I came back to my apartment the other night to my female roommates sitting together and discussing their bodies. Bodily dissatisfactions were exchanged, such as, “I wish I has bigger boobs,” “I want a toned butt,” “I hate my hips,” etc. I stood in the kitchen fixing myself dinner, occasionally chiming in but mostly observing this conversation (as a possible topic for a blog post was brewing in my mind). My roommates gathered around a laptop and began to look up pictures of their desired physical attributes. I listened to exclamations such as, “See, that’s the kind of ass I want!” and “She has perfect skin!” However, the tone of these comments quickly changed; cries of “I do not like her body,” “Eww, her boobs are so far apart,” and “That’s not a cute butt” abounded.
I found it interesting how, in just a matter of seconds, their comments went from positive affirmations to scathing criticisms, but I remained cool and collected as I was acting as a secret agent of the Unruly Bodies class. However, after I heard one of my roommates say, “I hate when thighs touch. I think it’s gross,” I was taken aback. This wasn’t a put-down of an anonymous woman’s touching thighs on the internet, but a put down of touching thighs in general—thighs that I happen to have. Suddenly I had become one of those women with an undesirable body.
Let me just clarify that my roommates are also my friends, and I absolutely think they have the right to express feelings about their bodies. It is perfectly natural to feel dissatisfied with one’s body. But that having been said, why can’t women look at and talk about their own bodies without looking at and talking about other women’s bodies? This conversation my roommates had really made me think about how we as women look at other women’s bodies and how we are so quick to qualify and label bodies that are not our own.
I understand that our society has impossible standards of beauty for women, so it makes sense that we compare ourselves to each other; we’ve been conditioned to do so. We want to know if we’re “doing it right” and if we’re frustrated by “lacking” in a certain department, it makes us feel better to see someone who is lacking even more. But why does the need exist to condemn another woman’s body as “too” this or “not enough” that? Why do we project our feelings onto other bodies rather than concentrate on our own?