I’m really sick of articles, features, blogs and stories about body image. Before I go on, I do acknowledge that looking and feeling good is a really important part of one’s self esteem and self-worth, and that society in general is very superficial when it comes to judging people according to their beauty. These aspects of body image have been covered extensively, to the point where every new feature on it is flogging a dead horse.
Haven’t we got more important things to focus on? I feel like writer’s talents are wasted on whining about how mean society is, how they feel pressured to feel thin, etc. If I hear another story about how ‘plus sized normal women need to be represented in magazines and on the runway’ again, I’m going to stab someone in the eye with rusty scissors. Do you know what I do if something minor annoys me? I IGNORE IT. Is anyone making you buy those magazines or watch those fashion shows? I know the argument of victim blaming pops up a lot and that ‘I shouldn’t have to change MY behaviour, they’re the ones in the wrong’. I would appreciate and support you in this argument if the issue wasn’t so frivolous and unimportant.
If you identify as a feminist or a humanist or any ‘ist’ you want, aren’t we supposed to be fighting the big battles? I’m pretty sure when women were fighting tooth and nail to be allowed to vote and control their own finances they weren’t worried about how well their petticoats fittted them or had even heard the term ‘body image’. I personally feel embarrassed and prone to facepalming when I see an article about how a woman has ‘ignored society and embraced her body!’. Have we gotten to such a point where we need to high five each other for figuring out that women come in all shapes and sizes?
Before I get any cries of ‘You don’t know what it’s like to be fat/ugly/-insert other body image problem here-!’. You’re right, I’ve never been overweight, I don’t know what it’s like to be judged on my looks.
Oh wait, yes I do.
For most of my early teenage years I was obsessively aware of my body, but unlike most teens, this was because I had just started using a wheelchair due to an advance in the breakdown of my muscles after being diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. I’d worry that people were staring at my legs, their shape, their state, etc. I’d cry myself to sleep about my legs, my bony shoulders and my hairy arms (a combination of my dad’s hairy genes and extra growth due to my skinniness). So don’t think I’m discounting anyone’s body image feelings, I’ve been through it myself, but then something changed. In my late teens I received psychological and medical treatment for my depression and anxiety and started focusing on improving things I could control. My body had failed me, but my mind was still sharp and amazing (this isn’t opinion, it is a fact, brains are amazing). I feel like I had an epiphany where I realised that people were going to stare and judge me anyway, so I had to have a spoonful of concrete and accept it.
Of course, like everyone, I have bad days where I want to throw a tantrum because I don’t look as good as I’d like to. But do I let it take over my life? No. Because there is so much more to life. I’ve found amazing role models in my life who exemplify exactly who I want to be when I grow up.
Someone who has made me appreciate life and not care about eating that extra Tim Tam is my mum. She recently recovered from breast cancer after having her breast removed. To her, the removal seemed to be a no brainer. She was so brave. So brave that this cancer tragedy turned into a bit of comedy between her and I. When we’d go shopping together, she’d push me in my wheelchair and people would look at her (she was wearing a scarf after her hair fell out during chemo) and give a sympathetic smile, then look down, see me in the wheelchair, do a double take, and try to look even more sympathetic and caring! We were ‘Cancer and the Cripple’.
My university lecturer is another one of my heroes. We have so much in common that I suspect she’s me in twenty years through some kind of space time continuum warp. I’ve never seen her wear a speck of makeup and her attire usually consists of a t-shirt and pants. She’s one of the most intelligent, funny, classy, and amazing people I’ve ever met. Whenever I’m agonising over a hair out of place, or an unsightly pimple, she pops into my mind and I think ‘Ahh fuck it’ and ignore it.
I really do believe that a lot of body image problems can be solved with a ‘Ahh fuck it’ attitude and a change in priorities. Do we really want our lives to be controlled by a mixture of fat, skin, muscles and bones? It should be filled with experiences, learning, laughter, friends, family, music, writing and love. Put down the fashion magazine and eat a spoonful of concrete.