Sometimes I Think I’m Ugly: Body image and making better feminisms.


I do feminism.

I do feminism. I really do believe that the personal and political are inextricably linked, and I try to live in a way that takes that into account.

I believe in body positivity. I believe- I know– that all different kinds of bodies can be beautiful. I mean, there’s people of many shapes and sizes who I’ve found hot as hell in my time, and I’m just one person with one reasonably-narrow set of preferences. Bung in the rest of the world, and you’ve got a hell of a lot of people appreciating just about any kind of physique you can imagine.

I believe in appreciating our bodies for what they can do, not just what they look like. I know that this can be problematic in its own way- especially given our ableist views on what that means- but one of the things I’ve grown to love in the last year and a half is seeing my body as a tool for learning, developing and doing. Bodies aren’t just for looking at. They’re how we interact with the world around us, and that is incredible.

I believe in the understanding that even though health, abilities, competition and joy are far more positive reasons to exercise than looks, they still don’t apply to everyone. Nobody owes anyone else prettiness or fitness. We get to set our own priorities based on our own circumstances, abilities and desires, and they’re nobody’s business but our own.

I think that the very idea of “everyone’s beautiful” has its own problems, because so fucking what if you’re not beautiful? So what if you’re not symmetrical and skinny and young and whatever the hell beautiful is supposed to be these days. It doesn’t make you less important. Or less interesting. I want to get the hell away from the idea that there’s one thing- one anything– that everyone needs to be. Unless that one thing is just plain respectful and kind.

I believe that the ways society tears us down are toxic. We live in a constant state of negative marking- not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not fit enough, not rich enough. We can never be enough, and that destroys our enjoyment of all the things that we are. I want to be part of a different discourse to that.

And yet..

The rest lives over at the Tea Cosy’s new home!

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Reblogged: My body is not heartbreaking: more fun with microaggressions


My body is not heartbreaking: more fun with microaggressions.

There are people–seemingly reasonable, decent people–who think the existence of bodies like mine is heartbreaking. Who think that my life must be a tragedy because I wear above a size 14.  Who refuse to believe that health comes in more than one size. And who refuse to understand that not everyone prioritizes health in the same ways, or at all.

My body is not heartbreaking.

Oh so much yes. Bodies are not tragedies. Bodies are where we live. They don’t need redemption. They’re not a moral lesson or a warning to Be Good Or Else You’ll Be Like That. We don’t have a social or ethical responsibility to look a certain way, be a certain shape, be at a certain level of health, have certain priorities. Aside from, y’know, basic hygiene and decency, our bodies are absolutely and utterly ours. 

Letting Yourself Go


“You always let yourself go when you’re stressed, you know. You should make more of an effort.”

That was my ex, back when I was in the middle of writing a thesis and, frankly, had neither the time nor the energy for such things as straightening my hair or shaving my legs. That was also, by the way, the same guy who didn’t shave at all for two months before his exams, seeing himself a kind of Samson before the ravening hordes of assignments.

But enough about him- for one thing, he’s lovely, and for another, he’s probably reading this. (Hello!)

That year was the year I finally got my degree. It was also the year I started to work my ass off, discovered that I really did love sociology after all, and brought my grades up from ‘doing okay’ to ‘hell yeah’. It was also the year that I put on about 1/5 of my current weight.

The other year that I piled on the pounds was, unsurprisingly, the year I did my MA. The other time, that is, that I was busy working my (expanding) butt off to better myself until ridiculous hours of the night.

I’ve gotten skinnier in the past few months. Part of that is my current obscenely-healthy lifestyle- I’m too broke for snacks or buses if I want to have a social life, so it’s lentils and cycling for me- but most of it happened before that. The couple of months when I was unemployed and homeless (staying with friends, thankfully), when my relationship of the past few years had ended a little less than a fortnight before my very, very beloved nan died. That was when the pounds just flew off.

I don’t know about your situations. But if my own life is anything to go by, then this idea that losing weight is ‘taking care of yourself’, while gaining it is ‘letting yourself go’, is absolute tosh.

What do you think?

Learning to stop worrying and love my bum. Also, privilege. Damnit.


Don’t you hate it when everything you do seems mired in some kind of foggy maze of constantly messing up somehow? I know I do. You know where it really gets me? Body image.

