It’s resolution time. The time of year that we’ll all decide we’re going to fix ourselves and scrape away those things we’re doing that make us dreary low-lives.
This means we’ll talk a lot about weight. And skin care. And burning the calories. And eating only homegrown hydroponic bean sprouts after fresh fish from Antarctica. And we’ll all feel for a moment that we’re onto something. The shift into control mode will make us think we’ve slipped onto the path of our best selves.
And then, well, it won't work. Antarctica will inevitably stop shipping fresh fish to your local Walgreens and you’ll be like, dang, I guess there goes my health. And back to SPAM you'll go.
No, in all seriousness, aren't you tired of not getting this shit actually accomplished and not staying on this control mode path to your best self? This is where I hit a giant cartoon hammer over your head and tell you to get over yourself. Resolutions don't work, but not because they aren't good. They don't work because we’ve objectified our wellness.
Now, before I go further, since I’m a woman and I’m passionate about women’s health and feminism, I’m going to speak about this from the lens of the female perspective. This does NOT mean that men don’t go through it in similar or equally bull shitty ways (read The Adonis Complex for a profound discussion on this). This just means that I am a female author who is a feminist. Everything I say can and ought to be applied to a myriad of experiences.
How has our wellness been objectified? The answer is easy. Take a gander at all the recent commercials and ads supposedly on the cutting edge of female empowerment (see Dove campaigns). ALL of them come from the vantage point that the entire plight of women’s wellness is about her overcoming her self-hatred in terms of how she looks and how she feels about her body.
And the response to these ads is always viral. We pass them around like wildfire in a dry forest. Yet, while we think we're doing it because it speaks to our empowerment, we really do it ONLY because they make us emotional, just like those old 1990s phone company ads would immediately make you sob uncontrollably and call your mom or like how Britney Spears’ latest single gets stuck in your head on an endless loop. It’s the science of influence and marketing, baby, not revolutionary media. Those ads are designed to make you want another "puff" of the brand's smoke and it's drug (aka, buy buy buy), blinding you all the while from the deeper harm.
Ok, then the next question is: Why are they emotional for us? Because we as women have been reduced to objects for as long as we have grown fingernails and we feel its ugly presence at bone-deep level. And so we agree with the ads and commercials simply because they are triggers, not because they reflect any real solutions.
And because of that, we ignore that fact that they actually perpetuate our objectification. They do this by fueling the notion that our issues as women are relinquished to our bodies and not to our access to experience and expression. And, here's the dealio: Access to experience and expression demand attention to things beyond our bodies, like affordable childcare, maternity leave rights, equal pay, acceptance of motherhood as position and not duty, sleep/rest/nourishment, treatment for emotional/sexual/physical abuse in marriages, support for depression caused by hormonal and identity shifts, flex time for professional career development, and overcoming patriarchal work environments.
And before we go blaming the media, let's not forget that the objectification of women seeps into us form the start. We acquire our value as objects like we learn the intricacies of our native language. For example, have you ever noticed that the first thing people say when they greet little girls is something along the lines of: Don’t you look nice! What a pretty outfit! You’re such a sweetie. They’re not saying: How are you? What do you like about your day? Who are you? By doing this, we put little girls in boxes, which they then learn to use as containers for their experience and expression.
And then, plop, you find yourself as a grown woman having co-opted that objectification as naturally and subconsciously as we apply grammar to our sentences. And, this means that even your wellness - and certainly your paths to be strong and fit - are objectified into how you look and how you can stay inside that box.
Our society does not yet measure wellness/empowerment on WHO a woman is and what risks she is taking to climb out of that box by believing in x and fighting for y and studying z and supporting a and engaging in b and being an expert in c.
What if our resolutions each year were about how you can gain the strength you need to show up in the world in all the ways you choose?
What if you resolved this year to revolutionize what it means to be a woman who is well?
What would you need to do that? What lifestyle changes and behaviors would need some attention? There’s the focus. Not the object of you. But the expression of you. And the strength you need to break out of that box you’ve been agreeing to live in, even if you’ve been doing it moderately well until now. When you look at it this way, stopping drinking or bingeing on fried butter or not getting enough sleep or drinking enough water or exercising every day serve a function that you can actually respond to with sustained focus. It digs up the fighter in you, not the submissive hand that keeps you as a shiny object in a box.
This is the thing that is misunderstood about what fitness is. And this why what I do has to be called unfitness fitness. Fuck the calories and the burn. Stop participating in things that undermine the real measure of your health. Participate in the movement of you and participate in the global movement (right here, hello) of our strength.
Share this. Spread the word. Sign up for The Hook not because it’s some sort of fancy new program that will get your ass looking good, but because you’ll be living inside your skin in ways that defy the gravitational pull of your objectification. Join so you can be one of the women I get emails from every day from of all walks of life who are not talking about weight and food and blah di blah, but are talking about how they are fueled to be badasses and to do playful, risky, engaged things with their lives - their bodies mere and miraculous vehicles.
I actually need your help on this one. And my resolution this year is to ask for help when I need it. :)