Monday, 19 November 2012

Up for grabs

Other people's bodies seem to be fair game these days. They can't just be quietly enjoyed and apprec-iated. Everyone has to have an opinion on them, the more scathing and dismissive the better.

I know, I've done my fair share of presumptious commenting on other people's bodies, weighing in on something that's none of my business.

I've aired my opinions on their clothes, their size, their voice, their hair, or anything else that catches my attention. And what's all that got to do with me? In a word, nothing.

It's entirely a matter for them. Just as what I do with my own body is my business and not that of every opinionated Tom, Dick and Harriet who happens to see me.

Some people go even further. They presume to tell women if they can have abortions or use contraception or get sexual advice. Or keep their clitorises. And usually it's men who issue these gratuitous instructions. Who gave them the right?

There's a term for all this unwanted opinionising. A very accurate term. Body fascism. Because isn't that what it is? Or at the very least authoritarianism.

No wonder so many women dislike their own bodies and wish they had a different one. How can anyone have body-confidence if any passing stranger feels entitled to pass judgment? Just a critical glance can be disconcerting.

Random strangers and their opinions are bad enough, but once the journalists start wading in, it can be seriously destructive. Thousands of people are told that celebrity X or Y is badly dressed, too thin, has stringy hair or looks like they just crawled out of bed. Who gave these superannuated hacks the right to trash other people's bodies so freely?

It's about time we reclaimed the integrity of the human body, instead of treating it as another commodity to be shaped by public whims.

PS: Just to clarify, I don't include loved ones here. I think they're entitled to have opinions on their partner's/ friend's body. Of course those opinions may not be heeded....

34 comments:

Suburbia said...

So hard not to judge though isn't it?!

Nick said...

Suburbia: It is, it is. Especially when the other person seems to be consciously defying any notion of flattering attire.

Leah said...

Well, you know what I think about this phenomenon...and just to add, I don't think friends and loved ones should be allowed to opine unless the opinions are highly positive. I'd never tolerate a partner or a friend who criticized my body!

kylie said...

our friends and loved ones are the people who are supposed to validate us when the rest of the world does not

Grannymar said...

I was called a 'Page 3 Girl' twice on Friday, but since it was from two of my brothers, I knew they had to be teasing.

Nick said...

Leah: I think in general yes, you expect friends and loved ones to be positive and complimentary. You'd have to be very relaxed about your body to tolerate any negative comments.

Kylie: Basically I agree, but I think sometimes the honest truth from someone who has your best interests at heart is okay.

Nick said...

Grannymar: I hope you never had any ambitions to be a genuine Page 3 Girl! A fate worse than death....

Grannymar said...

Never, Nick. My brothers saw page 3 in the Irish Times before I did!

kylie said...

a negative comment from a loved one should only happen if it has been asked for and put in the very most diplomatic terms possible. hiding behind wanting somebody's best interest is very easy and a cop out

Leah said...

But Nick, why would anyone ever want to criticize the body of someone they loved? The impulse shouldn't even be there. There is NEVER a situation where that wouldn't be unkind!

Leah said...

i guess i have a really hard line on this

Bijoux said...

What people do with their bodies is a hot topic in the US, for certain. We now have cities making laws about the food and drinks you can consume, and then of course you have seat belt laws, helmet laws, etc. I waffle back and forth on the topic.

Wisewebwoman said...

This kind of talk always puts me in mind of when there is one finger pointing out at you there are three pointing back at me.

My body is none of anyone's business and the same rule applies to everyone else.

We keep getting swept up in the most mundane things, don't we?

XO
WWW

Nick said...

Grannymar: The page 3 tradition is beyond comprehension.

Kylie: That's a no then! I hasten to add I'm not in the habit of passing negative comments on my loved ones....

Leah: What, never? I'm not sure about that. But I respect your firm line on this, we all need to be told our bodies are fine just as they are.

Leah said...

Well...it's more than that we need to be told, we need to be able to believe it! I can't believe i'm the only person who just loves the loved bodies unconditionally?

Nick said...

Bijoux: I suppose things like seat belts and helmets are a matter of public safety so there's a valid reason to interfere with private freedoms.

www: Some people seem to delight in passing comment on other people's bodies at every opportunity, and see nothing wrong with doing so.

John Gray said...

oh nick
lets see a photo of your buns and I will give you my honest assessment!

Nick said...

Leah: Yes we definitely need to be told, we need someone to reassure us when we're feeling insecure about ourselves.

John: My buns are still in pretty good shape actually. You're welcome to come round and fondle them any time....

Secret Agent Woman said...

I'm with Leah and Kyle on the issue of loved ones making critical comments about the bodies of the people they love. Never. You can make a comment about a loved one's health and, if asked, make a gentle comment about clothing (of the "Well, I think the green skirt is much more flattering than this one" variety), but their bodies? No. I only compliment.

Nick said...

Agent: I suppose the obvious comment is "But if you love them, why would you criticise them?" Personally I don't mind a few mild criticisms, but if your partner habitually criticises your body, it's time to quit before you lose your self-respect.

John Gray said...

I'll wash my hands!

Nick said...

John: You'd better! I wouldn't want the residue from a dozen mucky animals smeared on my pristine flesh!

Secret Agent Woman said...

Huh. I can't think of a single criticism I want lobbed at my body by someone who loves me. What exactly are a "few mild criticisms" you are just fine to hear?

Nick said...

Agent: For example, countless people over the years have told me I'm too thin and I should gain a bit of weight. One person even suggested I was anorexic! But I don't find it offensive, merely irritating.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Maybe it's a gender difference. I'd find it offensive.

Nick said...

Agent: You might be right. I know how sensitive women are about ANY aspect of their appearance (understandably so when they're constantly judged and scrutinised). I guess if I were a woman and my figure was so remarked-on, I might also object to comments on my thinness.

Jenny Woolf said...

I have never, ever wanted to be even a minor celebrity and one of the reasons why is that I wouldn't like people passing comments on me all the time. It would irritate the hell out of me.

Nick said...

Jenny: Me too. The relentless tearing-apart must make a celebrity's life absolute hell at times. Their bodies just become media footballs.

Rummuser said...

My recent vacations with loved ones whose idea of showing their love for me was to feed me has resulted in the very obvious gain in weight. On my return home, three "well wishers" commented yesterday on that phenomenon and I felt like sending for an AK47! You have indeed touched a nerve there Nick.

Nick said...

Ramana: I feel your pain! Why do people insist on (a) feeding you up (b) commenting on the extra pounds when you get home? But could you not have gently resisted the unwanted plates of food?

kylie said...

Did you ever try refusing food in a different cultural environment, Nick? for so many people it is truly impossible and can be really offensive

Nick said...

Kylie: No I haven't, and you may well be right. I know there are places where eating everything in sight is considered the height of good manners!

blackwatertown said...

The Daily Mail is what comes to mind when I think of the spreading of pernicious nonsense of body image. It had a piece about Stella Mccartney's (I think) knees the other day. Maddening.

Nick said...

Paul: The Daily Mail is a notorious offender but I find gratuitous comments about people's bodies are common right across the media.