More than a Body
The following was inspired by the Linked Not Ranked Summit this weekend. I am so honored that I got to converse and share space and energy with the incredible humans who are changing the fitness industry and creating an environment of inclusivity.
That ass. Those hips. That waist. Those lips.
Nod, roll your eyes, hum in approval, suck your teeth, if you have been spoken to or about using this language. This is objectification and commoditization at it's simplest. What we believe becomes our reality. That's how this works. The biggest lie of a belief that we have all swallowed is the commoditization of the body. It's all over media, the language we use, the thoughts we think, the concepts we believe to be true. I exist inside an industry that puts a particularly gross emphasis on the physical and I am here to tell you that it needs to change. We are READY for a change. I am tired of hearing: “Summer bodies are made in the spring”, “Lift, tone, and shape your perfect butt”, “Hit this workout and get that six pack.” When this is how we speak about or to each other, we communicate that we are only as valuable as our physical appearance. We control, conform, edit, punish our bodies until they fit some ideal that a predominantly older white male gaze decided was worthy of being seen.
I am not valuable as a person because my waist is a certain circumference? I am not valuable as a person because my quads are muscular and strong from running 7:30 min miles? I am not valuable as a person because my skin is a certain color? When we reduced ourselves to these physical bodies we walk around the earth in, we reduce the amount we matter. We are not just physical bodies but a heart and a brain and an energy and a purity. So, why do we treat each other, why do we treat ourselves, like the physical makes us somehow more worthy of love and acceptance? Everyone wants to feel like they matter. Everyone wants to be seen. Everyone wants to feel like they belong. Everyone wants to be loved. As a social species, these things are unavoidable. Each and every one of us is in a powerful position to usher in change, to decide what matters, to change the conversation from one that places value only on the physical to one that places value on the emotional, mental, and energetic. We have to change. We have to do better for each other. It all starts with language.
How do you speak to yourself? Do you tear yourself down with language that perpetuates the idea that your value is based on the size of your thighs? Or, do you communicate compassionately with yourself? Do you see your worth beyond the physical? Act in alignment with your truth. Show up in the way that you believe is filled with goodness. This is where your worth lives. It is inherent in every person.
That mind. That drive. That passion. That integrity.
What if the things that made someone attractive were the ways they showed up in the world, both for themselves and for others? What if these were the things that made someone worth being seen? Change the language and you change the world. I have been a part of many relationships in which my value was purely physical. It makes sense because those relationships were rooted in physicality and not emotional intimacy. But, I have also been so lucky as to have many days and evenings and long walks and even longer talks with a person who valued the things in my heart and my head more than size of my ass. The relationships that valued the physical meant less and ultimately did more to tear me down by reducing me to an object, a prize, a trophy. The one where my mind and my heart were valued and respected, and that respect and care was reciprocated, meant the most and helped me evolve into a better version of myself. I valued myself more because the conversation around what was being valued changed. I did things I once thought were impossible for me to accomplish because I had rediscovered a sense of worth in my ideas and creativity. What if, when we were expressing the deep love we have for another person, instead of saying, “you are beautiful”, we said “you are so compassionate. You make me feel safe. You make me feel like I can share the deepest parts of myself. Thank you for taking the time to create a space with me where I feel valued and seen and free to share my thoughts and feelings”. People do speak like that (read: I speak like that) and though it is more vulnerable, it expresses through language and thoughts and ideas that we value each other in a way that transcends the physical. Use the language to change the thoughts. Use the thoughts to change the world.
The objectification of bodies is more than a "female" issue. Any person along the spectrum of gender can have their body treated as a commodity. Do you want your value to be determined by how much you weigh, or if you have a six pack, or if you have cellulite, or if your hair is gray, or if your eyebrows are waxed, or if your biceps are big, or if you quads are defined or if your waist is a certain size? I certainly do not. I have so much more to offer than the body I am so honored to walk this earth in. Don't get me wrong. I am incredibly grateful for this body that is mine. I am grateful that I have a heart that beats and legs that walk and eyes that see and hands that heal. What I am fighting against is this idea that we rip apart our bodies until they squeeze into an unrealistic standard of beauty perpetuated by the patriarchy. Our bodies and our minds and our hearts are sacred things.
You are more than an arm, a thigh, an ass, a stomach.
You are more than eyes and hair and breasts and penciled in eyebrows and smooth legs from shaving.
You are more than one thought, one story, one moment.
One of my biggest pet peeves is walking into a room and having a man rank me against all the other women in the space. Though it might be coming from a place of showing love and appreciation, it only highlights how the commoditization of women's bodies is so ingrained in our culture, that we take that ranking as a compliment. Scenario: you, a female identifying person, walk into a black tie event with a male date. You take off your coat to reveal the curve hugging dress you put on (not because you wanted to wear a dress and it makes you feel empowered but because you felt societal pressure to perform gender in this way) and the heels that feel dangerous to both spinal health and ankle stability (these are my legitimate thoughts on heels. I do not like them from an aesthetic or ergonomic perspective). Your male date whispers into your ear, "Wow. You are the most beautiful woman in the room". COOL I DON'T CARE. Nor was I thinking about my appearance in comparison to the appearance of the other women in the space until it was brought up by the male gaze. If there are any dudes who read this, I'm sure you have done this before. The women who read this have probably been on the receiving end. Many of you might think I'm crazy for having such a strong adverse reaction towards something that was not meant with malicious intent. But here is my problem: It took me a long time to walk into a space and not immediately pit myself against the other women in the space, whether it was a comparison of looks, success, status, happiness, all of these things that are meaningless and impossible to compare. With one sentence, I am now in a ranking system among other women, perpetuating this idea that women are impediments to each other's success and happiness. I am now pitted against my greatest allies, one of the best tactics to discourage revolution and the overturning of the patriarchy. With one sentence, all of the hard work I have done to see women as my great allies instead of adversaries starts to fade away around me.
I can teach you how to do the work of healing the relationship you have with yourself. I can teach you how to advocate for yourself. I can teach you how to get still and quiet and find that truth of yours buried beneath years of socialization and cultural conformity. Ultimately though you spend one hour maybe a day with me or any other advocate for taking up space and living a vibrant life where worth is untethered to the physical. The other twenty-three are spent with people who may or may not realize the ways that they play into the commoditization of the human body. If we let it, allowing ourselves to be defined by one aspect who we are will tear us apart piece by piece, part by part. That goes for both physical and esoteric aspect of us. You are not just a body part; you are not just one thought or one experience or one choice. Get interested in who you are at the core, this tiny light that so few get to see or touch but inlfuences every decision you make. Get itnerested in your essence. Become an educator and an advocate for wholeness. You are the sum of every part of you. You have value. You are worth being seen and heard.