The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor is challenging me and in a good way. Sonya’s message to love our body, as it is, is an idea I can totally embrace; however, I find it emotionally difficult to abandon decades of indoctrination, which tell me my body is only okay when it conforms to a specific standard.
I know this thought is b.s. I know it, and yet I struggle to stop dieting. Sure, I have gone periods of time without paying attention to what I eat; however, those time periods are few and far between. Even though I wish it were not true, food always has been categorized as either “good” or “bad.” What type of food I eat and how much of it often determines how I feel about myself.
I try to disguise my struggle by using words like “health conscious” and “increased energy levels,” but those words are just euphemisms for dieting and are dishonest. Of course, I want to be healthy and have more energy, and those are not the main reasons why I change my diet. I change my diet because I feel bad about my weight or size. Trust me. I would much rather eat pasta and bread.
One of my friends truly seems to have a healthy and honest relationship with her body. I’ll never forget the time that she and I were speaking with a group of women about all sorts of things, and inevitably, the topic of food and diet came up. (It is rare to be in a circle of women when food and diet do not enter the conversation.) One woman mentioned she was going on a keto diet to lose weight. Collectively we groaned, and with total compassion and empathy, commiserated with her loss of eating bread.
“Wait,” my friend said, “bread is bad?”
“Yes,” we all chorused, “bread is bad.”
WTF? Bread is bad is a ridiculous statement to make. When I think about all the positive associations I have with bread, I am ashamed to admit I perpetuated the belief bread is bad.
I love eating bread and making bread. No food makes my tummy feel as good as bread. I would want bread to be a part of my last meal. That is how much I love bread. Any yet…
I participated in villainizing bread. Which, I have come to realize, is part of my privilege as well as part of my indoctrination.
It is a privilege not to eat bread because I have so much choice due to where I live and how I live. I have access to all sorts of food, including food grown hundreds of miles from where I live. There are people who have fewer options than me and would welcome bread to eat. It is a luxury for me to turn down bread.
It also is sad I have bought into the belief that bread is bad. I didn’t always feel that way. As a child, I ate as much bread as my parents would allow and never felt guilty about it. This freedom started to erode in elementary school: a time when differences among bodies were not only noticed but commented on.
Just like you, I can recount many incidences of body shame. Times when my appearance was commented on, sometimes positively, other times not. Times when how much I ate or how I dressed or how I moved my body was open to public discussion and ridicule.
Why is this okay? Why do we think it is okay to talk to and about people’s bodies without their permission? And why do we think the way a body appears is more important than what a body does?
When we perpetuate body shame, we engage in what Sonya calls “body terrorism.” Terrorism is defined as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” (p.58) Body terrorism not only includes body shaming but also body oppression.
Body oppression happens every time we treat a body unkindly, disrespectfully, or cruelly. Sometimes we oppress our own bodies. Other times we oppress other bodies, especially bodies that we view as different.
Body terrorism is perpetuated by media and by governments, by health care practitioners and by businesses, and by well-intentioned people and coercive people. In other words, body terrorism is pervasive throughout our culture and is based on the erroneous beliefs that there is:
- one superior type of body or default body
- all should strive for this type of body
- all should give preference to people who have this type of body
- anyone who falls short of the default body may be treated differently
Damn! That is heavy. Reading the description of body terrorism and the impact these beliefs have on my behavior was hard. It is one thing to think body shaming only impacts me. It is another thing to realize body shaming reflects an unarticulated belief that some bodies are better than others, and when I buy into that belief, I perpetuate inequality and suffering.
So yes, Sonya Renee Taylor’s The Body is not an Apology is challenging. No, I have not reconciled the conflict I feel between my body and my values. And yes, I am committed to finding a resolution.
I want the peace which comes from loving myself, as is, and I want to be able to share this peace with others. It is the only way to create a just, equitable, and loving community.
For the love of all bodies,
P.S. If you want to discuss the ideas found in Sonya’s book, then please join us online this Friday, October 29, at 4 pm for our next Deep Dive Book Study. Click here to register.
Kim Bushore-Maki is a soul-driven entrepreneur who understands the undeniable urge to create a business and a life filled with meaning and purpose. Her vision of opening a center where women could heal and grow led her to open Shakti in the Mountains in Johnson City, Tennessee: a place where the creative, feminine energy is nurtured and valued.
Since 2010, Kim continues to build and to support a healthy, vibrant community and now guides retreats, teaches yoga, and provides one-on-one services for women who want an immersion experience into the life-affirming, Shakti energy.
Kim’s training as a therapist and yoga teacher allows her to safely and compassionately guide women on a heart-centered journey to Self, where women re-connect with their beautiful, authentic spirit.