The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book – If Beauty Is inside, Why Do We Hate Our Guts?: Pop Culture, Sexism, & Body Image. Read the first chapter here.
It’s time to declare independence, to separate ourselves from the bad habits, the stifling expectations, and the negative messages that no longer serve us (assuming they ever did).
It’s time to declare independence from media messages that tell us we’re ugly if we don’t look like the “flawless” images of celebrities on the screen and in the magazines. It’s time to stop buying into the manipulation and stop wasting time trying to chase an illusion that doesn’t even exist.
It’s time to declare independence from the belief that having the perfect body will make us worthy of love and respect. We’re already worthy of love and respect in the bodies we have now — no amount of weight loss or plastic surgery will increase our value.
It’s time to declare independence from dieting, from deprivation, from seeing food as the enemy. The American weight loss industry makes nearly $60 billion a year trying to convince us that we’re not good enough — if diets worked, would they be this profitable? It’s time to stop contributing to their false sense of hope.
It’s time to declare independence from body loathing, from looking at our bodies with disgust instead of love. It’s time to appreciate all of the amazing things they do for us — the jiggly arms that give great hugs, the flabby thighs that carry us through the park, the droopy breasts that fed a child, the wounded heart that still knows how to love, the exhausted brain that still manages to tell our lungs to breathe.
It’s time to declare independence from spending so much time, energy, and money trying to fit into someone else’s idea of whom we should be. It’s time to put ourselves first, to focus on our own desires and do what we want instead of what’s expected of us. It’s time to trust our instincts and become someone we’re proud of.
It’s time to declare independence from shame, from the belief that we’re not good enough, not beautiful enough, not thin enough, not smart enough, not clever enough, not sexy enough. It’s time to declare that we are already enough — that we are perfectly imperfect exactly as we are.
It’s time to declare independence from the oppressive labels of virgin or whore, straight or gay. Our sexuality does not define us. It can’t possibly define what kind of person we are or what’s in our hearts or our minds. Any attempt by others to claim otherwise is an attempt to control us, to police our behavior, and to shame us so that they don’t have to examine their own ignorance and fear.
It’s time to declare independence from the belief that we can bring sexual assault upon ourselves based on how provocatively we’re dressed, how flirty we act, or how drunk we get. The only person responsible for a rapist’s behavior is the rapist himself. We have a right to feel safe in the world.
It’s time to declare independence from legislators who think the female body should be controlled by wealthy, middle-aged, white, conservative men. Our bodies belong to us — it’s time to declare our freedom to make our own decisions about them. Because if we cannot, then we are truly not equal citizens and this country as not as free it claims to be.
It’s time to declare our independence from any force that tries to hold us down — especially those forces that limit us from within.