No one else has accompanied you through every excruciating moment of your life; your body has served as witness to it all.
It has taken me my entire life to realize I should be ashamed of how ungrateful I’ve been to my body, how wrong it was that I did not appreciate all of the work it was doing to keep me functioning well.
Your body loves you.
The relationship you have with your body is longer than any you will ever achieve with your romantic partners, friends, or colleagues. Since those dark moments in the womb when you were first acquainting yourselves with each other, exploring what it means to exist as a partnership between mind and body through the most primal stage of human development, you have been inseparable.
No one else has accompanied you through every excruciating moment of your life; your body has served as witness to it all. Through every childhood joy, personal trauma, and lackadaisical musing, your body has not only been present but also borne many of the markings of these events.
Your body is the only thing that has kept you alive up until this point in time and space, to a place where you are sitting here reading these words and utilizing your impossible neurons, mentally processing words into coherent sentences and concepts. Your body is desperate for you to survive—it adores you to such an extent that it devotes its entire self to keeping you breathing, to filling your pair of lungs with air, to pumping blood through those intricate and labyrinthine veins, to maintaining the hormones that contribute to your mental health.
Your body is devoted to your pleasure: psychologically, gastronomically, sensually. All it desires is for you to be alive and happy. It gives you the opportunity to form meaningful friendships that provide you with a surrounding community of support, it allows you to see the sunsets and sunrises, the landscapes, to eat the burrito and macaroni and cheese and pizza and grapes and chocolate and bread. Your body is the one that provides you that orgasm, that sexual provocation that leaves your ego with a residue of sexy and confident and curious, your body is the one that allows the grass to gently cushion your feet as you’re walking in summer.
Unfortunately, it has been forced to learn a new skill in order to care for you, one it was not forced to use in your early years: your body must now maneuver around every barrier you’ve attempted to construct between the two of you. It knows you are not the creator of this disassociation, that these barriers were constructed by a social conditioning of misogyny, from which originate severely damaging beauty standards, self-harm, self-loathing, and diets.
Yet, after everything you have done, your body is not ashamed of you.
When you were 5, and lying on the ground looking up at the sky, or running across the playground giggling, or eating the ice cream your grandparents bought you, did you think you were ugly?
At 5 years old, when you saw your tiny face in the mirror, you saw someone beautiful. You saw someone who knew how to be alive. When did this righteously simple life become so marred?
By the time they reach 10 years old, 81% of girls in the United States fear they are fat.
The advertised female body perpetuated in the media is possessed by only 5% of American women.
An average American female is 5’4”, 165 lbs; an average winner of the national Miss America beauty contest is 5’7”, 121 lbs; an average fashion model is 5’11”, 117 lbs.
When you were 6 and your grandmother gave you chocolate pudding, you ate it. You enjoyed it. And you had a soft, gently protruding belly. You didn’t notice or care about the way you looked.
When did your body become something to starve or binge or abuse in order to receive validation? Why is your hatred of your body deemed beautiful? Why is this hatred the ideal?
When did we forget that our bodies were built with the primary objective not of beauty, but of efficiency and strength?
Why are so many little girls raised in environments that condition them to hate themselves? You observed your mother commiserating over how much weight she needed to lose, your gym teachers stressing strenuous exercise to balance calorie content, magazines and commercials displaying people who never once looked like you, unless there was a Before and After involved. There does not need to be an After for you to be beautiful.
Sixty-seven percent of women surveyed would rather be stupid or mean than fat. These women would rather have lowered intelligence or a morally unsound character than be perceived as fat, and, subtextually, unattractive. It is a tragedy and a travesty that any human would prefer these alternatives to a body that functions at its own pace and size.
Women are expected to shrink themselves into nothing to make themselves attractive to men, by any means necessary. They feign ignorance to heighten his feelings of superiority, they restrict their actions to what men will find acceptable, they skip meals and cross their legs tightly and step aside in public spaces to allow others through. They are expected to conform to nonexistence.
When faced with an eating disorder, the majority of men will refuse to report their illness due to the crippling stereotype that they are afflicted with a feminine disease. Men are taught not only that it is shameful to be a woman, but also that a male expressing any concern for the state of his body or his physical insecurity is weak. But of male football players surveyed, 40% were engaged in disordered eating habits.
Recently, Harper’s Bazaar published an interview with Jennifer Lawrence in which the actress made marked protests against Hollywood and media redefining normal body types as “overweight”:
Everybody says, ‘We love that there is somebody [like you in Hollywood] with a normal body!’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t feel like I have a normal body.’ I do Pilates every day. I eat, but I work out a lot more than a normal person. I think we’ve gotten so used to underweight that when you are a normal weight it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, she’s curvy.’ Which is crazy.
Your body forgives you for every time you’ve ever been ashamed of it, for the moments when the sexist and demeaning examples in the media have shamed you because they lack the representation of realistic body types. It does not need your guilt or your repentance or your contrition—your body needs your acceptance, your love, and your acknowledgement that it is normal, as it is, and that it does not need to be changed. It has loved you and will continue to love you. Now reciprocate.
Hattie Hart is a feminist, political activist, and writer living in a perpetual state of yearning for autumn; she bakes, communes with nature, and argues in favor of the welfare state as pursuits of her passion.