Friday, January 19, 2007

Five Things I Like About My Carcass

Bit better today. Zuzu at Feministe opened a thread in which readers were asked to state at least five things about ourelves and our bodies which we loved. Sage and various others obliged. At first I thought this was a dubious exercise, especially as many of the answers tended to focus on physical or aesthetic attributes. I am suspicious of the idea that we need to find our bodies beautiful in order not to hate ourselves as people. All physical things are necessarily transient and to me, to say “I have nice legs” generally implies a positive comparison either against other women or against the current cultural measure of what nice legs are like – cultural measures that as feminists, we should be trying to ignore.

I then went to The Gimp Parade and decided I was thinking about this the wrong way. Blue offers a characteristically sensible discussion of this, links to the excellent As The Tumour Turns and offers her own answers. Which in turn has inspired Mark Siegel, who hit the nail on the head;
Those of us with physical disabilities have a tendency to internalize some pretty negative messages from society regarding our appearance. We learn to regard our bodies as freakish, deformed, or simply embarrassing. The concepts of disability and beauty rarely intersect in our popular imagination.
Indeed. It is a similar mechanism with non-disabled women of course, who are often programmed with ideas of perfection to which they cannot possibly measure up to - not because they have any impairment, but just because they are human beings as opposed to architypes. But we all have things about our bodies which are attractive or otherwise enjoyable. We are none of us so elevated that we don't live in the physical world or lack appreciation for physical things.

As you can tell, brain fog and a tendency to think too hard aren't doing me many favours this week.

So here's mine, all physical stuff:
  1. I like my hands. Mostly because they are extremely useful, they type and write very quickly, they can do all sorts of weird and wonderful things. And they also look pretty good; they are slender but padded enough not be bony. My fingers are long and I manage to keep my nails in good nick, usually varnished in a rare display of vanity.
  2. I like the fact that, in my opinion, I can carry some extra weight without it showing as much as I might. This would be on account of my height and my bizarre shape, which means that even when I was properly obese, I still went in in the middle.
  3. I like the fact that I can walk. It is certainly overrated in the wider world, but it is a massive advantage. Just now (excluding this week) as I’m gradually able to stand up for longer and walk a bit further, I am bursting with gratitude that I have this potential.
  4. I like the fact that although I’m struggling to find things which I particularly like about my appearance, there is nothing about my appearance which I consider an ongoing source of misery. Which is nothing to do with the way I look, just the fact that I know it doesn’t matter that much.
  5. I like my capacity for pleasure. I have an entirely amateurish theory that illness and particularly chronic pain may actually increase a person’s capacity for physical pleasure. If you feel okay most of the time, then you’re only a few notches below feeling good. Whereas when you’re sick and in pain, feeling good is a far more significant improvement. The most obvious example being orgasm; orgasm kills pain, but if you weren’t in any pain to begin with, that’s not going to be all that spectacular. Hmm, perhaps I am at risk of starting the new fetish of stubbing one’s toe directly before making love… Anyway, I do feel that I get far more pleasure from food and music and all those kinds of things much more than a lot of people.
I could only think of five, but I'm quite chuffed with my own immodesty given the week I've had.


Sage said...

I was motivated to do the meme after I made a comment somewhere that a dress can accentuate my beautiful, hairy legs, and another poster was totally grossed out by this. Beauty is a matter of perception which can be altered by the surroundings. And now, after reading your post, I'm wondering whether or not beauty and/or pleasure is necessarily relative. Hairy legs are beautiful only after surrounding yourself with other hairy women, but surrounded with mainstream images, they don't hold up. Or orgasm is better when it's also a relief of chronic pain. Or, as I said in my post, writing about having straight teach makes me feel like I'm insulting anyone without. Can't we perceive beauty without comparason?

I have no further analysis, just thought I'd throw that out there!

The Goldfish said...

That was such a crap post, I'm really wading through fog today. My apologises.

Yes Sage, to answer your question, I think we can. If I am brighter tomorrow I shall attempt to consider this further.

Sage said...

I don't think your post is crap at all. I found it very provocative. I love it when your writing gets me thinking.

Anonymous said...

I read the original post and Blue's post and Mark's post. AND I have been sitting on this.

Dammit, I AM good looking. No, I am spectacularly beautiful.

1. I like my eyes.
2. I like my the curves of my ass.
3. I like my shoulders/collar bones.
4. I like my waist.
5. I LOVE my feet.

Mary said...

Goldfish, I really really like point number 4.

Anonymous said...

"stubbing one’s toe directly before making love…"




Anonymous said...

I take your point about beauty... 'if one is in the business of selling things, one does what is necessary in order to sell them' but when exactly do you equip us with responsibility as consumers? I would not have thought it is particularly an issue for women at this time over and above other times. When can we be assumed to make intelligent decisions about our purchasing and our ideas of beauty? You have assumed that we (I am a man - if gender specification is important here, I have assumed the pronoun as a descriptor of 'we purchasers' - I buy skin care, I look in the mirror, I observe, more than ever, the eroticised male in popular culture) that 'we' purchase with no control, that we blindly consent to the myth of repair and perfection; this is to assume a consumer without will. To a certain extent these mechanisms are more transparent than they have ever previously been and I think there is a much broader interplay of image and consumption at work here. I would suggest that the consumer is cleverer than ever at steering his or her path, with a certain amount of irony and creativity. Of course we must be cautious, but let's not to oppress ourselves by precipitating the cultural models that we already think are bearing down upon us and end up neurotic when we could have been serene. We only feel demoralised if we accept the model that condemns us, we only only 'deviate' when we hold up this model to begin with. It's not about money, it's about language.

And now that's me bushed.