It is almost impossible to meet every beauty standard. It is almost impossible for the beauty, diet and medical industries to “approve” of your body, skin, hair and eyes. In a world that deliberately shifts the “should’s” and shames that attacks and blames, loving yourself is an act of rebellion.
What is reviled in one country is celebrated in another. From skinny shaming to fat-hating what stays the same is the entitlement of male-gaze, the disgust and ownership of the female form. The idea that women are objects for public consumption is at the root of both modesty and pornography.
My mum was a fat hater and a fat-shamer. So was my dad. This meant that while I was “not pretty” I had the good grace to be thin and clever. I prized this things because both came easily to me. I can’t tell if I was an exercise addict, someone who coped with anxiety through exercise, or just very active. I would roll at of bed at dawn and do 30 sit-ups, until about the age of 17. Exercise makes me feel good, helps me focus and is something I really enjoy, though I can’t do much, if any, these days. I didn’t diet, far from it I ate a huge amount, but as a dancer I knew plenty of girls who ate tissue to not be hungry. Girls who didn’t eat for half of the school week to be “thin enough” to go out on a Friday. Fat was a mystery to me. A softness I was scared of. Still find frightening on occasion.
Fat was “weakness” and was far too vulnerable to the rough grabbing hands. No I wanted to be hard, strong and never weak. Of course I hated myself plenty. My wonky nose, crocked teeth, my ginger curly hair. Once I stopped dancing I grew breasts quickly. They came as something of a shock to me. I went from a B to a D cup in a very short time and they had their perks I was sort of mystified by this fleshier body.
As I got older, and then had children my weight was the first thing my mum would comment about.
“You look fat, and not the jolly kind.”
“Oh you lost weight, your face looks better.”
“You are thin enough now, much skinnier you’ll look ill.”
Of course my mum was a much better feminist than I was because I had “given myself over to the yoke of motherhood” instead of doing something “more important”. My feminism was “too soft” and far too feminine and far too fat for her.
I have been all different sizes, shapes and tones and while I was more desired by men when I was thinner and more toned I have rarely been happy with myself. Rarely felt self-love or safety in my skin. I fear the toxic seep of this self-loathing for my daughter. I wonder what seeds I have sown accidentally. I have been working on loving myself for years and sometimes I feel I get there.
So how do we create real change? How do we dismantle huge industries that promote self-loathing as self-care? How do we dare to be soft when it hurts so much? How do we find our strength in body, spirit and mind? I think we must make Goddess figurines. Thousands of them, millions. Ones that are like us, as we are, not as we wish to be. Some with huge voluptuous breasts or none to speak of. Some with long legs, or no legs. With curly coils, or no hair. With lines and scars. With powerful thighs and big arses. So that we know our flesh is powerful and beautiful and important. That we are worthy, fat, scarred, skinny and all. For in reclaiming our image as beautiful, as sacred art maybe we will love ourselves just a little bit more.