I (am learning to) Share My Body

I’d like to say that my body was my first love, but I’m pretty sure it was my magenta flece blanket. I truly don’t think I began a relationship with my body until I entered High School. I say this because I did not start treating my body with conscious compassion and importance until the ninth grade. In any relationship, an effort must be made to maintain a comfortable homeostatis–of emotion, physical attraction, and spiritual wellness. Prior to high school, I couldnt care less if I fell and cut myself, or if my pink jeans would match my purple sweater. Instead, I went through life doing what I had to do to get through the day. As naive as it sounds, I was unaware (and most likely didnt care) of how people percieved me.

Once I entered High School, my body began to change. I got my periord 10 days before my 13th birthday and my physique began to evolve. I developed breats and my butt grew…FAST! It is a phenomena my friends comically refer to as pastel, or cake. During that time, I made an effort to look nice and make sure every part of me looked good and was never overwhelming to my non-black peers (especially, my pastel). My awareness of my physical body reached its peak when I realized that I was not the only one that critiqued my body. Walking down the block in my neighborhood, or any predominantly African-American neighborhood in New York City (more often than not) means that some guy (age aside) would look at my body, interpret it, savor it (without my permission), and worst of all, let you know he was doing it by shouting “Mmh, girl you look good” or “I can taste your pussy.” Women, especially black women have made it clear that they will jump, kick, and scream if we are unwantingly touched. Responsively, men have decided that they will assert their power through vision. Although it pisses me off, I can’t blame them. They are working within the boundaries I (and other women have set for them).

To combat this custody battle over my body, I’ve turned to art. By looking at images of powerful, authoritative, sexy, and curvacious women, I am reminded that I ultimately have control over my outward appearences. More importantly, I have come to the realization that I control my mind and reactions to the hollering men that I will encounter. Sources like Essence Magazine, Anthea Paul’s Girlosophy series, Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly documentaries, and my mother, have uncovered the sources of my emotion, validated my thoughts, and offered potential methods to deal with my emotions. Most of all, they have helped me to take pride in my body; the way it looks, the way it moves, and the way it feels.

Essence Magazine cover featuring Anika Noni Rose. She is the Voice of Princess Tiara in "The Princess and the Frog."

Anthea Paul's book, Girlosophy: A Soul Survival Kit

Jean Kilbourne's most recent documentary on the opression of women through popular advertisement.

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