Image credit: thisislondon.co.uk
Note to self: when enjoying celebrity gossip remember this –
… women’s bodies are considered public property; in the wider culture, we’ve seen scrutiny of women reach unprecedented levels. In gossip magazines, women’s bodies are pored over – a pound gained provoking headlines that they’re fat, a pound lost leading to headlines that they’re too thin. Circles are drawn around a spot on their ankle where they’ve failed to apply fake tan, around a bitten nail or a tiny, incipient wrinkle beside their eye – which could just be a stray lash. What is implicit but unsaid is that there is no objective standard of beauty, no level of perfection that a woman could reach at which her body would be perceived as acceptable and in control. In the eyes of these magazines, a healthy body mass index could be considered seriously plump. A woman deemed too fat in one magazine could, on the basis of exactly the same picture, be deemed too thin by another magazine. The constant message is that women’s bodies are not our own. They belong to everyone but us, and are there to be picked apart. Women can try to curry favour, come up to snuff, spend hours like, say, Madonna, working out, perfecting themselves. But there’s then every chance that they will be derided for the veins on their hands. There’s something essentially depressing about women being derided for their veins.
A little while ago while sitting on the beach I realised how good I am at picking faults in women’s bodies, my own included of course but that’s not really so surprising because I know my own body very well and I’ve been living in a misogynist world, oh all my life. What I found while sitting on the beach was that I could size up a woman in 10 seconds flat. So well trained was my eye that I could spot her imperfections in an instant. Worst of all I could do it completely without thinking. Hi, could you tell me which way to the cafe? Hey, thick ankles by the way.
I was repulsed by myself. So I tried something new. When I was next at the beach I made it my mission to find something I liked about every female body that my eyes came to rest upon. Once I got going it wasn’t even that difficult. And the most surprising thing for me? Not how differently I started to view other women (for that had been the whole point of the exercise) but how differently I started to view myself. My participation in the hatred of women’s bodies had been every bit a form of self-hatred.
The real test will be when I can view women’s bodies without any kind of objectification what so ever, to just let us be. I’m still a way off.