My Body Is Not A Democracy

MY-BODY-IS-NOT-A-DEMOCRACY-ORGINAL-IMAGE

My body is not a democracy. My body is an empire and I am its dictator. You do not get a vote. There will be no coup d’etat. Rebel forces will not overthrow me. I am in charge of it forever.

You are welcome to have your opinions. And you are welcome to keep them for yourself. Please do not leave them at the gates of my empire. They will only be thrown in the incinerator, as all of my storage facilities are full.

I wrote these words over three years ago primarily because I noticed that I felt the same exact way about my body when it was a size 12 as I did when it was a size 22. My body changing did not actually change how I felt about it. It was me, my soul that ached. And I wasn’t sure why.

Then I noticed something else. It happened while I was looking in the mirror and trying to understand how exactly my ass could be both fat and flat simultaneously. It is truly remarkable. I thought about how long I stood in front of the mirror like that every day. Five minutes here, ten minutes there. That time began to add up. Those minutes turned into hours. Those hours turned into days. Days turned into months. Months turned into years. How did I even have time for this?

I began to realize that this was a construct of my white privilege. While I was feeling bad about how the under areas of my arms looked or the sagging and bloating of my neck, the one thing I was never made to feel shame over was the color of my skin and the culture with which I identified. I don’t even know what that would begin to feel like and yet I know from listening to the voices and experiences of women of color, especially black women, this was true for them. And while I could lose weight or tone my stomach, I could not change the color of my skin. While I can hide my bulk under loose garments. I can not hide my skin color.

The time I used to examine my thighs, was quite possibly equal to the time a Black mother in America used to pray that her son or daughter would come home safely at night, the same amount of time she used to pray that justice would serve her children, not violate them.

I thought about women living in poverty in Flint, MI who used that same time to add up the pennies in their bank account after they pay for their government to pump poisoned water into their home and then figure out if they had enough money left over to buy their children bottles of clean drinking water.

If I have to fight for my body and the freedom to govern my own beautiful empire, then I will, but I will not fight with my body any more. I will not fight with those horrid little uglies—those pests that creep into my mirrors and magazines and photographs that tell me I am too fat to be loved or be beautiful. And just so you know, the uglies attack the skinny girls, the black girls, the trans girls, the white girls, the tall girls, the short girls. It is something we all have in common.

I will not fight with my body, because there are too many other fights I need to join in. My thighs are no longer available for critique, because they need to be available to march, so that the peace I feel day to day in my life, the peace my privilege dictates for my own life, can be spread to others who do not have it.  The privilege of access to good, healthy, whole food, the privilege of feeling safe from violence in my community, the privilege of learning in well-funded and supported educational institutions, the privilege of feeling the police are there to help me and not harm me no matter the situation.

The artist Jenny Holzer once wrote “You are a victim of the rules you choose to follow”. So I wrote my own rules.

NEW RULES FOR MY EMPIRE:

Rule 1:

I will feel as fierce as I look when I dress everyday. I am a fashion revolution and my uniform is my beauty and grace and my fabulous shoes which I have the uncanny ability to find for reasonable prices. I will remember that I dress for myself and there is no fashion police I have to answer to.

Rule 2:

No longer will it be acceptable to compare my body to any other woman’s as I walk down the street or look at magazines. Not even the, “well, at least I’m not as fat as her.” This is a punishable offense.

Rule 3:

Punishments for being human and making mistakes are now outlawed. Punishments for any offenses previously mentioned shall be a dose of self love. This may involve singing in the shower, buying new face cream or treating oneself to a donut. Yeah— donuts are on the menu. It’s a sometimes food, not a always food. If you want a donut, eat a donut!

Rule 4:

When I love something another woman is wearing or doing I will tell her, even if I don’t know her—she deserves to know that her that our empires can be friendly allies. She deserves to know that someone sees her and asks nothing more of her than she rule her own empire as best she sees fit.

Rule 5:

As a white woman, I will understand that the best way to use my voice is to sometimes hold it strongly silent so that the voices of people of color can fill the room and be heard clearly, and without judgement of their experience. That I don’t need to respond and tell my point of view, because it is often expressed as the first and last perspective in the room. I will understand that while my privilege may feel invisible to me, it is a blaring siren, a blinding light that continues to add to the systematic oppression of people of color. I will understand that my white fragility is not more important than the ability for all voices, perspectives and experiences to be heard clearly and received without judgment.

Rule 6:

I will listen to young girls as they give their perspective on the world and gently remind them of my own, allowing them to come to the meadow of the feminist revolution for themselves, as we all do eventually. I will welcome them when they get here and remember that they are the dictators of their own empires and are free to govern as they wish. I do not know more than them, necessarily, I have just lived longer.

Rule 7:

I will remember that I am more than a body. I am a spirit, a soul, a being of light. I am but a precious moment on this earth and while that time is short, it is also powerful. I will do my best to honor the sun, the wind and the sky as they bring my existence into perspective. I will always remember that I am not taller or older than the trees. That they need me they way I need them. That we are here for each other.

You are welcome to visit my empire. The spring here is fabulous, though we do offer various treasures year round. And just remember, you can visit, but I am the only one who gets to live here. And I am in charge.

-Teafly Peterson

*I originally wrote this in 2013 and re-wrote it 3 years later, after the 2016 Presidential election. This is the re-written version.

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