It’s only in the last year or so that I started questioning what my body is for. It’s taken me until now to realise that I was unconsciously holding a belief that the important things revolve being either use or ornament. I’ve spent my life to date treating my body as something that exists to please or appease other people, not as something that is mine.
There’s a lot of pressure on women to focus on looking the part. We’ve been taught that thin matters – not fit, not healthy, certainly not muscular because muscles are all too often deemed ugly on women. We should paint our faces, blocking our pores, we should wear shoes we can barely walk in that will ultimately deform our feet, we should alter ourselves with surgery, botox, pull out most of our hair and so on. None of this is about being well, feeling good or being happy, it’s about being held up to impossible and unnatural standards.
My body is here to serve – and that’s an idea that I’ve had to wrestle with considerably. Notions of wife and mother cast us as giving to the point of self sacrifice. Too many workplaces would use our bodies to the point of sickness and exhaustion. We’re poisoning ourselves with car fumes.
I can’t speak to the male experience, or any non-binary experiences. While I don’t emotionally identify with being female, I’ve realised that expectations around what happens with my apparently-female body have had a huge impact on me.
What if the point of a body isn’t to look good for other people? What if the point is to live, feel, do…? What if the person who should most benefit from my body is in fact me? What if I’m not here to be used, not obliged to give whenever asked? It opens up worlds of possibilities.
I spent a lot of years trying, and failing to be thin. I’ve always been odd looking, smearing makeup on this face doesn’t change me into something conventional. I’ve been used, and been complicit in being used because I never thought there was more than that. Years of living in a space where it’s not about use and ornament and I get to be a person, has really opened things up for me. I start to ask what this body needs, what would feel good, what I would enjoy… these are the keys to an as yet undiscovered country.