The women behind me at this coffee shop are *seriously* talking about how they maintain their teen daughters’ weights by sending them to school, five days a week, w/ salads and no dressing. (Woman #1: “My daughter came to me after cheer practice one day and told me she ate a cookie. She just looked so guilty. I said, Honey, don’t worry about it! I have a glass of wine every now and then!”)
This is how it happens. This is where it starts.
Culturally-sanctioned ideas about what bodies should look like and how we should talk about bodies clearly derive from patriarchy, but unfortunately, sometimes, it’s up to us as women/mothers (the people who bear the brunt of being objectified for the way we look) to stop this nastiness in its tracks. We’re the ones who’ve internalized it the most; we can enact structural change.
So, here’s a novel idea: let’s all, every single one of us, resolve to STOP commenting on bodies. Because obviously, there is NO *right* way to look, no *ideal* body shape or form or weight. Your body is literally just a sack of meat careening through space.
We’re all doing our best here, trying to navigate our lives. And, speaking from my own personal experience, it’s already hard enough to try to be kind to myself in a world that is hellbent on making sure I know my worth is tied up in my physical presence…the LAST THING I need is a chorus of outside voices judging me, poking, prodding, and adding to the vicious cycle that lives inside me. Inside all of us.
My head is full of enough dark thoughts already, thanks. Just like I know yours is.
Here is my pledge from here on out, and I hope you’ll join me: I will not comment on anyone’s body. Ever. EVER. Maybe you’re thinking, “But what if someone loses weight and they look great and I want them to know that?!” or “But what if someone gains weight and they look great and I want them to know that?!” NO. It isn’t your job to comment on the way anyone looks, and furthermore, you never know what someone’s inner journey looks like. Maybe that person has been through hell and back to lose/gain that weight, maybe that person struggles with body dysmorphia like so many of us do, and maybe by commenting on that person’s weight you’re cementing the destructive idea in her head that the severe pain/utter depression she went through to lose/gain that weight was worth it, because it’s her body that makes her valuable.
Stop talking to your daughters about the way they look and start talking about the things that matter: their integrity, their political views, their goals, their dreams, what moves them, what excites them, what they’re reading. Do your part to stop the cycle of red-hot body shame that lives inside each of us.
Our daughters and our girls deserve so, so much better than our current culture. I’m sick of it. I’m done.
No one has the right to say anything about your body, regardless of whether they perceive their words to be positive. I’m pledging, right now, to stop commenting on bodies, and to speak up for our girl children and our young teenagers.
Starting with these two women behind me.
-by Justine Harrington,