Rethinking Women’s Bodies

Candace, 25 July 2005, Comments Off on Rethinking Women’s Bodies
Categories: Bodies, Women's Studies

Individuals are many-dimensional and I am no different. I share the colour of my skin with the dominant and therefore privileged group of society, but the rest of me, at this time in my life is a myriad of marginalized components. Because I share characteristics of the dominant group there is potential for me to be perceived and accepted as one of the in-group. This allows me to share in those privileges accorded only to people of the dominant group.

On the male-female continuum I stand closer to what society calls female. I have female sex-characteristics but in many ways I do not feel particularly female. My school, work and family keep me fairly isolated from society but I feel I do not look or behave like the other women I see around me.

I am in my early thirties. I am divorced. I receive no government support and have 3 dependents. I have not lived above the poverty line since I left my parents’ home at age 18. Even still, because I am white, I am more privileged in this society than any other dimension could allow.

I choose not to identify sexually. Sexuality is a continuum and labeling is disruptive. I was married. I have three children. But I could not say I am a sexual person. I do not share society’s obsession with sex. For all the people who feel misunderstood as trans-, homo-, or bisexual, I feel misunderstood as asexual.

Regarding my own body, I waver between ignoring it, being satisfied that it gets me from point A to point B, and finding hints of pleasure in how I can use my body as a tool in work, play, and relationships.

I recently weaned my third child. Growing and feeding another human is a very empowering challenge. I like that I have had this opportunity. I am sad to think that I will not likely have another pregnancy. Motherhood opens a door to a club barred to all other people. Motherhood, for the first time in my life brought me a sense that I belonged somewhere, that I was like other people.

Mostly I feel indifferent about and toward my body. Most days I would rather not have to look at it. I generally do not spend time on my own needs or pleasures and so most of the time I am satisfied with a basic cleaning.

What I like most about my body is its fluidity. I know my body today is different than it was 5 years ago and in another 5 or 10 years it will be different again. If I am assertive I will create a body of my choosing. If not, most likely my body will still be here to serve me in some capacity. I am privileged to be in such a position.

What I like least about my body are its weaknesses. As I get older it is harder to stay active. Aches and pains greet me in the morning and put me to bed at night. I heal more slowly. Degenerative eye disease runs in my family. My mother is the last of her siblings with any sight left although hers grows progressively weaker each year. It is too soon to know if this is in my own future but I know I do not want to be blind. My aunts and uncles were very dependent and that is not how I want to live. My perception of blindness is shadowed by the experiences I have had within my own family.

Even though I teach ballet I feel very awkward and uncoordinated in my body. I feel too big, like I do not fit, like I’m always bumping into things. I have always wanted to be graceful and coordinated and have always felt like I missed the lesson in childhood where the other dancers were taught how to glide through space so easily.

I love my graying hair. It is very long and I plan to cut it soon. To me the gray hair shows the challenges I have faced and lived through. It is not easy to be a sole support parent and I feel I’ve earned every gray streak on my head. One of the people who had the greatest influence on me in my teens appeared to me like a modern Earth Goddess with her long gray hair flowing behind her as her calm confidence walked in front. I have always wanted to exude that same energy.

I hope someday I will.


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