Today’s Read: Our Bodies and Movement

How’s your relationship with body movement? Let’s chat in the comments!

This piece (“7 Ways to Heal Your Relationship with Exercise and Movement” by Louise Green) brings up a lot of stuff for me, and I have a feeling I’m not even close to alone. Can you relate?

First, my painful relationship with movement starts all the way back in elementary school. I distinctly remember hating gym class in the second grade. It wasn’t because I hated moving. It was because the cool, rich, mean kids dominated the class and had a lot to say about me and my body all the way back then. Everything from my hair to my skin was bad. Ah, racism. Even at age seven. It didn’t help that I started my period two years later, and the boobs came in long before anyone else’s did. I went from undesirable to undesirable freak. Fun times.

Second, I BADLY want to develop a course about all-or-nothing/binary thinking. Despite teaching critical thinking for two decades, most of my self-perception operates on binary thinking.

Third, working on body image, my relationship with my body, and my trauma about movement are all things I’m working on in therapy and have been working on for some time. But it took finding my current therapist to start. My first therapist’s attitude toward me and exercise was that I simply needed to get over it and do it. Not helpful. (She was also unable to see beyond her thin privilege. This is why it’s important to remember not all therapists are a good fit for you, but that’s a post for another day.)

Fourth, I’m listening to Billie Eilish’s new album, and I’m wiggling in my chair, which goes to show there is joy in movement.

Fifth, and this is the truly scary one for me . . . I’m starting personal training on August 3rd. This is the first time I’ve attempted movement in front of another person who doesn’t live with me in years. I’m scared and nervous, but I’m hoping my perspective has truly shifted enough to get me going.

Last, that perspective is this: I want to see what my body can do. There’s a lot of fear, anxiety, and doubt attached to that, but you’re coming with me on this, so stay tuned.

Rethink Your Mirror or Smash It Like the Patriarchy?

There are three mirrors in my home: two framed by medicine cabinets and one full-length on the back of a bathroom door. I infrequently look in the full-length, but my therapist suggested I needed to do it more as a form of practicing body acceptance.

Yet I want to smash all mirrors (aside from being superstitious). They just create worry for problems with my body I didn’t know were problems until someone told me they were.

So, I ask you: Do we need to rethink our relationships with mirrors? Instead of thinking of them as gateways to what others see, how do we make them tools to appreciate what we see?

Does a Mirror Control You?

“Diet culture keeps women fighting the mirror instead of facing the world.” – Happy Healthy Hans

Social expectations for women’s bodies is a form of social control designed to keep women from focusing on their true power. Agree or disagree?

(By the way, when I searched for images to use for this, I used the built-in tool for stock images and searched “mirror.” Every image I saw was of a woman. What’s that tell you?)

Your Mini-Sociology Lesson on Body Justice

If you’re looking for justice for your body, you might be confused or not care about how sociology relates, but stick with me. It’s the foundation of all things body justice.

Your Body and Sociology

As you probably know (but I never assume), sociology is the study of how external forces influence our behavior. It runs parallel (and often perpendicular) to psychology, which examines internal behavioral influences. That aside, sociology analyzes large social structures like religion and politics as well as small groups like our peers and relationships. Both large structures and small groups influence how we see things and how we behave. Especially in America, we like to think we’re individuals with uninfluenced free will. This, however, is not the case. Just think of the last time you quoted a movie, show, or song.

Exactly.

The Princess Bride references FTW. Source: http://gph.is/2ge45zr

The U.S. and Sociology and Health

Now, if structures like religion, politics, education, business, and so on influence our thinking and behavior, that includes our bodies. Public health is a thing. It’s the reason the CDC, AMA, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services exist. There’s no shortage of organizations and governments working with human bodies. These groups guide health with recommendations and limitations. They shape laws, public opinion, media stories, which means they also shape thinking and behavior. They are our overlords, like it or not.

My references are always dated because I’m old. Source: http://gph.is/1Nm2LaB

Example: Oh, It’s Still a Pandemic

Case in point: COVID-19. We relied on social health structures to inform, protect, and help us. We’re depending upon the social structures of public health to work together to distribute the vaccine. Some of us are vaccinated, some aren’t, some hope to be, some don’t.

Need a visual of how this flows throughout our society? Here you are!

Years of study paying off in this graphic. Source: Me.

This whole flow is called the macrosociology-microsociology link, which is a fancy way of saying large structures and small groups and individuals influence one another (despite the arrows on the graphic, this flow does go both directions). Neat, huh? It’s proof that we influence society, and society influences us. And yes, if you want to make butterfly effect references, feel free. That’s right on target.

But of course, there will always be a group of people who are unwilling (and some unable) to follow social recommendations. That said, their thinking and behavior changes as well. They go from not talking about something like COVID-19 to talking about it to actively opposing the recommendations. Sometimes, they protest. In this case, some protest, specifically, the right to make choices for their own bodies.

Sound familiar?

So, What?

What’s this mean for body justice? It means bodies have social power. Large social structures cannot operate without power, and they know our bodies have power, so they try to control that power. However, because our bodies are ours, that means WE have the power. And tomorrow, I’ll get into your body’s power, how you can use it, and how you can stop others from using it without your permission.