New Statesman | A woman’s body is not a disgrace

Thanks for this. The journey you describe is so close to mine that blood is rushing in my ears as I finish it. In addition to not feeling “right”, not feeling competent, not feeling welcome doing physical activities, regular occurrences of sexual and emotional abuse (from different people) over a decade helped to fully alienate me. As a smart girl I also opted for what I thought was the sci-fi, philosophical solution–ignore the body, focus on the mind. The baby analogy is a good one. I do feel a bit like a baby again–maybe about 4 years since I started trying to love my body, to be in it, to experience it, and to care for it. Better late than never, truly.

Sarah Ditum

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Boys grow up by getting bigger, stronger, louder. The things that a male child is encouraged to be good at are, by and large, things esteemed in the male adolescent too. But for girls, adolescence is a time of loss. Becoming a woman means giving things up, explains Deborah Cameron in The Myth of Mars and Venus, and taking up new and feminine occupations: “In particular, [girls] abandon physical play: instead of using their bodies to do things, they start to focus on adorning them.” Somewhere in the passage between being a child and becoming a grown-up, girls learn that our bodies are not ourselves, but a portable property that we must cultivate, display, and trade for the best bargain we can make.

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