This entry is sparked by this fantastic shot from Adiposivity. A room full of fat Black women in various stages of naked.
First a story.
The first time I joined a gym I was 20 or so and I was more than intimidated. The first few times I went I did not brave the locker room. I looked at the other women and found myself lacking. I convinced myself for the first few times I went that I'd try it out when I'd lost an inch off of my waist.
At some point during my first few weeks my schedule changed and I had to use the facilities. I remember being that woman in the tiny toilet stall trying to change and clean up and all and finally after I almost fell into the toilet I gave up and went into the main locker room.
I remember looking around and being amazed at the bodies I saw. I saw that women way thinner and more tight than me had things like stretchmarks and pockets of cellulite. I saw what I already knew intellectually, I saw that there are many many different ways bodies look.
Sometimes it makes me so sad that in America it is so damn difficult to ever see naked bodies without it being in a sexualized context. Now note I say sexualized and not sexual.
As a young person I remember never seeing other young bodies in a context where it wouldn't be sexualized for me to look at them openly. In America we have decided through years of a puritanical heritage that is at the same time quite perverse, that just seeing a naked body will do bad things to our children and will make us all into rapacious sex beasts.
I'm not talking about showing porn. I'm talking about something like this:
That is a photograph of body builder Lisa Lyon as done by my favorite photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. He did a number of photographs of her and this one is my favorite.
Now to my eye this is a pose of a mighty and powerful woman. She reminds me of the way I might imagine a classical female Olympian to have been had they had them in ancient times.
For a large number of people just the fact that she is naked makes it OHNOES SEX when at least in my view it's not.
That is a whole other post. Back to bodies.
I wish (even in the age of the internet) that it was a more acceptable and easier for us to seek out images of bodies that haven't been digitally altered. Every day naked people.
Judging by what people say about seeing Fat folks outfit posts, to the reaction of women I've known who have seen other womens genitals for the first time and they are amazed at the differences and similarities, I think so many of us would be so much less fucked up if we had those images.
Back to Adiposivity for a minute.
I saw that photo of those Black women and I have to be honest I had such a profound moment of sadness. I have never been in a room with that many other naked Black women with that much joy.
I'm almost 34 years old and it has never happened.
I have to honestly wonder if as I was developing and trying to figure out self esteem and body image, what if I'd seen photos like that? Not presented as cautionary tales or headless fatties. What if I had been exposed to the many shapes and formalations of the female body, could I have escaped some of the awful things?
I think it would have saved me a lot of grief.
Grief about devloping stretch marks and having cellulite. Grief about being asymmetrical in spots etc etc.
I fully believe that for sighted people it's imperative to back up the intellectual knowledge with visuals.
Yes intellectually I'm pretty sure we all know that all bodies look different. But seeing those differences I think hammers that home and I would hope can be used as a tool to help bolster self esteem and cultivate a body image that isn't tied up in a mythological ideal.
I believe that normalizing the foibles of the human body including fatness, asymmetry, saggy balls, hairy asses, cellulite, pock marks, moles, freckles in weird places, chicken legs, knobby knees, forty seven flavors of pussy lips, limps, scars, pigeon toes, sway backs, uneven boobs, chubby pudenda, small dicks ALL OF THE THINGS- would go so far in recalibrating the view of the human body.
I believe that body politics must start like charity at home. In this case home being your body. I believe that in order to show ourselves love we must let go of the idea that anyone is normal. Normal should not be the thing that we measure ourselves against.
I don't believe we should be measuring ourselves against each other because every single human body perambulating around the world is different. Once we do that we can each start stepping out of the culture that demands us be in competition which I think is also important.
Once we stop comparing ourselves, we can appreciate each other. And no I'm not talking about attraction. I'm talking about appreciating that hey, Shannon has a different ass than I do and that's okay.
Now imagine if you will the idea that you, yes you whether or not you're "healthy" or able bodied think about how wonderful it would be if there wasn't pressure to be Healthy (as in the mainstream medical/media ideas of Health with a capital H).
What if instead because you have a body and you'd like to feel good or even just better, if you could make your decisions about your body without that moralistic pressure?
This is overlong.
Okay HOMEWORK my homies. I really want you to spend maybe five minutes at some point thinking about how it impacts/might impact you to see bodies (whatever flavor of bodies) naked more often? How would it make you feel for it not to be a shock to see a naked fat person or a naked person with a non normative body?
Part two tomorrow.
ALSO holy shit y'all. I have a new essay that is going to be published soon and I am so proud of it. Watch for the link Thursday or Friday.