Sunday, April 09, 2006

Is your biggest project yourself?

When I was looking for Fat is a Feminist Issue in a bookstore the other day, I saw a book called The Body Project. It was all about the history of teenage girls and their relationship with their bodies. I don't know if you know any teenage girls well. I know girls at my church who seem to have escaped this detour from living, but I also know many girls including my cousin, including me as a teenager, who make the biggest project in their lives the reshaping and improvement of their bodies.

Grown women often do this, but some of them move on to improving other aspects of themselves, like their emotions or their social skills. This seems less shallow. But it is still approaching yourself as if you need to be fixed. So, instead of putting your energy into doing things that you enjoy, you put energy into making yourself better. It is a difference in orientation to yourself and to life. Are you in yourself, a subject that is living life, or are you viewing yourself, an object that needs to be better.

I think one of the basic questions is: Can I trust my own desires? If I do what I like, am I going to be ok? Don't I need to monitor myself closely and then fix myself? Thinking anecdotally, I can group this difference somewhat by gender. Most self-help books seem to be directed at women. I can picture men playing sports and climbing mountains and women counting calories and measuring their thighs. This is a sad state of affairs. I don't know how accurate that stereotype is. Picturing some men who don't work at self-improvement, I realize that the urge to fix yourself is not all bad. ;) Maybe the best way to live is with balance, introspecting and focusing on the outer world.

I thought of this post because my vision is wavering, as if I'm looking at one of those ambivalent pictures where you can see two different things depending on where you focus; like a square popping in or out. I feel an urge to get into life more! Blame it on Spring, if you want. As many women know, dieting can actually be energizing, especially in the planning stages. Anything that makes you feel in control of your destiny can feel good. In the end though, that feeling of getting into life fades when you make your body your project, because it ends up feeling more like getting ready for life than living it. I'm taking my urge to do something and shifting it to where I need more balance: doing something fun. I'm going to take up a couple activities I've been wanting to do for awhile, including improv! I hope this post helps someone who needs it to see the other picture. I welcome your thoughts.


Andrea said...

Interesting post, Braidwood. I think there is a balance to be struck, and that many women I know often fall on the "fix-it" end of the spectrum. I definitely do. Thanks! My roommate and I had a discussion about it tonight on our walk. :)

Braidwood said...

Thanks, Andrea! I love that my post promoted a discussion! :)

jo_jo said...

Dying to hear about the improv. Make sure to let us know how it goes!

On the fix-it stuff, I know that for a long time I did feel broken. I sampled many ways of getting whole, some healthy, some not, but luckily never felt the need to take it out on my body. In my experience women are highly socialized to solve their problems in that way, and I still feel the pressure. Cheers :)