Featured Writer: Lynne Marie Rosenberg
Women & Body Image
Lynne Marie Rosenberg demands a call for us to stop giving a FUCK, and how it’s a two step process.
Women, I don’t think I need to tell you, we are under attack. The Troll Elect is currently hand-picking a cabinet full of chauvinists, men who believe if women assert themselves, or hold beliefs different than theirs, that they are “whiney,” and “just a bunch of dykes.” (A term by which, sir, some of us identify, and some of us do not). The attempts at oppression will grow and grow under this administration as the gurgling death rattle of modern misogyny takes its last breaths. Our reproductive rights will be threatened. Our protections against sexual assault will be diminished. Our autonomy as humans will be chipped away. Now is the time to stop giving fucks and fight back.
STEP ONE: Understand The Nature Of The Fucks You’re Giving
If you have grown up in the United States, you have spent your life being exposed to the media. Even if you grew up in a home with no TV, no radio, no video games, and no movies, you were still bombarded with images on magazine racks, billboards, and sides of buses and trucks. These images are designed with one message in mind: you are not good enough the way you are right now. As long as an advertiser can get you to feel like there is something inadequate about you, they can get you to consume.
Everyone is susceptible to this, but women are particularly targeted, in my mind for a couple reasons, one fact and one theory.
- Fact: In the United States, women make as much as 85% of all consumer purchases. That means advertisers and the various consumer industries need to make sure women feel inadequate all the time, and across all markets, in order to keep raking in dollar bills.
Theory: Women are terrifying. Women must be kept at bay because they are powerful, make up 51% of the population, and are particularly effective when they collaborate; therefore, they must be kept subjugated and divided, or else the current system will undergo major upset.
Women can make humans. That shit is powerful and terrifying. Women can also take the ability to make humans, and decide not to, and that is also powerful and terrifying. Women are great at working with one another, listening, communicating and organizing, and that is downright BONE CHILLING. But, if you can keep a woman distracted, not just superficially, but from a deep, primal, psychologically damaging place, you can keep them from acting on that power. The vitriolic weapon that has been employed consistently to this end, is an assault on how we view our bodies.
We are constantly assaulted with images of impossible [mostly white, mostly cis, never differently-abled] bodies, and told that beauty and success rest in their attainment. I’m not saying just “hard to get,” I’m saying actually impossible. The bodies we see aren’t even the bodies the models have. We are told we should be working at all times to look differently than we currently do, and you can always lose another 5 pounds. We are told we have problems we weren’t even aware of, through the marketing of products - hell, I didn’t even know I was supposed to care about my eyelashes until the pharmacological industry offered us “Latisse.” We hear it all day, every day, from before we are even verbal. We are taught to constantly look for problems in ourselves and others, noticing the bodies of those around us with the same scrutiny as we attack ourselves.
Every time you hear that voice echo in your head - the one that judges body, clothing, possessions, skin, walk, confidence in yourself or others - that is the voice of years of society’s intentional coercion. That voice is not You. Recognizing that voice as something other than your true self, and being able to choose whether to listen to it or ignore it, is the first step to reclaiming power. Once you take the blue pill, and start noticing this voice, as well as all the media coercion around you, you won’t be able to unsee it. Listening to that voice is giving fucks; noticing it and deciding to ignore it is to not give fucks anymore. And it’s incredibly hard to do.
I don’t know what it’s like to not want to lose weight. No matter how much I have written on body image, no matter how much I retweet Lane Bryant’s incredible, body-positive ads, and no matter how much therapy I’ve been in (ten years and counting…), I still struggle with my relationship to my body. From as early as I have memories, I remember knowing (As if it were even a fact to be known!) that I weighed, “too much.” The result has been that instead of solely harnessing the incredible power I have - as a woman, a sexual being, a writer, an actor, a feminist, an activist, a comedian, a human, a student - I have let a toxic entropy of self-distaste siphon away energy I could have used to change the world. Truly. In some messed up way, even writing this paragraph reinforces my narrative as “someone who struggles with weight,” instead of just being past it already. But I write it to prove one point: this shit is hard.
However, since the election, I have experienced a call to arms like I have never internalized before in my life. Recognizing that voice and choosing not to listen to it is a challenge that is no longer about me, it’s about something much, much larger than me. I HAVE to heal myself, not for my own sake (though I fucking deserve it, and so do you), but in order to effectively fight systemic oppression, and expedite the uprising of a female-lead society, which is currently barrelling toward us. Which leads me to:
STEP TWO: Stop Giving Fucks
This is the hard part. I don’t take this lightly. Those voices can feel important and inescapable; if you have ever meditated you know that the mind will grab onto thought and convince you of its veracity in a very convincing way. The bad news is, those thoughts will not go away, at least not for a long time. The good news is, they don’t have to, you just have to change your relationship to them. And I have an idea for a way to address them that just might work.
Whether they are conscious of it or not, men like Trump, Pence and Bannon (or insert your favorite villains from the Cabinet of Deplorables) WANT you to be focused on your body image, so that they can maintain the status quo, and put more money and power in their pockets. They are terrified of you. They WANT you to be distracted at all times. But we can use what they stand for against them. Whenever you catch yourself negatively judging your own body, or the body of another, or comparing yourself to someone, say to yourself:
“Trump. Pence. Bannon.”
I look for the millionth time at the protuberance of my abdomen --
“Trump. Pence. Bannon.”
I notice the thighs of the person next to me --
“Trump. Pence. Bannon.”
I compare my skin to the skin of someone I know --
“Trump. Pence. Bannon.”
Do it often enough and eventually your mind will say, “Alright! I don’t want to say their wretched names any more, I give up! I’ll stop judging this body and others if you just stop saying those awful names!”
Understand this: this vile mantra is not meant as an admonishment for having these thoughts. These thoughts are going to happen no matter what you do. Instead, it is a little trick, to divert yourself back to the mission at hand, with the added bonus of nausea to kick things into high gear. If every time you catch yourself embedded in this brand of painful distraction, you are able to pull your focus back to your breath, to your body, to your surroundings, to your goals, then you have won. WE have won.
Change comes not in battalions, but single spies - every individual deciding to reject this pathology, could result in an unstoppable force for good. For women. For everyone.
Your body is spectacular. Believe that deeply, not to improve your quality of life, but to change the world.
Lynne Marie Rosenberg