Happy Love Your Body Day! Celebrate by showing your body some extra TLC today and reading our collection of short essays about coming to terms with, and learning to love, one’s body, and the societal pressures that make it difficult (if not near impossible) for us to get there.
This post comes from three interns who have reflected on questions they’ve long had about their bodies: what does it mean to have a body, and what does that mean as to how we care for ours?
Taking care of my body
What does it really mean to care for your body? This is a question that I have recently started to ask myself.
In a society occupied by patriarchy, the strategic molding of one’s body by systems of oppression is often decorated in the language of care. Whether they be arbitrary numbers on the weighing scale which define the difference between a “healthy” and an “unhealthy” being, countless brands which make the process of covering your body difficult, or an apparently civilized society which makes covering mandatory, caring for me is not easy. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that a woman’s body, and the bodies of all those who don’t present as cis men, are easily succumbed to subtle closeted surveillance: surveillance which takes place by way of legislation, commerce, media, loved ones and well, even ourselves.
I’ve fallen in love many times. But then came the part of trying to seek pleasure, which I did. But the hypocrisy of pleasure has in many ways dimmed the fairy lights when it comes to love and pushed me to interrogate what satisfaction truly means for my body.
Most of our norms around relationships, intimacy and pleasure are heteronormative to a fault, and not designed to be gratifying for women. By taking ownership of my body and my needs during intimacy, I’ve made an effort to do so even with other parts of my life. Loving, caring, and nurturing my body starts with taking full and complete ownership of it.
Dancing and the Physical Body
I’ve gotten trapped in the idea that if it was possible, I would rather just not have a body. I thought the most important part about me was my brain and every other part of me was irrelevant. I used to think that if I could just be myself without a body, then I would be happiest. I could ignore the media telling me to change it or the looks from myself in the mirror and live a fuller life just not having a body to carry my brain around.
But as I’ve learned and fought to love myself, I realized something important. One of the things that makes me happiest in life is dancing. I have danced since I was two years old and nothing makes me feel better about myself. Dancing, like all sports, constantly pushes your body to do amazing things. The moves that I have trained myself to be able to do are a testament to the versatility of the human body. Dance has made me feel the most myself than any other thing that I’ve done. Ballet has made me feel strong and graceful. Musical theater has made me feel fun and entertaining. Hip hop and jazz have made me feel confident. There are few other things in this world that can make me feel those things about myself. In this weird fantasy I made where brains don’t have bodies attached to them, I would almost never feel that strong, graceful, or confident.
I’ve learned that bodies are more than just things that carry us around. They constantly make people push the limits and see what they can accomplish. The human body can do more and make me feel stronger positive emotions than just the hate for my body that society wants me to feel.
To Makeup or Not To Makeup
It seems like a rite of passage. First, you’re sneaking your mom’s lipstick out of curiosity, perplexed, but intrigued at its purpose. Then, a few years down the line, you’re going to the mall with your friends unsupervised for the first time, donning chapstick and clear mascara. Some of your friends are already wearing eyeliner and foundation, and it makes you feel like a baby. Once you graduate to black mascara, blush, and eye shadow, it’s like getting a diploma.
I have a complicated relationship with makeup. As someone who hates waking up earlier than absolutely necessary, spending time in front of the bathroom mirror for 45 minutes was just not in the cards for me throughout most of high school. I don’t know exactly when that switch flipped where all of a sudden I was meticulously doing my eyeliner at 7 AM, trying desperately to get the perfect cat-eye. It happened at some point around junior year, and it felt like a good change. There were so many colors, techniques, and ideas to experiment with. I started talking to other girls in my grade about makeup. There was a little community of solidarity where we complimented each other’s looks, talked about new products, and gave each other advice. I also just thought I looked really pretty, which was a new, nice feeling.
I didn’t realize how much makeup negatively impacted my self-perception until I went to college. To me, it felt like a little form of self care to spend time with myself putting all of that stuff on my face. So, maybe I couldn’t stand the look of my face without makeup or was isolating myself from potential friends because the thought of someone seeing me with a natural face felt terrifying. Those just felt like necessary evils. It wasn’t until I heard different perspectives from other people across campus about how harmful makeup was to their self-esteem.
Through some of my classes, as well as in different feminist circles, I gained a more nuanced insight into how the pressure to wear makeup can be really detrimental to one’s mental health. Not allowing yourself to exist without makeup and being taught by the beauty industry, media, and the world in general that your natural face is something to be fixed is unsurprisingly, super unhealthy. Because of this, I made a conscious decision that I would only wear makeup when I really wanted to, not just when I felt like I had to.
I still really like eye shadow and colorful eyeliner, but have stopped trying to look for the perfect full-coverage foundation to cover up any “problems” on my face. I go out completely bare-faced, not worried that absentmindedly wiping my eyes will smear my mascara. I don’t stress about looking perfect in pictures. Overall, this experiment has made me more present in my life, not constantly checking mirrors or comparing my look to other people’s. I didn’t realize until I stopped obsessing over it that not doing my makeup felt like coming up for air. I was allowed to take up space in the world, bare face and all.