Today is Love Your Body Day!

Love Your Body Day is a project of the National Organization of Women, which runs a Love Your Body poster contest every year. This year’s winner bears the message that “you are a masterpiece,” and you can send it to your body-loving friends as an e-card if you want. NOW is also running a blog carnival.

When we talk about loving our bodies, we often talk about loving what we look like. “Do you love what you see when you look in the mirror?” asks the NOW campaign.

There’s certainly something to be said for loving the way you look – and when you’re a woman in this culture, it’s easier said than done. But with all the focus on loving how you look, it’s easy to forget that the human body does stuff. It does some pretty remarkable stuff.

I think it’s important, revolutionary even, to fight a culture that says we’re never attractive enough, and that links attractiveness to worth and love. I think that learning to love how we look is a powerful political act. But I also think it’s important to think about what our bodies can do rather than simply how they look. After all, a core part of feminism is valuing people as whole people – not as sexual objects or walking stereotypes – and valuing them for what they do. So on Love Your Body Day, I want to take a moment to appreciate the things my body can do.

My body can stitch itself back together when it gets cut. This never ceases to amaze me.

My body has an organ in it that can stretch to accommodate a small human being. I don’t want it to do any stretching or accommodating any time soon, but the capacity is there, and that blows my mind.

More than a decade after it was cool (was it really ever cool?) my body still has the muscle memory to do the Macarena. That one is kind of embarrassing, but still kind of great. Mostly embarrassing.

My body can orgasm. Enough said.

My body can do this, and for that, I love it.

What can your body do?

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23 Comments

  1. Posted October 19, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful photo, Chloe! And I can still remember the Macarena too…smh.

  2. Posted October 19, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I have a much more difficult time loving my body’s capacities than I do loving its appearance. At its best, my body can haul up an anchor standing on a slick, soaking wet surface (in burning sun. And fast as hell, too) and, though it is teeny tiny, lift a warehouse box full of heavyweight textiles and hardware. It can swim through the ocean and scale rocks (yes I’m from Long Island, what of it?) and react instinctively to waves and surges and obstacles. However, most of the time, my body has trouble fighting off diseases and has absolutely no chance of proper respiration without assistance. It’s tough for me to look at my body and separate those factors from the way it looks. Where other people see a lean, socially encouraged hourglass-but-not-too-hourglass figure, I see something small and limited and vulnerable. Despite all the things it can do and all the ways it can repair and protect itself, I often feel very frustrated about the way my respiratory and immune systems work (not well)- I am completely dependent on medications to be able to do…well…anything. Even with maintenance medications, a sinus infection can throw me back to square one.

  3. Posted October 19, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Doesn’t it just focus more on physical beauty when we should be focusing on the inside rather than out?

    • Posted October 19, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      Of course focusing on our talents/strengths/intelligence/personality is hugely important as women are all to often reduced to being ONLY their bodies.

      That said, there is a place for us to also say, I’M BEAUTIFUL, DAMN IT. Our society tells women “this little box over here is what is beautiful, and if you don’t fit it, you’re not.” It’s liberating to say, “No, I am beautiful and here’s why.”

      But love your body day isn’t just about superficiality-it’s also about recognizing all the wonderful things our bodies can do, like Chloe has listed. It’s about understanding that we’re not objects just to be viewed, we can actually do so much.

  4. Posted October 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    AS a performance artist in 3D virtual worlds I love my body because it helps me to speak in so many ways.

    It is interesting that my virtual body does not do all the wonderful things that you mention in this post Chloe — well, except for the Macarena… unfortunately, I can do that! :)

    In my virtual performance art work my body has been large and small, young and old, black and white. I have walked on two legs and rolled in a wheelchair. Wearing these different skins certainly doesn’t give me a complete, or even an especially deep, appreciation of these multiple ways of being in our culture, still, it has been for me and I hope for our audiences, at least an invitation to consider embodiment from deeper, richer, and more diverse perspectives.

    I love my virtual body and all the contemplations on the diverse forms that humankind it evokes.

  5. Posted October 19, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Your body is awesome Chloe! Especially because it house your brain!
    My body enables me to be innocently sneaky……I’m behind you!

  6. Posted October 19, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Oh goody. A thin, white able-bodied woman loves her body.

    • Posted October 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      This is so uncalled for. There are a good many reasons why many women–yes, even thin, white able-bodied ones–might struggle to love their bodies. You don’t know anything about Chloe’s life. And one relatively privileged woman celebrating what her body can do–and asking our readers to share what theirs can do–does not justify a sarcastic, Oppression Olympics-y comment. It is in no way a productive contribution to the conversation and is just mean.

      • Posted October 19, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        “My body can do this and for that I love it!” deserves a snarky sarcastic comment, when she’s waving her mobility and privilege in everyone’s face– and I know you may be in a rush to defend your feministing ‘bestie’ (the way everyone here did when Jessica Valenti used a thin white girl on the cover of her book to the exclusion of… oh, everyone else,—right before, she apologized a year later, and owned up to the fact that yes, she screwed up… at ) Please this whole site is is a privileged middle-class white wet dream, it’s not inclusive, and I have every right to complain. No I don’t know Chloe personally, but I know privilege when I see it, and it’s getting on my nerves.

