We All Need to Stop Talking About Women’s Bodies
A few weeks ago, my daughter and I were having dinner together, just us. Conversations with a seven year old have a tendency to meander between a cornucopia of topics.
What was your favorite part about today?
Who did you sit with at lunch?
Your friend said what about her brother?
What did you make in art class?
Don’t you think it would be best to start with the Brussels sprouts?
On this particular evening, something Stella said punched me in the gut. One of the kids at her school had said something negative about her body. “Nobody has permission to talk about your body like that,” I blurted out. I think I scared her with how upset I got. I made sure to let her know that I wasn’t mad at her in any way. But I also explained to her that her body isn’t anyone else’s business and she is in complete charge of it. She nodded her head and said she understood. And you know what? I believe her.
I’m going to give myself one year of credit here and say it took me just 39 of my 40 years on this earth to figure out that lesson. That I am in charge of my body. That my perception of it is the only one that matters. That no matter what that one boyfriend said about disliking my “winter layers”, my worth is and never was wrapped up in the size or shape of my body. So if I can give Stella anything, it’s the knowledge as early as possible that people need to keep the state of her body out of their mouths.
Being a mom is scary for so many reasons. But the thing that really terrifies me is my daughter being made to feel worthless, especially about her body. Whether it’s high or low or average doesn’t matter. Is she healthy? Is she happy? That’s all I care about and I want that to be all she cares about. Thank goodness for people like Jamie and Jameela and so many others who are unabashedly open about the judgement on their own bodies and who are unapologetic about their place in the world. They’re changing the narrative, one post at a time.
Still, the conversation around the ideal female form simply will not die. It’s on the covers of magazines, it’s on commercials, it’s winning social media followings. It’s filthy and sneaky and pervasive. I’ve learned to feed my mind with the things that support a positive perspective on my body. I’m determined to equip my daughter with the same armor so that when my filter starts to weaken, she knows how to defend herself. Or she’s so confident
she doesn’t feel the need to.
Strangers are meaningless. Lovers and friends come and go.
But our bodies are our own, forever.
Even at this stage of my life, my assuredness is weak. My daughter’s experience was a reminder that my body is good to me and it deserves my love and respect. That mental muscle needs to be worked constantly. Having Stella has put my self-esteem fitness routine into overdrive. I’m cognizant of how I talk about myself in front of her. And I have zero tolerance for others passing judgement on either of us. I just hope that I’m doing enough to help her be in a better place sooner than I was when I was young.