Generations of Body Battles: How I’m Learning to Be a Peacemaker.

Via on Nov 11, 2011
 Generations of Body Battles: How I'm Learning to Be a Peacemaker

Self-Love Can Be A Battlefield.

My body is a battleground. I have spent most of my life waging a war on it. I have vivid girlhood memories of my worth being measured by my waist size and numbers on a scale. I was taught that I must “suffer to be beautiful.”

This troubled relationship with body and self continued into middle school, as I hid my budding curves; into high school, when I combined starvation, purging, and over exercising; and well into adulthood, including during my pregnancy and postpartum experience.

But I am not alone—and sadly, this body hatred is nothing new. I am part of a lineage of women who declared war on themselves, from my great-great grandmother who donned the organ-crushing corset, to my great-grandmother who internalized the Victorian feminine ideal of daintiness and measured each bite meticulously; to my grandmother who cinched her waist with girdles and ate diet pills for lunch; and down to my mother who embodied the emaciated silhouette of the 1970s and aerobicized her way into the 1980s and early 1990s with her food-and-exercise diary tucked in her purse.

This is not just my legacy. This is an experience shared by countless girls and women, beginning at earlier and earlier ages and affecting them well into their later years. This legacy of low self-esteem and self-objectification–punctuated by disordered eating, continuous exercise and abusive fat talk–keeps us stuck in an unhealthy cycle that holds us back and prevents us from being truly empowered. As bell hooks states, these practices are “self-hatred in action. Female self-love begins with self-acceptance.”

Okay, so how do we get to that self-acceptance? As the number of girls and women engaged in these destructive habits increases exponentially, the good news is that campaigns such as Operation Beautiful, Fat Talk Free Week and the NOW Foundation’s LoveYour Body Day are rising up to combat the onslaught of voices undermining our personal and collective self-esteem.

Campaigns like these give us great opportunities to take action for change. I have also found that self-affirming rituals such as banishing self-criticism and honoring my body through reverence and celebration to be rewarding and transformative. In fact, I have felt the most beautiful and whole when I have silenced the critic in my own head, limited my level of media exposure and engaged in loving practices such as yoga that allow me to cultivate respect for my body as opposed to deepening my disdain and disappointment.

Your mother gave birth to you–her body was the vehicle for creating, carrying and birthing a miraculous new life, your life. While we may not always see ourselves as miraculous, stop and ask yourself this question: why not?  When did your body, a source of wonder and magic in childhood, stop being the source of the miracle that is you?  Ask yourself why self-loathing is heaped on generation after generation of women, whose bodies should garner respect and gratitude. Can you switch the conversation in your head? Can you identify two things that you appreciate and respect about your body? Maybe even five? Can you identify one new thing every day?

Respect is the connective strand that binds Carmen Siering’s 20 ways to love your body post. If we can learn to respect our bodies, perhaps we can learn to love our bodies over time, and eventually turn that self-love into personal liberation.

Originally posted at Ms. Magazine. Revised for Proud2BeMe.

About Melanie Klein

Melanie Klein, MA is a writer, speaker and Associate Faculty member at Santa Monica College, teaching Sociology and Women’s Studies. She attributes feminism and yoga as the two primary influences in her work. She is committed to communal collaboration, raising consciousness, media literacy, facilitating the healing of distorted body images and promoting healthy body relationships. She has worked with the new citizen journalists of the LA Academy of Global Girl Media and the peer-educators of J.A.D.E (Joint Advocates on Disordered Eating) on ways to tap into the power of their own voice. She is an expert contributor in the areas of media literacy and body image issues for Proud2Bme, a NEDA project. She is the adviser of the Santa Monica College Leadership Alliance and the founder and co-coordinator of WAM! Los Angeles. She founded FeministFatale.com and is a contributor at Adios Barbie, Intent.com, MindBodyGreen and Ms. Magazine’s blog. Her essay on yoga, body image and feminism appears in Curvy Voices and her extended chapter on the same topic is included in the anthology, 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice. She has been featured on HuffPostLive, KPFK’s Feminist Magazine and The Point on The Young Turks. She is featured in the forthcoming book, Conversations With Modern Yogis. Twitter: @feministfatale

1,019 views

Appreciate this article? Support indie media!

(We use super-secure PayPal - but don't worry - you don't need an account with PayPal.)

5 Responses to “Generations of Body Battles: How I’m Learning to Be a Peacemaker.”

  1. Tandis says:

    Thank you for sharing your story prof. Klein! It is so awful that we have to “suffer to be beautiful.” And I could not agree more that it keeps us stuck in an unhealthy cycle that holds us back and prevents us from growing as person. We only have one life to live, why spend it with negative thoughts. We are only destroying ourselves and the people around us. We have to rethink are thoughts and hopefully gain a more confident view on ourselves.

  2. Uriel G says:

    MEDIA, what are you doing to us?!?!
    Many parents will always be effected by the outside world to try and look better, "suffer for beauty". As a result, when the child sees this, he/she will be influenced and encouraged by his parents, which already been brainwashed by the media and current culture beliefs that skinny=beauty, happy, valuable. I wish parents will be less influenced by the media and what it expresses, and focus more on their child's needs. The need to be accepted, and not judged for having a few extra pounds. Because that will be the reason for that child to be insecure about him/her self. Parents could give their children a world of happiness regardless of what the outer world, media, and school tell them, as long as they accept their children unconditionally without any sort of criticism.

  3. Samanta K says:

    It's amazing how our mothers, probably without knowing it, (just wanting "the best" for us), put us up for failure when it comes to loving our own bodies. My mother turned 49 this year. She has an exceptional figure for a woman her age. Thin, petite, with long lean,legs. She diets a lot. Most of the time unsuccessfully (YoYo-dieting) and unhealthy. It's depressing for me to think, that in 20 years from now, I will still obsess about the way I look, even though I am "old"… Constantly comparing myself and competing with other women, sometimes even with my own mother!
    I do not want to be defined by looks alone. I would like to become the kind of person who brings more to the table. Whose value lies elsewhere, without being called "ugly" by our modern society, with its unrealistic beauty standards. I think it is important for women to find new ways of developing self love and a positive outlook when it comes to ones own body!

  4. Avital S says:

    I think it is so sad that, yes, we litteraly wage war against our bodies. Yet we should protect our bodies and keep them safe because they are vehicles for creating. Women's bodies bring new life, we must protect them not hate on them. For me this point really drives this idea of loving your body home. There is something bigger out there other than the way our bodies look. I think people really need to see this more and appreciate the incredible things our bodies can do.

  5. Doreen C says:

    It is very unfortunate that women do not learn from their past mistakes. History tends to be repeated, and we are all victims of allowing it to continue to repeat. Putting a stop to history should begin somewhere. Weight, size, and the way we look have a great impact on us–and this is due to the media. Almost every girl (4/5) has disordered eating, We are constantly thinking about weight. Throughout the day, many women think about food, weight, the fear of food, and feel guilty when they eat. We should begin to focus on what is healthy rather than the number on the scale. The media constructs images of beauty, and it cultivates into our head beginning at a young age. History needs to change instead of repeating itself.

Leave a Reply