Bring Up The Bodies

A twenty-two year old nursery-school teacher sits in front of a surgeon, and he tells her, straight-faced, that the procedure is going to “change everything”. Later, she tells the camera that the operation means she will be able to accomplish everything she has dreamed of, that it has made her happier than she has been in years, and that the surgeon is improving the lives of women everywhere. It sounds like he is curing her of a terminal disease. He isn’t. She is working two jobs to be able to afford a ‘labiaplasty’, the cosmetic surgery which enables women to have a ‘designer vagina’ so they can look just like the porn star they have always wanted to be.[1]

That word ‘want’ is what makes me most angry. Partly, I am furious on her behalf, and for women everywhere, who have been made to feel inadequate when compared to impossible Barbie-like standards. (The reason she is spending $6000 on it in the first place is because of crude jokes made by male friends about their recent conquests). I am furious that the image of a successful woman is so often the one who serves effectively as a prop for male sexual desire. The same documentary which records this woman under the knife, also tells the story of a twelve-year old New Yorker, Winifred. Her idol isn’t her mum, a renowned defence lawyer, but Lady Gaga and her best friend who has sexier profile pictures on Facebook. A world where affirmation on social networking and cat calls are the most that half of the population can aim for is a world where only millimetres of headway could possibly be made against injustice and poverty.

But the word ‘want’ also makes me angry for myself. I feel a sense of violation when I think of how I have unconsciously absorbed the idea that my body is a tool which has to prove its worth to someone else. I am angry that that way of thinking has so shaped me that I often find it easier to feel guilty over how my body ‘falls short’ compared to the other 3 billion Megan Foxes that I imagine are out there than over ways I have genuinely let God down. I am angry that my body cannot just be a body: it is a site of self-criticism, insecurity and idolatry. I cannot just see it in the present as it is, it always gets brought into a hypothesised future, the place of anxiety and ‘what if’s.

The truth is that no one needs to ‘make’ their bodies into some photoshopped ideal. It already has been made. The same Being that has proved His unparalleled craftsmanship  in creating the stars and clifftops and babies’ smiles and the Northern Lights and peacock feathers, He crafted you too.

Psalm 139:13-4:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Could you look at your body with worshipful eyes? (Not worshiping the moisturiser you use, the chief executive of Weight Watchers or the plastic surgeon but the one who set your heartbeat into motion). Could you see your body- every body- as rightfully belonging in God’s portfolio of beautiful works?

Romans 12:1

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.

And could we then offer our bodies back to God as rightfully His rather than pretending they belong to someone we want to find us attractive? Could we embrace our bodies’ true telos, rather than buying into the beauty industry’s lies that sow insecurities into us for no reason other than profit?

Dear all who have been cashing in on my needless fears, I want my body back.

[1] Taken from the docu-film Sexy Baby, 2014- I RECOMMEND IT TO ALL AND SUNDRY.

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