Not your body, Not your problem by Sophie Perera
Sophie Perera takes on the danger of social bodily commentary.
Let’s be honest, at some point in our lives nearly all of us have spoken about people behind their backs and we’ve all been guilty of saying things without thinking about how it would affect those around us. Whether it was about political matters, differences of opinions or even about things that just bug you, we’ve all been that person to speak before thinking. During my first year of uni one of the things that would crop up again and again is how people talk about different body types.
In my experience, even some of the nicest people can say the absolute grossest things about others and their bodies, and in places like a university environment it’s so easy to become desensitised to it. A lot of the time it comes across as just joking around and I guarantee if I were to ask some of the guys that have said these awful things they’d 100% say something along the lines of ‘of course I don’t actually think that, it’s just a funny thing to joke about’ - but you can only say something as a joke a certain number of times before the people hearing you say these things start to see it as your actual opinion.
For me, one of the most degrading things in life is when you are talked about because of and judged on your body and how it looks. Sitting around a table listening to people talk about other people’s appearance and doing stuff like rating them out of 10 and asking each other things like ‘how many shots to shag?’ makes me so incredibly uncomfortable. It also makes me wonder what they think of me, if they ever talk about me and in a disgusting and twisted way it makes me hope that I’m ‘good enough’ to not get ridiculed and become the punchline of their jokes. But the thing is, sometimes it’s not about what you say directly to someone, it can be about what you’re saying about other people around them. You could say ‘I don’t like the way this person looks because of x, y and z’ without realising that the biggest insecurities of the person sitting next to you are exactly that - x, y and z.
'there's a huge difference between having a preference and being a dick.'
Now don’t get me wrong - it’s perfectly normal and not necessarily a bad thing to have preferences or (and not to quote love island here but) a type on paper. Everyone is attracted to different things which is totally valid, but there’s a huge difference between having a preference and being (for lack of a better word) a dick. Someone’s appearance should not be the be all or end all and judging someone for how they look is just ignorant. At the end of the day, if you’re not attracted to someone or don’t like the way they look, that’s honestly fine, but what’s not fine is making jokes about it or just being plain rude. If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Body neutrality is something I keep hearing more and more about in the media. If you’ve not heard this term before, it’s basically the idea of accepting and being grateful for your body and for everything it does for you regardless of its appearance. It’s essentially a way to try and distance yourself from self-hatred and body shaming our own bodies without all the pressure of having to love how we look and trying to force the narrative of body positivity. Speaking from my own experience, it’s so difficult to try and change your whole thought process around body image. When you’ve spent most of your life feeling insecure and hating the way you look, pulling a 180 and trying to love your body and the way it appears is so so incredibly difficult. I’ve found trying to lean into body neutrality a little bit more accessible but by no means easy. When everyone around you is constantly discussing and openly thinking about how different people look, it becomes a huge challenge to try and convince yourself that the way you look doesn’t matter and that you should just appreciate your body for what it does. At the end of the day, it’s hard to deny that having someone think you look good can feel like the biggest form of validation. Honestly how sad is that! It’s so sad that society has made people think their body equals their worth, because it’s absolutely not true.
It’s such a classic and cliche thing to say - every body is worthy and no body is a bad one, but the thing is it’s so true! And don’t get me wrong, I feel like the biggest hypocrite saying that, because I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t think there’s ever been a point in my life where I’ve been truly happy with the way I look. The thing is, I truly AM grateful for my body but it’s hard to merge the idea of a body being a functioning thing that does so much for me with the realisation that my body has an appearance and everyone can see it. Body neutrality is a great concept, but just like everyone’s bodies are different, so are everyone’s minds and it might not be for everyone. But whether the aim is body neutrality or full on self love, everyone deserves to feel good about themselves. For me, I’m hoping that coming to terms with body neutrality will be a stepping stone to fully loving myself and my appearance despite what anyone else thinks.
Hey I’m Sophie! I’ve just finished my first year studying Computer Science and Maths at the University of Bath. Besides deciding to put myself through a STEM degree - honestly who thought that was a good idea ?? (joking !! I love it really) - I also have a strong love of music and can often be found by the piano or with my bassoon. Writing has never been my strong suit so I’m really glad that Matriarch has allowed me the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences.