Friday, October 9, 2009


1 a : something material that may be perceived by the senses b : something that when viewed stirs a particular emotion (as pity)

I was an art history major in college and a feminist as well, so I've read many books and written many papers on how women are presented and perceived as objects. But only this morning did it really hit home for me what this means in my own psyche. I'll backtrack momentarily...

I've always been insecure about my body in general and my legs specifically. While I would have been a big hit in the Renaissance, not so much today. I have curves. No matter how much I work out, I will never look like my daughter A, who is both pre-pubescent and a dancer. Yet I see her in a pair of jeans and think, "I want to look like that!"

Since I don't look like her (and didn't even at her age), I rarely wear pants. I'm more comfortable in skirts and dresses and they fit me better. But one day last week, I wore leggings, a flowy top and black boots. The outfit was very comfortable and I was comfortable in it - as long as I didn't look in the mirror and see my thighs staring back at me. I mentioned this to my husband when he complimented me on the way I looked. He responded, "You have great legs. And they feel great wrapped around me!" (Sorry if you're blushing, but this is important to my point.) I honestly didn't give his comment that much thought. I internalized his response as, "You look good, honey. Don't worry about your legs."

This morning the topic came up again and I had a near epiphany as I realized that the disconnect between his statement and my feelings was that I think of my own body as an object. J tried to reassure me by reminding me that my legs are able to do great things (not just in bed, but while running and in daily life). But I don't judge my legs or any other part of my body based on what it can do. I judge it based on how it looks. I don't know if you can comprehend how profoundly sad this is to me.

This body has carried and given birth to three daughters, yet I completely discount anything it is capable of, always concentrating on how it looks. How heartbreaking. I've tried to change my perspective. I've had internal conversations (often while exercising) about how strong I am and how much my body can do. But when you get right down to it, I think my body is only here to be seen.

So how, how, how do I teach my daughters to revel in all their bodies are capable of? How do I help them enjoy the way they look and play with different styles, different hairdos but still keep that in the proper perspective? Am I even capable of teaching them the proper perspective now that I realize my own viewpoint is warped beyond belief?


Kim said...

Having daughters scares me for this exact reason!

I am envious of you for having given birth to three beautiful girls and still having a beautiful body...

Allison said...

Great post.