When I was around four years old, I announced to my parents, “I like my round belly!” Probably not a sentence you’d expect to hear from a 14-year-old or 24-year-old — by then, sadly, we learn that round bellies and mainstream standards of beauty don’t mix.
But I was reminded of my upbeat four-year-old announcement when I saw this photo series from Interrupt Mag, in which girls ages four to nine describe what they love about their bodies. Some girls liked their hair, some girls liked their hands, some girls liked their whole bodies.
And as Interrupt Mag says, “All of them think about their bodies in terms of practicality: their bodies are tools, with the possibility to do so many things: draw, write, see, walk, run, dance.”
As we get older, we tend to stop focusing on what we can do, and instead focus on what we wished was different about our appearance.
Are women’s bodies useful and powerful? Or just ornamental? It was clear which idea held more sway right before the 2012 summer Olympics.
Championship weightlifter Sarah Robles couldn’t secure a corporate sponsorship to help her pay her bills while she trained because — as she herself said — “You can get that sponsorship if you’re a super-built guy or a girl who looks good in a bikini, but not if you’re a girl who’s built like a guy.”
Olympic gymnasts and beach volleyball players are top athletes just like Robles, but they got more attention (and money) in 2012 because they fit mainstream beauty standards.
I don’t know how Sarah Robles feels about her body, but I think her ability to lift over 500 pounds is pretty spectacular.
And for those of us who can’t lift multiple hundreds of pounds, our bodies do other things that are no less spectacular: walking, drawing, dancing, singing.
Maybe we’d all feel a little more positive about our bodies if we remembered how we thought about them when we were four years old.
Sasha Albert holds a Master’s degree in Gender and Sexuality from the University of Amsterdam, and participates in reproductive health and justice activism in the Boston area.