It started, as most bad things do, in a Facebook comment thread. In my job as a social media coordinator I am required to sift through the comments left on our Facebook ads and make sure that there is no spamming, swearing or hate speech. This particular ad happened to be for a vintage style high-waisted bikini. I found myself appalled—there was no hate speech in the legal definition of the word, but comment after comment of women hating on their bodies.
“This is great, finally something to cover up the belly and stretch marks I got after giving birth to two kids!” or “Looks cute but my small boobs will never fill this out.” and “It might cover up the tummy but it’ll never cover up my thunder thighs!” I felt like Cady Heron in Mean Girls, realizing that the amount of loathing women will spew at their own bodies goes far beyond fat vs skinny (apparently neither extreme is desirable and women are only allowed to stay within a 5 lb range of some arbitrarily chosen “ideal” weight). Each day I had to go back and moderate the comments. Each day was a deafening roar of “Arms, boobs, thighs, butt, tummy, bad, bad, BAD!”
Ladies, it’s 2014. Is this really where we’re at? Don’t get me wrong. Unlike a lot of people, I believe there are ways to dress yourself that can be more flattering for your shape. I’m also all for owning your fatness. But I am not in favour of picking apart your body like cuts of meat at the butcher shoppe and declaring every last inch of yourself inadequate because of some made up garbage reasons. Although I hate to pull out an old cliché, I feel like we need this reminder: don’t say something to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend. I feel this is worth repeating because whenever I talk to friends about body issues the one thing I’m amazed at over and over again is their ability to point out a veritable myriad of “flaws” that I have never ever noticed.
I know that we sometimes need to talk about the ways we’ve been made to obsess over our body parts, usually because some dipshit family member, classmate, authority figure etc., didn’t have the sense to keep their mouth shut before creating a lifelong neurosis. Amongst my friends I’ve heard stories like the following: “I was five and the other kids called me ‘pig nose.’” “I was eleven and my classmates called me ‘giraffe’ because I was tall.” “My friend’s older sister made fun of my stomach rolls.” “My dad picked me up and joked that I was too heavy.” My personal story is that for no particular reason my great-grandmother labelled me “fat” when I was nine. Nine!
But what I’d like to see is for us women to stop focusing on how our bodies look and start focusing on what they can do. Who cares about having “thunder thighs” when they’re powering you through a bike ride? Those “man arms” are the same ones that can get you from one end of the pool to the other. Think about how amazing it feels to shave another minute off your running time or to add another five pounds to the weight machine. I don’t recommend getting injured but as someone who has suffered multiple injuries (fractured ankle, bruised rib, dislocated kneecap, broken arm) from being a klutz, I can tell you that the moment you aren’t able to do simple things like tie your shoes or brush your teeth with your dominant arm, you realize how much of your body is taken for granted. So start showing that bod some gratitude. Every time you walk through the park, play a game of Frisbee, or push your niece on a swing, remember that your bones, muscles and nerves are all working together to keep you moving. If you think about it, it’s downright miraculous. So pat yourself on the back and say thanks. Your body has given you a lot of love and it’s time to give it right back.