It is possible to feel bad about your body.
It is possible to be a feminist and feel bad about your body.
It is possible to be a woman who weighs in under what society deems “fat”, be a feminist, and feel bad about your body.
It is even possible to look at your not-fat body, decide it’s not fat enough, be a feminist, and feel bad about your body.
And you may tell me, well, hell, you have it better, woman, but I don’t think any woman has it any better than another when it comes to body image. I think we’re all taught to have insecurities, no matter our shape, no matter our size. My insecurity is no better and no worse than yours. I talk about mine; it doesn’t invalidate yours.
I may struggle from time to time with portrayals of what I am supposed to be.
I may struggle in a not-very-feminist way. My mother may look at me struggling and decide that a good session of kvetching about women who appear to be all body and no brain is perfectly in order. This is a coping mechanism, to get me through the part where I internalize every idea that the all-horndog, no-gentleman voices (the loudest voices) are trying to hammer into my head. This is not what I believe. This is venting, and eventually I do come around to the idea that she made choices that empowered her. I will still wish she had made choices that empowered her in other ways, because her empowerment is a reinforcement of a nasty status quo. Her empowerment subjugates me. But I never, ever, ever have the right to tell her this except veiled in a blog post.
And I may wish that we were all empowered in this way, without fearing that someday someone will find those pictures and deny us work. Without considering, even for one minute, that we still live in a Madonna/whore dichotomy. Without knowing exactly where we have to stand in order to be taken at all seriously. We are all Madonnas. We are all whores. The denial of either aspect of womanhood hurts us, one and all.
I may decide, for a few days, to slink around in pencil skirts and tight jeans, and to reject a dress option that makes me look vaguely pregnant. I want people to look at me because I am attractive, not because my uterus might have a guest. I may vamp up my makeup a touch. I want people to look at me because I am beautiful, not because they are having trouble placing my age between thirteen and thirty. Apparently I can pass for either.
If you tell me I’ll be grateful for that when I’m fifty, I will have to resist the urge to sock you in the jaw. I hope I’ll have the kind of words that punch hard enough instead. Fifty is not twenty-six is not now, and guessing out loud at a person is rude. No, I take that back; guessing out loud in a blatant way is not rude. It’s at least an acknowledgement that you are confused. Guessing out loud by assuming I am a teenager is rude. Ask your children, later, if they know a small, bespectacled person with curly hair and an auntie living abroad. Ask them if they go to school with me. And ask my partner if he’s looking to buy me a gift; don’t ask if his little girl’s nails are natural. Especially when they are cut short. People who assume? You are my favorite people to cut down to size.
It is possible to be a feminist and young — it is possible to be a feminist and insecure — it is possible to experience the ugly intersection of those labels even when I am, by the numbers, well within the socially acceptable range. (Though I am not so much an hourglass as an egg timer.) It is possible to be a feminist and care about these things, and I don’t care to be told otherwise.