My relationship with my body has been a tricky one over the years. I considered my own body issues again recently when I read about Amy Schumer's last sketch where she is trying to buy larger sized clothes at the store. The clerk is alarmed and she is ushered out into a cow pasture where Lena Dunham was sent months earlier when she too asked for a larger size. It's funny because going to the clothing store has been like running a medieval gauntlet for me that results in a slow death.
I learned about my body and myself as I tried on shirts that wouldn't go over my Danish frame, or pants that would not move over my long thighs, no matter how hard I pulled at them. I considered my value as a citizen as each store's sizes seemed different. I came to understand that a trendy dress at Dynamite would probably go over my head to my elbows, and a blouse at H&M would button up with the usual peepshow opening around my chest where the fabric was unable to touch.
For a long time I wondered if I was a functioning member of society if I didn't fit into the clothing at these stores. I then realized that each brand and each store varied in how much material went into their sizing and I became more at peace at the range of sizes that I was fitting into.
Then as I got older I came to understand that my ability to fit into a black dress was not the only thing I needed to look to for validation. But this realization was hard to come by when I saw how other women related to their bodies. I saw a lot of salad eaters. I saw my mom count calories in a diary when I was kid. I was told to cover up my arms in case they were a little flabby. I was taught the right style of blouse and skirt to wear to appear more thin. I was taught to suck my stomach in for the first time. I was asked, "Are you going to eat that?" When I ordered the non dietary chicken wings. I saw women hide their extra pounds with long wrap around cardigans. I saw women who opted to stay at home as they believed that they looked too fat that day.
And then I saw some new role models and read some great texts that allowed me rethink the images that tell me that I should have my best body and that I should silently hope for a makeover on a daily talk show to turn my life around. First, I discovered Gloria Steinem who told me that I had a right to take up more space, to push out my chest put my hands on my hips and extend my elbows. Then John Berger told me that I was probably considering my body or my image through others eyes when I should consider the world from within myself looking outward.
Then Simone DeBeauvoir told me that psychologically I considered myself as the "other," the object of a story rather than its subject. I experienced a mental shift that day on the subway when I considered myself the subject of my own thoughts and considerations. Then Naomi Wolf told me that the hold that the term Beauty has on women is holding them back from achieving many things. We had begun to think what we deserved was connected with how pretty we were when it was our actions and our hard work.
Then came the shift in pop culture where Lena Dunham walked across the screen in Girls in a bikini despite her extra weight. I was taught that bikinis were only for certain girls. She wore crop tops and tight shorts, which are the supposed no-go zone for bigger women. Then Mindy Kaling showed up looking amazing in colourfully designed clothes. She ate donuts without punishing herself and Kevin Smith joked that they were both big people so they were on the same team. Amy Schumer was photographed in the near nude simply holding a coffee cup and choosing not to hold in her stomach. And the rest of the Pirelli calendar featured accomplished women rather than women with duck faces or slightly open mouthed sex faces. So some things are changing.
Beyonce is trying to showcase Black Culture in America. Zendaya has defended her hair and her ideas gracefully. Amy Poehler is celebrating Smart Girls, Emma Watson is openly supporting the HeforShe campaign and Tina Fey continues to avoid Women in Comedy questions. So maybe trying on clothes and considering my body will not be the death of me anymore, as I learn to laugh at its absurdity and I realize that it actually doesn't really matter that much at all.
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