What is that one non-material thing that you are the sole proprietor of? You can dress it up, dress it down, it follows you everywhere, you choose when to lay it down and when to take it for another spin. You choose when to feed it, when to bathe it etc. Your body is YOUR temple and as the preceding sentences showed, you choose on a daily basis what to do with your body. As women though, it seems as if we have choices until those choices render others uncomfortable. Society has labelled and mischaracterized the use of the woman’s body to the point that her worth increases or decreases with the length of her skirt or the amount of her bosom that is on display. Her breasts can be used to sell anything from cheeseburgers to cars, but is told to cover up in public if she has the nerve to breastfeed her child. Politicians organize panels to vote on whether a woman can have access to birth control, and women succumb to the pressure that society has placed on her by spending insane amounts of money to change the direction that nature took. We are socialized to believe that a woman is sleazy or her self worth is lacking if she dares to show any part of her body.
In the African American/Black community, women are consistently reminded that they should cover up, sit like a lady, speak softly or don’t speak at all. Women are seen as whorish if they dare to date, to find that perfect partner that their mothers wished for. Men, and some women gain the right to label women who deviate from the ideal woman that society had created for them. Women are seen as a sexual object that is available to satisfy the desire of others. Her breasts and her derriere are often separated from who she is as a person.She is often exposed to sexual innuendo and sexual images before she is even able to decipher them.
I was raised in the rural hills of Jamaica, and though I was too young to tell at the time, I now realize that we were raised to be ashamed of our god given body parts. When my breasts emerged at 11 I felt as though I was a walking billboard for sex. Men old enough to be my father at the time became suitors. Boys my age would point and laugh at my “guineps” (Small, round jamaican fruit). In the eyes of the opposite sex I was now ready. My parents felt the need to ‘protect’ me by removing me from any activity that involved men/boys. I could not attend track and soccer practice, I was not allowed to play cricket in the street with the boys from my community and my clothes would be bought a size bigger to hide what is a natural progression to adulthood. When I began to menstruate, my mother gave me a verbal guide to not get pregnant. This meant further isolation because I carried her version of the scarlet letter. At that young age, I solidified the idea that my body is not really mine. That belief is the same for many young women. That belief is a psychological hindrance for young girls because they are led to believe that if they are free in any way they will be consumed by the men around them, or forced to live with a reputation created for them by the people they come in contact with. I know this because I carried those ideals with me to adulthood. I was self conscious about my body’s natural development and hid myself from my partner or people in my immediate surrounding. I was scared to date, or would hide my partners away from my family because in their head dating means sex. In their subconscious was a roster of the men who I dated and supposedly slept with, and as their list grew, the belief that I was still a wholesome woman with ambition decreased.
At what point do we (women) take a stand and live life on our terms? We need to rewire the way we look at women in general. A few years ago I decided to reconcile those feelings and came to terms with the fact that I am in charge of my temple. I chose to change the way I felt about myself because I am now responsible for molding another woman…my daughter. I wanted to instill in her the idea that the way people feel about how she looks or how she takes care of her body should not dictate the way she felt about herself. She should not alter her body, her relationships or the way she feels to match these imaginary societal guidelines that will in many ways hinder HER progress.
I must state that I am in no way advocating for women to walk around naked, because that would definitely be a little uncomfortable. I am also not advocating for women to be reckless in the way they interact with men. My belief is that we should change the way we view women in general so that a woman’s self-esteem is not dictated by the way people view her. Lets focus less on the body part and more on the person.