Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Taking Up Space.

"Don't worry about your body. 
It isn't as small as it once was, 
But honestly, the world 
needs more of you. 
You look in the mirror 
like you've done something wrong,
But you look perfect.
Anyone who says otherwise
is telling a lie 
to make you feel weak.
And you know better.
You've survived every single day,
for as long as 
you've been alive.
You could spit fire
if you wanted to."
-Clementine von Radics

I read this poem the other day. Not long after my boyfriend told me about a TED talk he watched about body language, in which the woman discussed how women are constantly trying to make themselves feel smaller. Then I thought of this slam poem by Lily Meyers called Shrinking Women, and there was also the thing Julie said about how men never feel compelled to apologize for the space their bodies take up. And the more things that popped into my mind, the more that followed, like an avalanche of moments that have created mindsets that can destroy us:
'As a woman, you should take up as little space as possible.' 
'You are an inconvenience.'
'You are fat.'
'You should apologize for the extra space, the extra time, the extra energy you consume.'
'You are a guest in this world, be polite.'
'Be a lady.'
and on...and on...and on...

As a woman, you are born and you are given a name and you are given a bed and an existence. You have space that belongs to you, you are a person. And then you start to go out into the world and experience things and listen to the words people tell you and start to form opinions and observations and beliefs. And somewhere along the way there is a moment when you are a little girl playing in the dirt with your legs splayed and someone big tells you, "That isn't very ladylike," or "You shouldn't sit that way." Of course, because little girl underwear or--god forbid--vaginas, are the scariest things that have ever existed. And later you are sitting somewhere with your legs crossed--because that's how women should sit--studying and eating your favorite snack, and someone says, "Do you really think you should be eating that?" Because you shouldn't want to put things you like to eat in your mouth, you should just want to be as thin as possible. And there are all of the moments in between, where people tell you you hit, "Like a girl" or that you stuff your bra or that you are flat chested or your stomach sticks out or your thighs are too big or your ass is too big or you will never be a skinny girl, you just aren't made that way or that you can't be smart and pretty or that you should do X, Y, & Z to make a boy like you and that you won't be good at math or science because you have a vagina, and again, those are always messing shit up. And you start to get it, you start to think the way I am is wrong, I need to be skinnier, I need to take up less space, my everything is too big. I mean look at the women we see in magazines and billboards and advertisements for our entire lives; it is hard to see a woman in these mediums and not look inward. But these are pictures, not people. 

And it doesn't matter if a boy ever poked your stomach and called you the pillsbury dough girl or if your mom was obsessed with her weight, because somewhere along the way, you probably learned to pray for smallness. And no, being thin is not a bad thing--it is just a thing, being small, however, is a bad thing. I don't mean small bodies, though, I mean small spaces, small minds, small goals, small journeys, small dreams, small areas to grow inside of. When we are constantly worried about shrinking our bodies, shaping them certain ways, we don't realize the toll that it can take on our minds. You train yourself to eat less, weigh less, and eventually you let yourself become less. We push ourselves into corners because we think that makes it easier on others, more convenient, but in reality, we would just be letting ourselves vanish. To let yourself vanish is an incredible disservice to the world. Your life can be epic, it can be massive, and huge, and no, those are not bad words, they are good words. They convey mass and size and complexity and depth; they define lives that inspire us to reach beyond what we can fathom.

You were born and you were given a name and you were given a bed and an existence. You have a space that belongs to you, you are a person, so be a person, a whole, crazy, rollercoaster, lifetime, huge person. Be selfish, sometimes. Be imperfect. Eat too much, drink too much, and stop apologizing for it because YOU ARE A PERSON. Say things because you thought of them and that makes it unique. Stop being so hard on yourself, stop trying to make your body look like someone else's because it is your body and no one else can love it and take care of it the way you do. The way you treat your body will determine how everyone else in the room treats it, so treat it well, respect it, own it, validate it. Love your thighs and your dimples and the way your body feels when you're dancing and when you're giving a presentation and reading a poem. Love your silly days and your hungry days and your scared days and your angry days, and don't think that they make you weak; they make you real. Love your hair with roots and your legs with stubble and your face without make up and your hands covered in dirt or paint or blisters or calluses. Be proud of what you've accomplished and then push for more, because you can get more, if you want it. You can be soft but you can also be tough as nails, don't ever forget that.  Don't say sorry for things you don't owe someone an apology for, like walking into a room or asking a question or interjecting in a conversation or when someone bumps into you or not having room in your schedule for everyone else's shit. Don't say sorry for existing. Take up space, the space you want, claim spaces, find bigger spaces, create new spaces, own your space and don't give it up for anything, it belongs to you and you are the only person who can fight for it. 

"You know what's really, powerfully sexy? A sense of humor. A taste for adventure. A healthy glow. Hips to grab on to. Openness. Confidence. Humility. Appetite. Intuition. Smart-ass comebacks. Presence. A quick wit. Dirty jokes told by an innocent-looking lady. A woman who realizes how beautiful she is." -Courtney E. Martin

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