Yes, body image. That one. What I would call an Achilles’ heel, if it weren’t that Achilles seemed to have a pretty darn good image of himself and didn’t spend much time worrying over whether anyone was noticing the dry skin on his heel, and whether his heel was too knobbly or not knobbly enough.

Working out a way to feel happy in your (okay, my) own skin is notoriously difficult. We’re all supposed to want to lose 10 (or 100) pounds, to be darker or lighter, to detest every stray hair or uneven skin tone or boniness or squishiness or muscliness or… I could go on. But I won’t be the first, and you’ve all heard it too many times before.

I’ve tried a lot of different strategies to be okay in my skin, with varying success. Once, I even tried dieting and exercise. At once. That was not a good, er, fortnight*.

So instead, I work on accepting myself as I am and working on showing myself the same kindness that I would others. I look at my body not as something to be perfected, but a canvas on which my experiences are written- from the squishiness of my thesisbum, to the stories that come with scars. To the way that my eyes wrinkle when I smile in exactly the same way as my relatives do. These things are who I am. They are where I come from.

But the thing that’s done the most for me in terms of feeling good about my body? Was a complete paradigm shift. I started to Exercise More (and also eat more. Because nothing makes a girl hungry like actually working up an appetite). Gradually, my body stopped being a thing which was there to (fail to) look a certain way. It became a thing that did things. A thing that would run this far- just a little further than before. A thing that could pick up a thing just a little bit heavier than the thing it could pick up before. Get a little further up a wall. A few weeks ago I walked a couple of hundred kilometers, and my body became a thing that hurt like hell and kept going.

And I stopped caring too much what it looked like. And then I started really appreciating what it- what I- looked like. I used to hate showing my legs- all knobbly knees and too-pale skin. But I’m not going to be ashamed of legs that walked me for miles and miles and miles. Legs that held up me, my backpack, and litres upon litres of water. Legs that dragged us uphill and hurt like hell and kept on walking. Those aren’t just plain good legs. Those are bloody brilliant legs. Hell yeah, I’ll wear skirts and shorts. Who cares about pale skin, knobbly knees and more bruises than you can shake a stick at? These legs rock.

And feeling that- feeling that sense of power and purpose in my body- I get angry. As women, we’re told too often that our bodies are there to be pretty. To look a certain way. There’s barely any mention of how wonderful it is to have a body that does things. In fact, there’s a whole lot of shame even there. How many people do you know with not-socially-considered-ideal bodies who don’t feel even a little self-conscious at a gym? Or going for a run, or a swim? How many people don’t do those things, and therefore lose out on the joy of having bodies that slowly but surely can do more and more things, because of the censure- internal and external- for simply being open about the shapes of our bodies? For being seen to be ourselves in public? For daring to not be ashamed?

Of course, here’s where you get to privilege. Not just the kind where it’s safe- physically, at least- to be embodied in public. Or the kind where you’ve managed to scrape together the gutsiness to brush off whatever’s going to come your way. The more basic kind. If the only way I’ve been able to be happy with my body is by making it stronger, isn’t that a wee bit ableist? Isn’t the very idea that bodies need to be somehow redeemed- either through excessive prettiness or physical ability- ableist as all hell?

Having a body that’ll run, climb, swim, row and pick up heavy things is one hell of a (temporary!) privilege. Having a body that’s gender/size-normative enough to pass without comment in a swimsuit (god I love swimming) is one hell of a privilege. Then again, existing as a (queerish, femme-but-not-the-right-kind-of-femme) woman trying to navigate my way into being happy with the body I walk around in sure as hell ain’t a privilege.

And this is the thing. Here’s the thing where we inevitably fuck up, because there’s too many cards stacked against us from too many damn directions.

Bodies shouldn’t need to be redeemed. Bodies don’t need to be redeemed. They’re fine just the way they are. But all of us walking and rolling our way around in them are living in a society that demands we redeem our bodies. That we make up for taking up space by being pretty, by being capable, or by being decently ashamed of our very shape and our very skin. Ideally, all of the above.

And we deal with that any way we can.

 

*The large quantities of cake and cheese afterward, on the other hand, made a very good evening.