Monday, October 04, 2004

shiny happy feminist body image

Haven't done a collab topic for WHB in a while, but I have actually been thinking about these series of questions for a few weeks now. Here they are:

How is your body image?
What do you do to maintain your body image?
How do you cope with medias fixation on what your body image should be?
What do you think of diet plans where exercise (and in fact healthy eating!!) are a side factor of losing weight?
How about the current round of makeover and plastic surgery shows?
And, if you have a negative body image, how does that impact your feminism?

I'm lucky. I've never had an issue with my body image. During the time that most girls are struggling between the feedback from the media and the true development of their bodies, I was a hardcore swimmer, and had been long before puberty. I was strong and fit, and I didn't have time to consider the "faults" my body might have according to society. I remember once being concerned for a second that when I sat down there were little rolls of fat on my stomach, but forgetting that completely the next minute. I was more concerned, honestly, with the grease gymnastics my face was pulling- which made my natural shyness all the more painful. I was afraid to talk to people when I had a breakout, thinking either that I didn't have the right or that they would be disgusted. In college one of the reasons I cut my hair so short was that I was tired of hiding behind it, and I forced myself to deal with that issue on a psychological level long before I could fix it physically (which I still can't, obviously). Today, remnants of my swimming past keep me sailing through the aisles of beauty magazines and fitness crazes. Although I have gained weight and fallen out of shape, I don't feel that there is anything wrong with my body.

Exercise, since I left the rigid schedule of an athletic team, has been a hodge-podge, never consistent system for me. I do just enough to feel good about my cardiovascular health. Lately I've been more strict about it because I feel I'm going to seed in my apartment, which little schedule to speak of, and no lap-size pool to keep me company. The only times I truly feel bad about my body are when I am not using it to its potential. This is one of the oldest aspects of my personal feminism: I like to be strong, and flexible- fit- because I don't like to find myself in situations where I can't take care of myself, physically.

As far as what happens in the media, for the most part I ignore it. I don't watch the makeover and plastic surgery shows because I don't care to help them with their ratings. I don't want to see any more of them on the air, so I don't encourage them. Diet programs where the goal is weight loss instead of health seem to me to have so many holes in them I can only accredit their financial success on our culture's "quick-fix" attitude for everything. I eat as healthy as my pocketbook allows- organically if possible, vegetarian for the most part. Since I've begun staying away from preservatives and hormones in my food, I've found that exercise has more effect on me. I feel better.

Perhaps a darker secret of mine is that I tend to avoid mirrors, or to flinch if I see myself in one. This is usually not centered on what my body looks like, but what my face does. Media has succeeded in making me insecure about beauty in that regard, and therefore I avoid my image in order to keep up my self-confidence. If I can forget "what I look like compared to everyone else" I can interact and go about life exuding confidence and hope that it makes a difference on the people that meet me. It's unfeminist perhaps to value beauty in this light, but instead of worrying about it, and spending time, money, and emotion on "fixing" it, I choose to ignore it and be myself anyway.

Of course it would be nice to have a society where we didn't have to discuss these issues, nor worry that others are worrying about them too much, or in destructive ways, but I hope that by making it a non-issue for myself I can communicate the same to the people I influence.