ARE YOU STRONG?
I listen to a lot of podcasts while I work. One of my favorite ones, The Guilty Feminist, had an episode about body capability. The podcast's conversation brought up something that I wasn't giving much thought to, which is thinking of our bodies as a tool rather than a decoration. People talk about bodies all the time, and nearly all of that talk is about how your body or someone else's body appears. It either looks good, or it looks bad because there's not a lot of middle ground when it comes to body language.
A page from Jack Hamm's Drawing the Head and Figure.
Several years back I tried to use a yoga/Pilates DVD every day. At the beginning of each exercise the fit, skinny yoga woman would tell me, "In thirty days you'll start loosing weight. Stick to it for three months, and you'll get the body you always wanted!" For me, getting the body I always wanted meant skinny and cellulite-free. After a long hiatus from the DVD, I popped it in again, and something pretty cool happened. When the posh yoga woman told me that I could get the body I always wanted, what I found was that I want a strong and pain-free body.
How I feel about exercise.
All of this got me thinking about my high school senior year. In art class we had to come up with a theme to make work about, 32 pieces for the whole year, which meant 16 pieces per semester. I picked the human body for my theme, thinking about how it moves and what makes it move. Artists understand bodies in terms of proportion. We've got all sorts of tricks and rules that keep our figures looking natural and realistic. I learned so much that year about what lies under our skin, but all of these years later I haven't been thinking about my own body like that. I've mostly been thinking of it in terms of what I don't like about how it looks.
A drawing from my high school sketchbook showing a front-view of the deltoids.
What comes to mind when you think of a strong woman? After the November election, many women I know took up kickboxing or signed up for self-defense classes. Having a proud, self-confessed sexual assaulter as Commander in Chief can do that to a girl. When your leader says something like assault is okay, it gives people who agree with him a sort of permission to act out. It empowers chauvinists, which makes self-preservation and self-defense - hell, self-offense - an urgent matter.
Image taken from Lireo Designs.
I haven't gotten a chance to see Wonder Woman yet, but the power of having an iconic, super-strong woman in a summer blockbuster should not to be underestimated. It's past time for us to collectively start thinking about our bodies not in terms of how it looks, but in terms of what it can do - what we can do. Think about how strong you are. When you use your body as a means to own your power, those who want to exploit, abuse, and regulate best turn tail and run.