I’ve spent a lot of time talking with women about their bodies. How they move them. What they can do with them. How they want to feel inside them.
How connected they feel to their own bodies.
The last one generally leaves women stumped. They don’t feel, nor do they want to feel, connected to their body. Because they’ve been taught to distrust it. They don’t feel a true ownership of their body.
And that isn’t surprising when you think of how society has diminished women’s sense of agency over their bodies. Having agency in your body is knowing that you have the capacity to behave independently and choose freely for yourself. You have control over your body.
From a disturbingly young age, female bodies are objectified, sexualised, and criticised.
Through sex education we are taught that female bodies are the incubators for reproduction, with no reference to the pleasures it can receive. It was as recently as 1998 that we discovered medical books had it all wrong about female anatomy. (Read my blog about how Australian urologist, Helen O’Connell, uncovered the iceberg under the tip here).
The onset of menstruation brings a whole new round of body shame, as we are told to hide our natural monthly cycle, suggesting it is dirty and embarrassing.
A staggering number of women suffer with poor body image due to the constant barrage of marketing telling them they are flawed, and therefore should buy product ‘X’ and aspire to perfection.
When pregnant, the ownership of women’s bodies is handed over to society, as we are told to martyr ourselves for the good of the growing child inside. Strangers feel free to rub your belly in Coles, because – you know, your pregnant – you must love people doing that! Health care professionals scare us into submission by heavily medicalising a perfectly natural process.
Is it any wonder that by middle age, when our bodies are going through yet another metamorphosis, many women have given up on feeling connected to their bodies? It’s betrayed them most of their lives!
Yet this is a perfect time to embrace your incredible body and it’s wonderous abilities.
Your child-bearing days are likely over. You are hopefully less inclined to feel the need to conform as the wisdom years approach. Maybe you’ve fostered a healthier notion about sex and your right to pleasure. It’s liberating.
During lockdown, I started learning Nia – a movement practice anchored in body awareness. This morning I joined a Zoom video class on the 5 stages of developmental movement with Ann Boon. I’ve done it several times and grown more comfortable with a process that should feel natural but didn’t for me, at first. The practice mimics the movements we make from our embryonic stage to upright walking. When you start, it’s hard not to feel foolish (which is why I love doing it via zoom, in the quiet solitude of my bedroom).
Today, I sunk into it. I let go of all awkwardness and just moved my body in ways that felt good. I rolled around on the floor, flailing my arms and legs. I intently focused on random, often neglected, parts of my body, like my armpits or the webbing between my fingers. I crawled and crouched, admiring how strong my dodgy knees have become. By the end of the 30-minute class, I described my body as a piece of cooked spaghetti.
Soft, languid, floppy, loose, free form.
I felt more connected to my body than I have in a long time. This body that carries me through fabulous adventures, gives deep, healing hugs, expresses love, dances, naps, works, plays, and creates. I didn’t once think about how my body looked. I didn’t feel any shame or embarrassment. I never critiqued how it moved. I just marvelled at what this body of mine can do. And it felt freeing.
We all deserve to feel that way in our bodies.
If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.Dr Gail Dines