Whose Body Is It Anyway?

Continuing to think about Ampersand’s blog entry about fat and transgender issues got us to thinking about all the ways in which people can come to feel like they’re not living in the right body: aging, dis/ability, gender identification, and so much more.

How serious is body hatred due to fat? Fattypatties has just pointed out that:

“About 8,304 innocent people lost their lives in 2005 due to bariatric surgeries. (Of course it’s more considering most die slow deaths from years of nutritional deficits and complications, but we’ll disregard those for this exercise.)

“According to CNN, there have been 2211 [American] casualties in Iraq as of January 15, 2006 (covering nearly 3 years).”

(If you do–and we do!–count Iraqi deaths, then of course more people have died in Iraq. Nonetheless, the comparison is important, especially given the amount of news coverage of the two issues.)

One thing we’ve learned from two decades of size acceptance work is that often the most conventionally beautiful people–especially professional models– are the ones who dislike their bodies the most. You look at someone from across the room and think about how attractive they are, and they’re thinking about what they hate about their bodies. Quite possibly, they’re thinking that they somehow got trapped in the very same body that you’re admiring.

A few years ago in Fiji, American television took on the task of giving body hatred to a whole new country. (Thanks to Joe Decker for the link.)

And that puts the final nail in the really important point about bodies in the capitalist West, and especially America: your body, which should be yours by the most basic of birthrights, is not your body. The media, big business, and the medical establishment take it over the minute you are born and put an enormous amount of time, money, and energy into making sure they keep it. If you want to own your own body, you have to put in an equivalently enormous amount of time and energy. You also have to put in a lot of time and energy (and a great deal of money) if they own it, but that energy is path-of-least-resistance work: doing what everyone else does, and what you’re told. To make it yours, the work is all uphill and against resistance every step of the way. This, by the way, is one aspect of why people get tattooed and pierced.

So whether your issues are body size, body shape, BMI, aging, ability, or just about anything else, you don’t own your body, unless you do the work to reclaim it. And although that work never ends, it does get easier, and it’s worth every minute!

<br /> fat<br /> <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/diet" rel="tag nofollow">diet</a><br /> WLS<br /> weight loss surgery<br /> death toll<br /> <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/body+image" rel="tag nofollow">body image</a><br /> aging<br />

6 thoughts on “Whose Body Is It Anyway?

  1. I think that Ampersand’s point about one key difference bears repeating: that trans people feel body wrongness *despite*, whereas fat people feel body wrongness *because of*.

    I’ve certainly had encounters with people who, having gone through their own process of body reclamation, want to sincerely give me a gift called “it is possible to love your body the way it is.” It’s hard to respond to that, knowing how much it has taken a body reclaimer to get to that place.

    I’m also reminded of a conversation with Bernadette (one of the models from _Women En Large_) at a convention: one of the cool ideas that she talked about was “coming out as fat” as a way of letting other people know that, yes, fatness is apparent for people to see, but by coming out about it, it upsets the dynamic of the sincere offers of diet advice.

    At the time, one of the first thoughts I had was related to whether or not a similar thing could work for non-passing trans folk.

  2. Excellent points. And I would like to say that, as a fat 56-year-old woman who is trying to negotiate menopause & who has spent her entire life negotiating cerebral palsy in a world which worships the superfit & athletic, that my body belongs to ME, ONLY ME, & may the Gods help anyone who tries to take ownership of it from me! I am good enough, strong enough, beautiful enough, worthy enough, just as I am, & NO ONE has the right to tell me how to live, eat, exercise, or anything else. And I am SOOO freaking tired of this anorexic-ideated culture, which is supposed to be part of a FREE country, believing that each body is public domain. And I am tired of every idiot who comes down the pike believing that he or she knows better than I do how to move my body, feed it, dress it, & otherwise care for it. I have been fighting every day of my life to own my body & my soul & to have the right to live well in this “imperfect” vessel which I was given & to believe that I am not defective. It is indeed a constant struggle, because the culture wants us to believe we are ALL defective, & of course all the money interests depend on making us believe that we are defective & that we must buy many goods & services to correct what is wrong with us. Well, too bad about them, but I am a person, not a commodity, & I am my own person.

  3. And I am tired of every idiot who comes down the pike believing that he or she knows better than I do

    This is the part that annoys me the most these days; I can mostly tune my internal filters to manage my exposure to media messages, but sometimes some individual person starts going on about how I should do this or that, and, well, my filters don’t always slam into place fast enough.

  4. How serious is body hatred due to fat? I think I have a fairly good example. My older son inherited the genes of his two thin grandfathers, & he is also very fitness/health obsessed, believing all the media hype about food fears & healthy eating, etc. He is constantly quoting the South Beach Diet book to me as if it is a Bible, & telling me that I eat the wrong things.

    However, I think that, for me, the capper came yesterday when, during a phone call he told me that his seven-month-old daughter is at the 95th percentile for height, but only about the 60th for weight, &, “I am glad about that, as I don’t want her to be obese.” He actually said these words to his fat (& fat activist) mother & apparently cannot bring himself to use the word ‘fat’, so he settles on the meaningless, made-up word, “obese.” I fear for that child’s future emotional, psychological, &, yes, even physical, health, & foresee eating disorders & body hatred in her future.

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