Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The body

A woman's life is tied to her body in a way that a man's simply isn't. People are always analyzing our bodies-whether or not they're beautiful, attractive, healthy (looking) enough to bear a child. It's no secret that our rites of passage involve what I like to call the four M's-menstruation, marriage, motherhood, and menopause. Even today, when we are encouraged to be well educated, have careers and have at least lip service to a political voice (female politicians being treated as they are in the media), the focus is always on the body. Advertisements, celebrity gossip, the well meaning advice of our mothers all still focus on the body.

Yet, when it comes to actually caring for the body, we fall short. Much like a woman's political voice, people pay lip service to the need for better health, especially better women's health but how much of that is actually encouraged? For example, for mothers who just gave birth, especially if they are breastfeeding, doctors advise a slow weight loss. Yet, when a female celebrity gives birth, she's almost encouraged to lose all the weight. How many, "New mom loses 30 pounds in the first month" stories have you seen? Of course, the magazines will sound concerned-until a mom actually doesn't lose the weight like that and they're like, "She admits to letting herself go."

"Letting herself go," my ass. She just gave birth! That's not letting yourself go, that's letting yourself recover! Of course, motherhood is no excuse in our society, we're still expected to be rail thin. Actually, skinny's taking me somewhere. I'm thin. How many times have I heard, "Oh, you're thin! You don't need exercise or healthy foods!" So, because I look small, I don't need to be fit or healthy? Yet, when a woman is larger, even if she DOES eat right and exercise, she faces no end to the criticism. It could be the one day she eats ice cream but, when she does, people are horrified. I could eat ice cream every day, feel like crap, and have the stamina of a 90-year-old woman yet because my body conforms to society, that's OK. Never mind that, even among skinny college kids, they are finding problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other issues people don't think of until you hit your forties. For this, I don't think the issue should just be an "obesity" crisis, it should be a "health" crisis.

Or fertility. Take "control" of your life, even if that "control" means pills that increase your risk of heart attacks, liver problems, and breast cancer, as well as, apparently, making women vulnerable to AIDS. Even if it means horribly invasive surgery that has risk of complications and puts you up for over a month. Even if it means we're the ones bearing the brunt of the responsibility. Even if it means fewer choices when we actually do become pregnant and give birth and stigma no matter what choice you make (I'm not even touching abortion, adoption, single parenthood here-just things like breast vs. bottle or home vs. hospital!). Even if it means doctors who are well-meaning but horribly misguided and who, at some level, have to look after themselves even at the expense of our health.

I'm not even going to get started on the various aspects of the media, sexual preferences or issues like that. The fact of the matter is, this is a huge scourge on our society. A woman's body, like a man's, is a temple. A temple that should be respected, honored, venerated because within that temple contains something more precious: the soul. At the end of the day, the soul is what matters. We need to start acting like it does.

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