I walked into the grocery store today and saw yet another magazine cover with a celebrity proclaiming: “How I got my Body Back.”
Later, I heard a weight loss ad broadcast, “There’s no question that I let myself go. But you know what? I got myself back and transformed my life by losing over 100 pounds.”
What these well-intentioned individuals mean by this, is that at one point they had a “real” body—a body without fat. Then, throughout the course of their normal human lives, they did a normal human thing and gained weight. This “extra” weight then hid their “real” bodies from themselves. Their “real” bodies were lost until—Alas!—they managed to recover them out from underneath the conciliatory excess flesh. They did this by trying some new diet, exercise routine, pill or magical belief system that they are more than happy to tell you about, in case you too have lost your “real” body underneath a demonic layer of fat.
For women, losing one’s self is often equated with weight gain. The right to proudly occupy our bodies is revoked as soon as we deviate from society’s unrealistic beauty ideal.
This phrase—“I got my body back!”—is so normalized that we don’t think about the implications of what is actually being said. Namely, that we can’t claim ownership of our bodies unless they are thin and fit. It oh-so-clearly indicates that our personhood is equated with our body size. This is the epitome of objectification.
Being told that gaining weight means losing ourselves may not seem like a big deal, but it’s an example of one of the infinite micro-aggressions (indirect, subtle or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group) that women face on a daily basis. When we are constantly told that we are our bodies, we begin to objectify ourselves and permit the objectification of others. To deny the subjective, experiential nature of a human being is the first step in justifying violence against her. The objectification of women—achieved in these subtle, often undetected ways—is intricately linked to violence against women, hatred amongst women and women inflicting violence on themselves.
The problem is, the objectification of women is so omnipresent that we aren’t even aware of it most of the time. So I want to counteract the aggressive nature of these seemingly innocuous magazine covers and advertisements with this message:
We are not letting ourselves go when our bodies morph. We are not losing our bodies when they gain weight. Our selves remain unchanged.
Who we are is not how we look and what we weigh. If we gain weight, we still have the right to proudly occupy and claim our bodies as our own.
We do not need to scrape away all excess flesh and manipulate our bodies in time-consuming, sometimes dangerous ways in order for them to be real bodies.
We have learned to desire bodies different than the ones we have. We have learned to not claim our bodies as our own. We have learned to equate ourselves with our flesh. We must un-learn these tendencies and proudly claim our right to our bodies and the rights of our bodies—however they look. Until we re-claim our bodies as territory that is rightfully ours, we remain homeless.
Author: Brandilyn Tebo
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: pinterest/Salud y Belleza