Roxane Gay has fast become one of the most influential writers of her generation through her honest, poignant and at times utterly devastating writing style which focuses on the raw emotion and struggles of her past and present. What drew me to her writing was the inhibition in which she yields when identifying herself as a flawed being; just as we all are. There is no element of a pedestal placing perfection with which she depicts herself and her past experiences.
After a recently published Mamamia article which abhorrently played up her supposed ‘victimisation’ of being a ‘fat lady’ who is challenged by everyday tasks she has come out with unheralded grace and honesty in her response. She reminds us all that yes she struggles with her image, as we all do, but that no one is perfect. Most importantly she highlights that in spite of any circumstance, no other person has the right to comment on her body, as it is entirely her own.
I was reminded of this recently on a personal level within my own life. It’s no secret that I have struggled with self image issues and fluctuating weight for years now. I admit, just as Gay does, that my own self image and my confidence which are linked to my body are works in progress. My issues with anxiety and control mean that I go through periods in which I am debilitated by the act of attempting to have entire power over what I consume and when I do it. I’ve learnt techniques to assist me in easing these reigns and exercise has become one mechanism to thwart my spiralling. I am all too aware of these things on a consistent basis. However when someone decides to go ahead and make an uninvited sweeping judgment statement on whether I am or not eating enough solely based on the way my body looks right now, I am kind of bothered…
The idea of snap judgment and the mere ability to comment on something so personal as someone else’s body seems absurd and completely off limits to me. I’m thoroughly taken aback that someone could obtain a mere glimpse into my existence, mainly terms of what my body looks like to them and then somehow come to the conclusion that my entire lifestyle is off (and that they have the right to comment on it). I just don’t get it.
I know my annoyance in this circumstance does not hold a candle to what Roxane Gay has gone through for her entire life. But the parallels of these comments indicate that society feels it is completely okay to comment on women’s bodies as if they are some public entity that is up for unwarranted and unwelcome criticism and unsolicited advice at any time. Do we really need a reminder that it is not okay to tell a woman to eat more or less because of our own preconceptions and judgments based simply on the way they look to us?
The truth is women are judged against unfair standards to do with their appearances at substantially higher rates than men are. We are subjected to people commenting on our looks all day long in situations which do not warrant this in any occurrence. Just a simple reminder, to which I find it absurd that I have to even reiterate anyway, that our bodies are entirely our own, no one else (and I mean no one) has the right to tell us what and what not to do with them. As best expressed so vehemently by Roxane Gay ‘only she lives in her body and only I live in my body and only you live in your body’, so let us live.