this self-loathing society… You have to convince people they’re flawed in order to sell products that fix flaws… and it’s a shame.

    I think it’s also a shame how much time we spend engaging in these things… if we cared as much about bettering ourselves in a more tangible way (education, travel — which is a form of education in my opinion, etc) I think we’d be so much further ahead as females.

    and I think I might need to pick up that book

  3. Pingback: Feminist in a fat-shaming world | The Sin City Siren

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