Sunday, 16 March 2014

I think the post is very confusing, but I need to talk about body image

15:59 Posted by Afro Latina , No comments
My relationship with my body has never been easy. If there is someone who confirms the theory that media exercises a negative influence over women, this person is me, really.

I wish I could say that, after I became a feminist, all my body image issues were gone like magic. That's not the case, and I get irritated whenever my husband points out the inconsistency of me being  self-proclaimed feminist and still worrying about how my body (and face, and hair, and skin, and nails, for the matter) looks.

Well. I'm not saying I'm completely influenced by media, or that I'm 100% dissatisfied with my appearance. That would have been a lie, and all I can say is that yes, I do have body issues but yes, feminism has helped me tackle them to a good degree of satisfaction. However, there is always that part within you that is so fragile and vulnerable and normalized that it is hard to say that I am completely system-free. Who is, after all? That's an interesting question that a professor asked me once. She herself responded to it: we are all affected by the system.

Knowing that we are all influenced by the system, at least to a certain extent, does not make me relieved, though. I think I would be happier if I had ZERO body image issues, but I don't necessarily think having them is the end of the world, really. I don't know if I'm going to be able to explain how I feel about my body in a single post, but one thing I know for sure: I don't quite feel comfortable with the two main approaches to body acceptance that I see around me (at least the ones I have knowledge of).

On the one hand, there's people trying to convince me that I should discipline my body and control it to achieve the desired effects I want. I think it's easy to get carried away with this approach, since there's millions of how-to's circulating online. It's the idea that you can be anything you want to be, the magic of a modern age that empowers us to achieve anything we want through dedication and handwork, even though they are subtly modeling our minds to 'want' what they are selling, basically. 

On the other hand, there's people telling me that I should be happy with whatever I have, that my body is perfect and beautiful and amazing the way it is and I should indulge in all pleasures that gluttony can offer me. In this approach, you are seen as an individual who does not bend to the pressures imposed on us by the industry I mentioned in my previous paragraph. You are a person who is 'comfortable in her own skin', regardless of the fact that you need to keep updating your closet every month because your clothing items just get too tight to wear. I'm saying that because I've been there

On the surface, it looks like the second approach is infinitely better than the first one. After all, it helps you empower yourself with self-acceptance. There is nothing like acknowledging who you are and being fine with that. The problem I see, though, is precisely in the fact that both views seem to subscribe to one old myth: that we CAN be 100% anything. 

That's it. There is this massive beauty industry telling me that I can be 100% satisfied with my body if I work hard to discipline and enhance its features. Also, there is this counter-movement telling me that I'll be 100% satisfied with my body if I just accept it as it is, that I'm beautiful just the way I am and that I don't need to do anything to feel beautiful other than accepting myself. 

This excessive urge to happiness is what uneases me, actually. I feel a good dose of self-acceptance can do wonders to you, but I also agree that disciplining your body and your mind can have positive effects, too. I don't overemphasize the need to be happy with my body, I don't lie to myself saying I feel liberated when I'm really worried about the way I'm carrying myself in public, and I don't like pretending as if there is one theory that will be able to make me feel 100% satisfied with my life when in fact nothing will do that job. Many people get that, yet many people just scold me whenever I'm mindlessly whining about something I don't quite like about my body, because 'as a feminist' I should accept it the way it is. As much as I feel empowered, I don't think I really need labeling. This is a journey, after all, and I'm just afraid of this glorification of 'happy'. In fact, I'm just okay with not being okay on a permanent basis. 

I think this text is a bit too long now, but I promise I will talk about it again. And again. 

Beautiful image by Carl Warner, which I got from the site Brainiac :-)


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