Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The body as sacred

by Eva Marie Wash

I often feel proud that I avoid reading popular women’s magazines, patting myself on the back for circumventing the cycle of vanity and self-disgust that airbrushed fashion ads tend to perpetuate. However, the sad truth is that one cannot fully avoid the pressure to fit certain standards of beauty within our culture—they seem to be ubiquitous: on billboards, on TV, in stores, in our interactions with other people, in overheard conversations.

When the Eating Concerns Advisers put up posters of quotes from overheard conversations that were self-abasing and neurotic about weight, I realized how often women are not only saying such things, but also hearing them—from their closest friends, sisters, and mothers. How much harder must it become to accept one’s body when all of one’s lifelong models cannot even do it?

The film America the Beautiful, which the Eating Concerns Advisers screened last night, illuminates the pervasiveness of our society’s obsession with physical perfection, and how it becomes perpetuated and reinforced by the money-making media and by big business. Yet, for me, one of the most powerful and endearing aspects of the film was when Eve Ensler, the author of The Vagina Monologues, described her experience amongst an African tribe; apparently, she had asked one of the women if she liked her own body, and the woman was shocked by the absurdity of the question. She loved her body for its strength, for what it enabled her to do and to experience. In a highly technological and consumerist society, American women hardly ever associate our bodies with any function besides attraction. Too often we take them for granted. Instead, we pour millions of dollars into weight-loss, cosmetics, hair, nails, plastic surgery, etc., in order to perfect them according to some unattainable standard.

Yet, when we think of our bodies in terms of how they make us unique and what they enable us to do, especially in regards to motherhood, they gain a beauty and a sacred value that the unattainable standard—of which the sole purpose is merely to attract—will never have.


At December 2, 2008 at 9:12 PM , Blogger Robert McGibbon said...

Thanks for pointing out the absurdity in the question "Do you like your body?"

Without your body you'd just be a brain in a jar. You couldn't walk, talk, juggle, swim, or even play hopscotch just to name a few of the bodies functions.

Furthermore, anyone who's studdied a whit of chemistry or biology knows that from molecules to bones, the body synthesizes structures that are so amazing that we don't even understand how they work in many cases, let alone know how to build them in the lab ourselves.

"Do you love your body?" Why is that question always interpreted as a question about "beauty"? The other aspects are way sweeter.

Robert McGibbon '11


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