Let’s see if I can get through this post about body image and issues without telling you what kind of body I have, and you see if you’re comfortable not knowing at the end of it, okay?
Much as I try not to be Twitter incrowdy (my excuse for never blogging), this did arise from a Twitter “event”. One idiot was promoting “managed anorexia” because he felt only thin was valuable, and a lot of great people responded by trying to get #curvesaresexy trending. Then some less great people started labelling thin bodies as unsexy, and some other people objected and…
This is how it goes, though. Bodies – pretty much invarably women’s bodies – are where the discussion is at. Whether we value curves, bones, or all kinds of bodies, women’s bodies are a site for discussion in a way that men’s are not. And I don’t think that changing the object is as helpful as changing the subject. Laurie Penny put it beautifully in her moving piece on recovering from anorexia:
[T]he real breakthrough came when I stopped defining myself merely by my dress size. Once I started to believe that my worth as a person had nothing to do with how my body looked to other people, I began to give myself permission to take up the space I needed.
Put it like this: if offered the chance to never be treated as a body-object again, on the condition that neither would anyone ever find me sexy again, I’d take it. That is, of course, from the vantage point of being a mother, and therefore devoid of public sexuality in most environments anyway. (Seriously – for a start, it takes about 12 times the effort to communicate that I am, in fact, a lesbian, once people know that I’m a mother.) And I’m in my mid-30s, so moving past the realm of mainstream sexy, anyway. But not moving past the point where my body is a defining factor in how I am perceived, how I perceive myself, and where who I am is positioned in culture. Worthy of notice or not worthy of notice, that judgement in itself requires that my body be noticed. Unsexy, mumsy, frumpy, dykey, MILF, invisible because physically unremarkable, all of those require an evaluation of my body.
And I would just rather not. I don’t want to be a mainstream or a countercultural or a fetishistic sex object. I want to be a subject, and my subject, largely, is not my own body, or even my own sexuality. I want my daughter to stop thinking it’s important to call me “pretty”. I want her to stop thinking it’s important when people call her that. I want to remove the instinct I have right now to tell you that, of course, she is beautiful. Can I tell you she’s valuable? That you are? That I am? Can we leave it at that?