As I was mindlessly scrolling through facebook the other day (you know you do it), I kept seeing the same liked page over and over - a comment Ashton Kutcher recently made on facebook: “This is good for the world,” hovering above a link to the soon-to-be-made documentary of Taryn Brumfitt, the woman who created a new “before and after” pictorial of womanhood. And the whole thing got me a bit riled up. Here we go.
Positive body image is to self worth as the sugar-free fat-free diet craze was to the obesity epidemic.
Go back and re-read that. Sit with it a second.
It seems to be the logical response. It appears to be the antidote to the suffering. And it might help some people for a bit. It certainly at least makes us all feel like we’re doing something proactive.
But, it’s just a surface level dusting. We can see that now from how terribly ineffective those diet crazes were (and are).
There’s been a lot of media lately about these projects that expose the world to what real women look like after having babies. And my first statement needs to be heard before all else: I honor these women and their work. I find what they are doing to be extremely important. I look at it as a form of self-expression that the world does in fact need exposure to. Keep it coming. Let’s continue to infiltrate the media’s bias towards a unreal aesthetics by giving attention to real deal women and real deal bodies.
It is not going to solve any problems when it comes to the self-worth of women. Why? Because we are still - in 2014 - identifying and diluting the female presence to an experience relegated to our bodies as objects.
This bears repeating: The work of these women is brilliant. I love their self-expression. I love the idea that they can teach their own daughters better how to love their bodies from day one. My argument is not that they are doing anything wrong. My point, however, is that the fact that these projects get so much viral speed and so much attention is a sign (symptom) of a bigger beast that still lingers in our consciousness and, thusly, our valuation of women.
The women I know ... the mommas I have met ... they are so much more than this body struggle. Yes, we all face this body image dilemma. Yes, we want to live in our skin more lovingly and more wholly. But, I can say with 100% certainty that the crux and the depth of their feminine struggle has so much more context and fabric and intricacy than how able we are to accept our bodies as is. The feminine struggle I see is one in which women confront the need for better childcare options, equal pay, less work place discrimination, flex time so that our roles as mommas are respected in the manner they should be, sexual harassment, maternity leave rights, freedom of physical expression, support for full creative expression, etc etc etc etc etc.
Most women I know struggle to feel good inside their bodies because they are struggling to be seen and heard. We want to be ourselves and we want to be powerful and we want to do the work the world needs us to do. And I see that when women find their way to be truly seen and heard, they fall into an acceptance of self naturally. The itchy feeling they once had in their skin fades away without effort. It becomes completely unimportant, as it should.
The struggle to be seen and heard in these ways has everything to do with basic civil rights. And in a day and age where mommas are expected to do a million times more in terms of at-home stuff and a gazillion times more in-the-world stuff, our civil rights need to join forces with us more than they are currently.
So, by focusing on the solution to this deeper issue as being the attainment of a positive body image, we treat this civil rights issue with triviality. We look past the immense amount of work and protest and true revolution that is needed.
What if we boiled all these women’s lives down into their physical acceptance only and not in the work they were born to really do? Susan B. Anthony, Abagail Adams, Mother Theresa, Clementia Black, Judy Chicago, Elizabeth Blackwell, Amelia Janks Bloomer, Marie Therese Forget Casgrain, Carrie Chapman Catt, Kate Chopin, Ruth Ginsburg, Emily Murphy, Leonora O’Reily, Alice Paul, Gloria Steinem, Sojourner Truth, etc etc etc etc etc.
The solution? Be seen. Be heard. Continue to share/support the work of women like Taryn Brumfitt, but give equal likes and shares to articles about paid maternity leave, sexual discrimination, third-world offenses against women, and other women’s issues.
Be willing to do the work required for the support you need to be seen, heard, and revolutionarily you. Your skin will be the vehicle that gets you there and you will love it more each day for being that.