Sigh, the perfect body. What is that? No hypotheticals here; this is a real question. Better yet, let’s put that on hold. What I really want to know is, who told us what the perfect body is? Who convinced a whole society of people that particular body parts have to look a particular way? Who set the parameters of what acceptable butts, breasts, bellies, thighs and faces look like? Is it the film industry, the music industry, magazine publishers, the media in general? If so, how did they get to be so powerful? How did they, in their grand intelligence and wisdom, become the purveyors of aesthetic truth? More importantly, why did we, women of the world, give up our right to define beauty based on our own personal standards? As you can see, I got questions.
Because as I read about Kelly Mayhew, a 34-year-old woman who died after receiving butt injections in someone’s basement, I wonder about her thought process leading up to the event. I wonder how unsatisfied she must have felt when she looked at her body. I wonder if she obsessed over how big her butt wasn’t, over how much it didn’t look like the mythical ideal we’ve all been convinced of. I wonder if she found a shady-looking ad for basement butt injections and thought, “Yes, that’s exactly what I need!” I wonder if any part of her felt uneasy about getting a medical procedure done in a basement. I wonder if she even researched the practitioner or if she simply put blind faith in the intoxicating idea of achieving Nicki Minaj’s posterior. Lastly, I wonder if her fully informed, loving mother (and I use the word “loving” with all sincerity) ever thought to advise her daughter against altering her body in such an unhealthy and unprofessional way. But then again, why would she? We’ve all had a sip (or a gulp) of the “perfect body” Kool-Aid.
We’re all affected, including me
It’s a lot to carry, this body hate, this body obsession. It clouds our minds and fogs our vision. Makes it hard to see reality for what it is. Because the reality is that Ms. Mayhew’s butt (along with the rest of her body) was just fine. I can say that without having ever seen it because I reject any and all rigid standards imposed on female bodies. Intellectually, that is. I reject them intellectually, with all of my consciousness. But in the recesses of my mind, though, in those shaded areas that only absorb and feel, I am no different. I have felt that same unsettling sense of dissatisfaction. I have made unrealistic comparisons and had fanciful thoughts of “what if,” and “if only.” How could I not?
Apparently, a woman’s body is not her own. It is but a blank screen to have projected onto it the motives and schemes of the world. It is a receptacle, a holding place for lust and distraction. At least that’s the undercurrent. But not to worry, the face of the message is much more palatable. It’s covered in sexy cool and sounds like liberation–or a believable imitation. It sounds like your favorite song, like the tingle of validation, like the buzz of the male gaze, like the opposite of lonely. It sounds like everything we are taught to want to hear.
Hard to believe it’s actually toxic.
Redefining the Perfect Body
When the illustrious Sir Mixalot said, “I like big butts and I cannot lie,” this is not what he had in mind. His goal wasn’t to shame women who don’t have big butts, but rather to stretch a restricting beauty convention. We should all move to stretch the ideas that have been bred into us. We should all move to re-center our thinking around a spacious and inclusive standard that allows each woman to feel complete as she already is.
So that’s where I am now: re-centering, restructuring. I’m retraining my eyes to see myself in a way that I can be proud of, that my daughter can be proud of. Rather than itemizing each part and comparing it to something that may or may not be real, I take it in its entirely and marvel at the strength. I have a butt that cushions my fall. I have breasts that allowed me to feed both my children. (Not once did I have to use formula.) I have a belly that offers me balance on a daily basis, not to mention it grew my children without complication. I have thighs that carry me through life with ease, and I have a face that allows me to experience this world. I’d say that’s a perfect body. Wouldn’t you?