Sunday, January 22, 2012

feminist cake.

This morning I read a beautiful open letter from a woman to her daughters in which she promises not to call herself fat--here is a brief excerpt:

"I am looking for the small ways to spare you just a few battles of body-image that seems to strangle and entangle so many of us in the war against women. Like the girls that post their supper every night on Facebook for "accountability" and the ones that over-exercise to punish their own bodies. The ones that starve themselves and so carve their own flesh with the word "Forgotten" and "Invisible."...The ones that are terrified of aging.  The ones that feel like they are never, no, never not keenly aware of how they look or what they ate or what they will be eating, the ones chained to a scale or a number or a glossy Photoshopped-ideal...
I will tell stories of women and surround you with a community of women who are smart and strong, crazy and hot-headed, gentle and kind, women who love and you will see that this is what is beautiful, that a generous love is the most gorgeous thing you could ever put on."

I am not a mother, and I don't think many of my readers on this little blog are, either (with perhaps the exception of my own mother).  But I care about this.  I do.  And what this letter best captured for me was the reality that many women speak a message of self-confidence, of embracing diverse beauty and being healthy, but inside, they battle the same war: worries about weight and size and jiggly parts.  Why is this?  We are enlightened, strong women, we see through the lies of the media, we know that our beauty and value as people do not rest only in the way we look--and yet we try to fit the ideal anyway.

It's like we want to have our feminist cake and not eat it, too.  We want to be empowered women but pass on dessert.  We want to keep up our rhetoric about being much more than our bodies, but we want our bodies to look perfect.  We want to talk about intelligence and passion and health, but we still keep track of everything we ate for the day.  We're at war with ourselves.  We're torn between two ideals and we don't want to have to choose.  

What I liked most about this letter was the author's commitment to ending the hypocrisy of her mixed messages.  She is promising to live like the words she said to her daughters were true: that there is more to you as a woman than the way you look (and that the way you look does not have to fit one specific ideal to be beautiful).  She promises to her two daughters,  "I will sing a song of wonder and beauty about womanhood for you to learn from my lips.  I will lead the resistance of these lies in our home by living out a better truth."

Read the entire post by Sarah Styles Bessey here.

Previous thoughts on the same topic.

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