Bodylove Chapter One

Below are my thoughts and notes from reading chapter one. Please feel free to leave yours in the comments.

From the book Page My comments
“when Eleanor Roosevelt was asked if she had any regrets about her life, she replied, ‘Just one. I wish I’d been prettier.'”   3   This quote always made me sad, until recently I thought, “Maybe she got everything she wanted in her life, so the only thing left to regret was the one thing she couldn’t change.” I sure hope that’s true.
“naturally feminine bodies” 3 I’m reading this as “naturally female bodies.” Lots of female bodies aren’t particularly feminine, and there’s nothing natural about femininity; it’s completely constructed, which is why it differs across cultures, and why some drag queens can perform it so well.
“The majority of ten-year-old girls are already afraid of becoming too fat.” 3 This probably needs an update for the new millenium. Seems like I’ve read that girls as young as four are on diets. I remember sitting in TOPS meetings with my mother when I was too young for my feet to reach the floor.
“Body loathing is a feeling of preoccupation and dissatisfaction with appearance.” 3 I don’t think the myriad diagnoses unfurling around us have expanded upon this core idea in any useful way at all. She nailed it on this one.
“After all, we do live in a world where beauty counts. Good looks are basic to femininity and a real source of women’s social power: the power to attract attention, to influence others, and to get things accomplished.” 5 It’s passages like these that make me wish Freedman had a better feminist analysis. It’s arguable that a socially acceptable appearance is a “real source” of power in patriarchy, but more importantly — should it be? Do we want a world where a person’s credibility is based on appearance? Where does that leave those of us whose looks will never be socially acceptable despite our most intense efforts?
“And don’t be afraid to share your efforts toward change with the people who care about you. Loved ones can help you clarify your problems and work on them.” 6 I wish I had done this more, and less. I wish I had listened less to people whose criticisms were selfishly motivated and unhelpful. I wish I had trusted some people more, especially those who listened without judgment and who shared their own experiences and their loving perceptions of how I could do better. Most of those people would not have had much to say about my size.
“Yet men’s problems are somewhat different because they relate to their bodies from a masculine perspective.” 7 This is utter crap. What does that even mean, to relate to your body “from a masculine perspective”? What I think Freedman is trying to say here is that men aren’t groomed from childhood to be nervous wrecks about their appearance for fear that *gasp!* someone might not like it!!! Some men for sure have various anxieties about their bodies, and men are increasingly encouraged to buy all sorts of products to look “better,” the way women historically have been. But the social pressures are still not the same.
List of possible goals 11-12 I’m not a fan of a couple of these, and there are some I would add in aid of women with trauma histories and those who feel discomfort with and alienation from their femaleness: “Come to terms with how others have hurt or mistreated me,” “Accept my female genitalia,” “Learn to appreciate my breasts,” “Become comfortable with the female shape of my hips and thighs.”
Resistance 12-13 I really understand what Freedman is talking about here. I personally am capable of resisting things that will help me, until the cows come home. But I also want to point out another aspect of resistance, which is resisting the pressure on us to fit society’s expectations for women and girls. One of the greatest fuels for this kind of resistance is anger. If you have some, that’s a good place to put it.
“With time and effort, I saw her slowly grow from a self-rejecting to a self-respecting young woman. Her body did not change very much during this time, but her vision of it was altered.” 14 Just reiterating the idea that it’s not really the appearance that needs to change, in order to feel better and to treat yourself better.
“Therefore you can create a lovelier body…” 14-15 While I think it’s great to like how you look, and it’s fine if other people like how you look, I’d also like to think about another possible world: One in which a person’s appearance wasn’t a basis for any kind of opinion or judgment about them, at all. One in which there is no standard of “beauty” and no right or wrong way to look and therefore, no way for our opinion of ourselves to be based on looking “better” or “worse” than someone else. It might be something like how we currently approach eye or hair color. We notice what color eyes people have, but for the most part, we understand that doesn’t tell us very much about the person at all. We might say “I like brown eyes” but no one would have the weight of history and culture backing up their personal preferences. I’ve had a few experiences of spending time in a space like that, and I often think about what it would be like to live there full-time. At the very least, we each deserve to create that space for ourselves inside our own heads.

Bodylove series posts

Introducing the Bodylove Series
Bodylove Chapter 1
Bodylove Chapter 2


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