The View from a Drawbridge

The random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.

A friend of mine posted this meme on Facebook, which says “Hating your body is a learned behavior.”

It triggers me. I imagine it triggers a lot of women. Because it’s true. We are raised up to hate our bodies, because it’s impossible to meet the exacting standards of many men.

We’ll never be tall enough or thin enough or have big enough breasts. If we have big breasts, then they won’t be perky enough. Our skin will be too blemished or too dark or too pale. Our legs will refuse to avoid rubbing against each other when we walk. Our hair will be too short or too long or the wrong color or texture. Our backsides will be too broad or too flat or too small or too big. We’ll wear too much makeup or not enough. And heaven forbid we wear glasses or braces or walk with a cane or refuse to wear high heels. We’ll have a double chin or a turkey neck as we get older. We have acne when we’re young and liver spots when we’re old. And we’re not supposed to have scars of any kind at all. We’re should be much more careful than that.

In general, you’ll probably show too much of your body, substandard as it is judged to be, or not enough of it. We should all have corrective surgery of some sort. And are you height/weight proportionate? (Read what I’ve previously written about that idiotic concept here.) What does that even mean? How can you know? Who decides? And what is it supposed to achieve?

And we women have bought into this for so long we even judge each other. We measure each other by that male yardstick. Admit it. We have laughed or pointed or criticized or bullied, too. We secretly or not so secretly hope we’re prettier and more acceptable than the woman standing next to us. Whether conscious of these things or not, we’re also guilty. There’s rarely a safe harbor for any of us, even amongst our own.

I hear women dissect themselves all the time. For example, I hate my double chin and am embarrassed by my perpetually swollen feet. I’m fat and have been for decades. I don’t like to look in the mirror. I have a red dot on my right eyelid and a weird blemish on my left cheek. My surgery scar makes my belly look strange.

Chop, chop, chop. I’ve turned myself into pieces and parts. It’s as if they’re all individually wrapped and up for sale. And most of them have been passed over, found wanting by others, and eventually thrown in the emotional dumpster by me. Not even fit for a food bank or a pot luck. Why am I a product?

I remember the first time anyone called me fat. I was 12 years old, and this label came from another 12-year-old girl. She said it like it was common knowledge. I remember being shocked. (That’s a credit to my mother.) And in retrospect, I know that I wasn’t fat at all. I have the pictures to prove it. Not that it should matter except with regard to health. But it made me worry and inspect myself, and I began to be increasingly self-critical over time.

The compliments I received from my family were all related to my smarts. No one ever told me I was pretty, and I went through life thinking I must look like a freak. I spent much of my youth hiding. And now I’m decades past believing any compliments I get regarding my appearance, even though I have no doubt many of them have been sincere. Too late. Way too late. And why is validation required in the first place?

I don’t expose my soft, flabby and scarred underbelly to you because I want your sympathy. I’m not fishing for compliments. And I certainly don’t need you to tell me what a toxic roller coaster I ride, and that I need to think otherwise.

No. I write this so that women and girls can see that they’re not alone in swallowing the poison they are fed every single day. I also write this so that the patriarchy can see just how much of a pervasive meat grinder they put women through. I write this so that we women can stop being complicit in each other’s corporeal rejection.

And men have the gall to say that we should have more self-esteem, as if we got here all by ourselves. Well, you know what? F*** you. You reap what you sow.

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11 thoughts on “Body Acceptance

  1. Christopher says:

    Men have to deal with exactly the same, even if you don’t see it. To work on your Body is to stay fit and healthy — that’s not Patriarchy, it is Common-Sense. So, sorry, but quite literally: “F*** you. You reap what you sow.” And I am indeed sorry that I have to write this, but you most certainly do need to hear that you are being toxic. That has nothing to do with whether “we got here all by ourselves” — others may have played a Role in our individual Suffering, but we ourselves do so to. You should pull the Beam out of your own Eye; and if you let your Suffering you think others are at Fault for get to you and make you lash out, then you are no longer the Victim but just another Perpetrator in a never-ending Cycle of Abuse. Rather than tryng to infect others with your Depression, you should get your Depression in Order, so that you can live a healthy Life and thereby look healthier and wash away your angry Depression — three interconnected Birds with one reciprocal Stone. Tend Bridges, don’t tear them down.

  2. An obese man says:

    Thanks Barbara for putting this out there. Cultural bias based on body type is real, and knows no limits. The uncivil behavior that enforces these norms is deeply disturbing, especially since it seems so self-unaware of its own bias and impact. Be strong in your knowledge. We really are just chimps with smartphones.

    1. From one chimp to another: Thank you. I see you and I get it.

  3. Lyn says:

    And if we reach that ideal yardstick measurement, it’s a neon sign, to the predators, that we’re consenting prey. If we didn’t want that kind of attention we shouldn’t look so desirable. It’s a degrading, no win scenario when we measure ourselves by superficial societal standards. Sadly, we’re taught to from birth. No matter how we internalize or externalize the issue, there will always be some clueless voice trying to negate our pain while blaming the victim. Being chewed up by the pervasive meat grinder isn’t a choice we make or can avoid with a positive, healthy attitude. Selling that perspective only perpetuates the problem, and offers no support with such twisted logic. Expressing our deepest pain is a healthy way to avoid becoming toxic. If we let those, who fear our truth, silence us, we’ll remain victims of the abusive status quo their ignorance contributes to. Mustn’t let them crush our voices or our resolve.

    1. Well said, as always, Lyn! Thanks! I’ll never accept the label of toxic for speaking my truth just because I’m in a toxic system.

      1. Lyn says:

        We need to come up with a list of actions to ‘stop the grind’, or stomp on it as Angi says. I’ll start it : 1. Find just one thing (baby steps) you really like about your body and celebrate it by giving it a name and complimenting it daily. 🙂
        Maybe you can finish the list in a future post. I do like your lists.

      2. I will give that some serious thought!

  4. Angiportus Librarysaver says:

    It starts in kindergarten, with the p.e. teachers, dentists and eye doctors finding all manner of things wrong with us and failing to mention our specific good points. Then our own parents jump on and find fault with this or that body part that up till then we were okay with, and like as not it is total crap! And then, whichever side of the gender binary we were assigned to, all the foulness you so well describe. Yes, men get it too, in some different ways..but that does not make it right. And the psychological weight of decades of this crap (not to mention any innate dysphoria that some people might have) is more than any one person, even the smartest, can just up and fling off. How much more progress might have been made, in any field that could benefit people, if so many had not had their lives eaten by worries over their looks, or their manhood?
    And how many can’t find the time or energy to seek “fitness and health”, whatever definition you may choose, with all the work they have to do just to stay afloat? How many fall into depression because of all these, and still get blamed for it?
    There’s a lot of people out there that seem to have a need to find someone to dump on, and feel superior to, for some sick reason or another, and there’s another lot that want to make money off the wounds the first ones made. Hence the diet industry, the fashion industry, etc.etc etc. The joy of finding a way to get your body moving that’s fun and leads you to discover neat things, free of judgments you don’t need, gets lost in the shuffle. But not always.
    As one who will never be reduced to a chimp, w/ or w/o smartphone, I say thanks, Barb, for dragging this mess out into the daylight so it can be stomped on, and well put, Lyn.

    1. Thanks Angi. I always appreciate your insights, even if you do resort to chimp-bashing. 😀 But yes, all spot on. Tragic that this topic has to even be brought up, but it very much exists for all of us.

  5. cupitonians says:

    I see you, I hear you, I am you! x

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