by Victoria McCall
“Arguably, we are more in touch with our bodies than ever before. But at the same time, they become alienated products, texts of our own creative making, from which we maintain a strange and ironic detachment.”
I hated my body. A firm believer in the body as a site of struggle and resistance, I
hated the projection of femininity my body exuded. Slim, slight, and shapeless, it was
simply too gendered. Often men appeared overly chivalric, “Miss, can I help you with
those?” “Ma’am would you like to sit down?” “But you’re so… (Insert adjective to
Flawed logic followed: slenderness equals femininity equals weakness. I wanted
power. I wanted curves (you know because real women have them). Furthermore, I
wanted the embodiment of the black aesthetic.
I decided to manage my body and to manipulate it to reflect my body politics. So,
I dieted, transforming myself from a faithful vegetarian to an undue carnivore. My diet
consisted of (thanks to my undergraduate school’s meal plan options) two large double
whoppers with cheese meals a day for lunch and dinner. For a late dinner I ate two
double cheeseburgers and a small fry.
Unfortunately, my determination to contour, reorganize, and redefine my body was
unsuccessful. I did not gain weight nor did I feel more powerful. Conversely, I became
lethargic. I was consistently short of breath. I felt horrible. A visit to the physician’s
office confirmed that I at the age of twenty-one had signs of high cholesterol.
This is not a fable I want to use as a moral compass for the decisions we enact upon
our bodies. Rather, I hope that this anecdote causes us to see how language and actions
we believe can allow us to concretize and control our bodies are done in a detached
manner. Essentially, I am left struggling with this idea, that our bodies are simultaneously
a part of and apart from us all.
Victoria McCall is a second-year graduate student in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College.