I often write about the media’s effect on women. I rarely write about my own feelings about my body. This past week, however, I had a very interesting conversation with a group of women about their bodies. To avoid naming names, I will describe them this way.
All of these women are smart and have very good professional jobs. One runs a large nonprofit organization, one is vice president of a financial institution, one was her college class valedictorian, and I have a doctorate.
Betty hates her body. She says it’s lumpy. She has two children who are mostly grown up. But she is very insecure about her belly. She goes out of her way to snack all day long on specific types of food in order to keep her belly from feeling bloated. What she nibbles on all day would leave me nauseous because I would be so hungry. And she is very self-conscious about the way she looks. In my eyes, she is a skinny, pretty woman.
Jane, like Betty, is very careful about what she eats. She’s a vegan, so not only does she eat very little, she only eats beans and veggies. She is also very concerned about feeling bloated. She is less “dysmorphic” than Betty but is very attuned to her body’s changes and strict with her diet.
Sally loves her body. She thinks her boobs are too small but she knows she’ll never have the “perfect” body as it is a myth. She’s cute and comfortable in her skin. And I will add, out of the four of us, she is a woman of color.
And then there’s me. So there’s a lot I love about my body. My legs. My hair. My ass is okay, while a little flat. I’m told I have great tits, but they are definitely a little too big to be lugging around my whole life and have certainly contributed to my shoulder issues as I’ve aged. My stomach is the source of my “dysmorphia,” but we have had a bad relationship since I was in high school and was what one would call skinny. It is what it is, although as I have moved into my 30s and 40s, I’ve certainly had to be more careful about WHAT I put into my body as gaining weight comes much more easily than it did in my 20s.
So what’s the point of Jane’s, Betty’s, and Sally’s body hatred you might ask? I guess what is most illuminating about this conversation is how obsessed these very smart women (particularly Betty and Jane) are about their bodies. They spend a good deal of time fretting over how they look and what they eat, and when I look at them, I see very smart, beautiful women. I just wonder how much time they could spend doing other things to change the world if a little less time was spent worrying about their body size or the size of their bellies.