I believe one of the reasons we can feel so reticent about working on how we feel about our bodies is because we think it is a very self-indulgent and personal issue which we should be able to solve on our own.
It can be very easy to believe that criticising ourselves has an impact only on us. However, I believe very strongly that keeping ourselves small and distractive plays into the hands of those who benefit most whilst also managing to victim blame. It is a double-edged sword, and we receive both the wounds.
It took a lot of work on my body image, confidence, and past to acknowledge that I was trying to manipulate my body to stop predators. I realised I was the victim blamer. My body was never the problem. The problem was always the predatory behaviour of affairs and the societal norms and systems that enable and condone it.
It's a hard truth to accept, but we live in a world where sexual harassment, assault and objectification are far too common. These issues affect people of all genders. And as a result, it's a result of a society which values bodies over their autonomy and safety.
The problem is not our bodies, but the way society perceives and objectifies them. We are taught to blame ourselves and hide our bodies in order to avoid being preyed upon. We are made to feel like we must alter our bodies to be accepted and valued. And to be safe, but no one ever spells out that bit. But teachers always insinuated: you must earn your safety. The only responsibility to sort out predatory behaviour is on the predator themselves. Still, it is our responsibility to notice where we are changing our behaviour in an attempt to disguise a problem.
I believed if I were small enough or thin enough, I would be safe. Too tiny to be noticed, too slight to catch anyone's eye, too insignificant to be worth the bother. And I inherited those messages because they made me feel like I have control over societal problems where I had very little.
Besides annihilating my self-esteem, what these messages also managed to do was to distract me. When I got more confident, there was more of me to go around to support others, to start conversations, to interject to cause trouble and to disrupt what we are taught to ignore.
I believe that we must shift our focus away from our bodies and towards the root of the issue: predatory behaviour in society, which enables it. This requires us to change the harmful beliefs and systems that make us feel like our bodies are a problem to be solved and instead embrace our bodies as they are.
I believe it's time for us to reclaim our power and our bodies. We deserve to live in a world where we can be proud of our bodies and feel safe in them without fear of objectification or harassment. And it starts with us rejecting the notion that our bodies are a problem to be solved and embracing them for the beautiful unruly, unique ways that they show up, and in doing so, we create a more safe space for more of us.