I’ve been thinking a lot about the beauty standards of the dominant culture since Toni Morrison died. In her first novel, The Bluest Eye, Morrison paints a picture of how such standards affect girls and women, particularly African American girls.
In an admittedly different way, Eurocentric and patriarchal standards of aesthetics can also negatively affect those who benefit from such constructions, i.e., whites and men. And in my case, being disabled didn’t help anything with that.
It’s not difficult to get lost in a hyper-visual culture so focused on bodies and on what people look like. But I have coordination disabilities, so I could never be an athlete no matter how badly I wanted to belong. I couldn’t properly grip a baseball bat no matter how many times others showed me how to do it.
And I don’t know if I got “man boobs” from anything in particular, but I got endless crap for my body for the first eighteen years of my life, and the bullying left a mark on me. I’ve worked to let go of my resentments towards bullies for years now, and there has been much improvement on that front, but some of it hasn’t gone away completely, which hurts.
Internalized oppression, including internalized ableism, can make one hate oneself, and that’s something I still struggle with, though to do a much lesser degree than I once did.
So, today I’m committing to trying to do some things differently.
I’m going to reach out to a friend about my struggles with food and exercise.
I’m going to walk briskly and/or go to a gym and check in with others about how I’m feeling before and after going. I get (unusually?) self-conscious amidst a sea of athletes and built bodies, but I can focus on myself and work to build up external and internal strength.
And most importantly, I’m going to work on affirming myself and my body in spite of my, and others’, doubts.