Bodilyharm

By admin
Published: Monday, August 11th, 2008

By Consistent Transition

So I’m talking to this pseudo-suitor today and he tells me about people who interdate (AKA “Internet Date”). Apparently, some guys freak out about “angle shots” where women (“fat” women) post photos of themselves that make them look “thin” so when they go on their actual date the guy is devastated because the female made no mention of an extra 100 lbs. This made me think really hard about body image and the way that we are supposed to look, how we are expected to be sexy, what “sexy” means and how we see ourselves as sexual and attractive beings.

Really, you can’t fault individuals for who/what they do or do not find attractive. It may hurt sometimes, and yes, some folks are seriously shallow and that’s the truth but there’s a combination of factors that drive our desires. I think some of it could be that biological mess that tells the human race to procreate (choose the healthiest mate, etc etc.). I also think it has to do with how each of us was raised, culturally, and what we find “normal” or “exotic.” These ideas are also rooted in institutional oppression so it’s important to acknowledge that sexual desire for an individual is more than just biological and more than just cultural–it’s a combination of the two.

But really, I think thick folks need to wear it like they own it. Be healthy, find that balance of being happy AND healthy but also bring it like you feel sexy, desirable, wanted and all those other things that people mind you on. I’m having this totally nonchalant conversation about body image and I think back to being in middle school when so many people tried so hard to be white- lightening their skin, wearing Abercrombie, straightening their hair- all trying to be this image of white when inside it was hurting them. And yes, it hurts someone’s spirit to be told day after day that “YOU ARE NOT BEAUTIFUL.” I’ve seen the most gorgeous people turn cold because someone told them that they were too fat or too skinny or too dark or too pale or their hair was too kinky…”oh you’ve got a pretty face, though.” Wow… if someone said the same thing about race or religion, the statement would sound as harsh as it is. (I really think about this story and say, “why do you have to call someone names anyway- it’s not like they don’t already have their own internal thing happening every day. All it takes is one look in a magazine and one look in the mirror- we all have that). It makes me beyond sad and disappointed that this “fat” dialogue means so much to folks, and can lead to so much hurt.

I once did a workshop where people were asked, “What do you think people notice first about you?” There were tons of words on the wall- race, sex, gender, religion, neighborhood, class, ability, etc. But I chose body type. I chose this category for several reasons. I think that body type is a combination of people’s assumptions. People can look at me, and they may try to guess my race, but all they’ll see is a woman of color- maybe Native, maybe Latino, maybe Middle-Eastern, who knows? But most likely, not Black, not Asian and certainly, not Japanese- no matter my actual heritage. I think it’s because of the body and demeanor that we, as the American public, typically associate with Asians/Asian Americans, and I don’t fit within that category- both in terms of height and width. And let’s be honest, when talking about race and assumptions based on race, we really can’t distinguish those from gender. In other words, there is a certain text that is written on the Asian Male body and an entirely different text for Asian Females. This text is further skewed depending on my choice of clothing- can we tell from a no name brand what someone’s class is or if they are queer?

I’m 25 and I still haven’t learned to voice my opinion about this topic. It just seems so difficult to talk about it without offense. My family has been riddled with body issues. My siblings and I watched our mother battle a constant hate of her body. And throughout the quest of accepting and loving ourselves there is a steep learning curve for all of us. I want to be sensitive to folks’ needs and supposed desires, but truth be told- I also don’t find unhealthily overweight partners attractive. Am I doing bodilyharm to these folks by not giving them a chance?

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