By Rachel Sedaker
How many times a day do you look in the mirror and pick apart what you don’t like about your body? If you’re like many women, it’s probably every time.
Colleen Clark has created a wonderful comic that delves into the topic of women’s body issues. She shows an average woman going through her day with all of the negative thoughts she has about her body, as well as messages she is receiving from society about what is wrong with her body. The way she depicts it, it is as though there are voices from within and from without telling women that their bodies (and, by extension, women as a whole) are not good enough.
Clark also taps into the frustration that comes from receiving mixed messages about what a woman’s body should be: “curvy but not fat” and “thin but not skinny.” Magazines are quick to tell us who we should look like (Kim Kardashian, but not when she is wearing a floral body suit), and who we should definitely not look like (anyone featured in a worst beach bodies spread- which includes thin women with cellulite).And it’s not just the media sending these messages.
Some women use body-shaming as a way to bond with other women, as though pointing out another woman’s flaws will bring the trash-talkers together. I often overhear co-workers talking about how fat a celebrity looks after she just had a baby, or even commenting on how quickly a celebrity got her slim figure back after having a baby. Women’s bodies seem to be a legitimate topic of conversation in these circumstances.
The trouble, as Clark concludes in her comic, is that as a society, we still tend to value women based on appearance. When talking about a woman who is not present, people will often remark upon her looks, whether she was pretty or plain. A woman could be a pioneer of medicine, but if she has a hot body, that is the primary thing anyone will remark upon. Likewise, if a woman has a beautiful voice, but a very frumpy appearance, her talent will be overshadowed in most people’s minds by her looks.
It is easy to be discouraged by these facts, as I sometimes am, but we can change this. We can change how women are valued, if we start with ourselves. If, when we look in the mirror, we see arms that have held the people we love, legs that have taken us further than we thought we could go, and a head filled with infinite marvellous wonder, then we can begin a shift in the way we are perceived. And if we can take responsibility and view other women for how smart, how kind, how generous, and how talented they are, instead of merely seeing a body, then we can overcome. As Clark says, “You have a body. It’s not the only thing you have.”
Rachel Sedaker is a writer whose work can be found on the blog Tossing the Script. Her diverse background ranges from a Bachelor of Arts in French and a minor in Art History to a career spent processing data and crunching numbers. She believes in girl power and her heroine is Scarlet O’Hara. Follow on Twitter and Facebook.