Monday, 11 July 2011

Apologising for taking up space

An incident occured last week that made me really think about bodies out of place and the space we can legitimately and empoweringly take up in public. I was in a shopping centre using the ladies' facilities. As I dried my hands, a woman came in through the door, and with the position of the hand dryer near the doorway, I stepped aside to let her pass. She said sorry. A few minutes later, I was outside in the food court waiting for my partner to come out of the mens' loos, and the woman walked past me again, through a gap of about a metre between me and a table, and again said sorry. She was of a larger frame. It really wasn't any trouble for me to let her pass both times. This might not be the reason at all (she might have been brought up to say sorry regardless) but to me she had seemingly felt like she needed to say sorry for the space she took up; as though a slimmer woman would have been able to get past much easier, like she was putting me out. This apologising for taking up space is an issue of empowerment and feminism/fat acceptance. Whatever our size, we should be able to walk around, taking up our space, as we need. However, as someone who has not experienced being a larger body, I am not able to speak for the experiences of people broader than me.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Celebrating body parts?

OK so I failed completely to take any acceptable photos for the DYB thing; given the small space in which I live, lack of full length mirror, loss of camera charger, and general lack of time too.

But I can do the writing part of the DYB project that attempts to celebrate what we like about our bodies rather than focusing on the "worst" parts. Firstly though some thoughts on this, but not expressed very articulately (it's Sunday morning!):  As a feminist sociologist-of-the-body I am a little uncomfortable with the idea of thinking of our bodies as aesthetically pleasing or not. Perhaps I could do this in a sort of rebellion against mainstream notions of ideal bodies by deconstructing the ideal (which I think is partly the idea behind academichic's project) and holding up body parts that don't quite look ideal as still being beautiful, etc. But I also think to hell with looking good and doing what society wants us to do with our bodies - which is to analyse them, critique their aesthetics and then make them "better"! Let's concentrate on what the body DOES, how it helps us to move through our worlds, the usefulness of certain parts of the body and how we can be empowered embodied people. How we establish a legitimate space to inhabit, and inhabit it unapologetically. The issue is, in our visual society the appearance of the body is often a central part of how it can be useful to us - Bourdieu's notion of distinction suggests that society and social position are written on the body; the habitus (dispositions, appearance, behaviours) comes to match the social position each person has; we work on the body to try to attain greater capital and a higher hierarchical position in a given social field.

To that end, I will produce two lists of body bits to celebrate: the parts I feel assist my physical and social moving through my world, and also the DYB aim of celebrating and loving parts of us that do not meet the Barbie girl ideal for example.

1. The useful parts
a. Brain! Without the brain I have, I would not be successful in my academic career.
b. Eyes: for reading! I may not have looked after my eyes that well since computer screens became integral to my life (I got glasses for short sightedness at age 21, having been using a tiny laptop to write essays) but this is primarily how I interact with the world and allow a. my brain to engage meaningfully. As do...
c. Ears: for listening and learning
d. Arms: as a tenpin bowler, my arms are fairly strong for chucking a 14lb ball down a lane time and again. They helped me to get on the British Student team.

2. The aesthetic parts
a. Slender ankles. Sometimes I feel that my ankles are too skinny especially when I have bulky outfits/shoes on that emphasise my small ankles. But dressed right they look good. So this week at the conferences, I wore knee length a-line skirts with high heeled, slim shoes
b. C cup chest. Not so big I feel self-conscious, not small either.
c. Legs. I don't exercise but they stay looking nice, and a size 10.