        • Posted October 19, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

          “My body can do this and for that I love it!” deserves a snarky sarcastic comment

          I just don’t even know what to say. Is this truly what you believe?

          In what way is it inappropriate to be proud of and pleased with what your body can do? Is it just the fact that there are other people out there who don’t have that mobility and capability? Does the fact that there are disabled people in wheelchairs mean that I shouldn’t take joy in my body’s ability to run and jump?

        • Posted October 19, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

          Well, my understanding is that “My body can do this and for that I love it!” is kinda what Love Your Body Day is about, no? To celebrate our bodies in a culture that says they’re never good enough? So Chloe wrote a post to “appreciate the things [her] body can do.” Not all bodies, but her body. And yeah it’s a pretty privileged body as they go. And yes, of course, Chloe’s post about what she loves about her body won’t be “inclusive” to a lot of people–including me, because the move in that photo is totally incredible. But I’m curious what you think she could have done to avoid “waving her mobility and privilege in everyone’s faces” in your opinion, aside from just not writing the post at all?

          Look, if you want to write a comment about how the whole frame of Love Your Body Day excludes a lot of people because for some folks–those whose bodies deviate further from the narrow standards of beauty in our culture–it’s next to impossible to really love your body. How in a culture that devalues so many bodies due to size and race and ability, etc. only those with a substantial amount of relative privilege can actually overcome the overpowering societal pressure to hate yourself and find true body acceptance. In you want to write that comment, please do. Because I would agree 100% with that and perhaps ask you to write guest post about it. If you even just want to point out that many people have to overcome a lot more shit to love their bodies than Chloe does, I’m pretty sure she would agree with you.

          But your sarcastic comment was not that critique. It’s sole purpose was to say “Shut up, Chloe. Since you have a relatively privileged body, I don’t want to hear it.” Taking all your frustration about the way some bodies are privileged over others and putting that frustration on Chloe–or any other blogger, here or elsewhere on the internet–with a snarky comment that treats her as nothing more than an embodiment of privilege is not a critique. To you, her body may simply represent “thin, white able-bodied” privilege, but it’s a body that houses a real human being. Please remember that.

          • Posted October 21, 2011 at 9:51 am | Permalink

            Look, my goal here wasn’t to bully the OP– I get that she’s a person, I do. And I respect her for being a feminist voice on the internet– but I guess my gut reaction, which I probably should have toned down, was one of annoyance, after reading what appeared to be a list of reasons Chloe’s socially-acceptable body is awesome. She’s healthy and fertile, and can do cool jumpy things in the air. Woohoo! But Where does that leave women who can’t say the same thing, and still want to proclaim love for their bodies? I’m glad Chloe loves her body– no really, I am. It’s a rare thing to hear. I just wish that instead of listing a bunch of her physical attributes–which our society already celebrates– she would have maybe shared the struggle it took for her to come to a place of bodily acceptance and love, or perhaps made an effort to frame her body acceptance in more inclusive terms. (it’s a stretch, i know.) To put it in superexaggerated terms, it’s kind of like a woman saying “I love mybody, because it’s so slim and lean, and curvy, and because I have beautiful pouty lips, and super flat stomach.” That would kind of irritate you, wouldn’t it? But I realize it’s her story, and I don’t want to take away from her journey, and I’d be happy to write a guest post, about body acceptance, because it’s something I do feel very strongly about– as it’s so often approached in a problematic, and alienating way.

        • Posted October 20, 2011 at 1:33 am | Permalink

          Please this whole site is is a privileged middle-class white wet dream, it’s not inclusive, and I have every right to complain.

          I used to be more active on this site, and this is the exact reason I left. I remember bigots coming on and spewing hatred, and there were always a few awesome feminists who would stand up to them, calling this a “safe place.” I came to realize that it was a safe space… for middle-class white women.

          As for the original post, it’s a nice message wrapped up in some troubling privileged. But it’s still a positive message which I will reflect upon.

    • Posted October 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      I find this to be incredibly rude as well. Chloe’s point seems to be that *all* women should learn to love their bodies whether they’re thin, fat, pink skinned, women of color, able-bodied, disabled, or anywhere on any of those spectrums. I love my body for how it has survived a debilitating illness even when sometimes I curse it for failing me at points. Chloe loves her body for being strong and allowing her to do that beautiful move. Somehow assuming that she, as an athletic, white, able-bodied woman shouldn’t express her pride in her body? That makes me incredibly sad. In my mind she should celebrate and love her body as I should mine even though our bodies are incredibly different. And that’s what makes the world awesome.

    • Posted October 19, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

      I agree with Ana, this post made me uncomfortable. Being happy in one’s skin is good. Suggesting that the reason to be happy in one’s skin is what one can *do* is suggesting that more functional, more able bodies are superior. Implying rather strongly that the valuable and good things about the original poster’s body are specifically her fertility/cisgender female status and her athleticism does not seem inclusive.

      I’m glad I have a working pancreas, because not having one would be inconvenient. But given the difficulties my diabetic relatives have had, I would not feel right celebrating how proud I am to not experience that specific kind of disability. I’d especially avoid talking about the joys of pancreas-having as part of a blog carnival about encouraging people to love and feel comfortable in their bodies.

      • Posted October 20, 2011 at 1:22 am | Permalink

        Suggesting that the reason to be happy in one’s skin is what one can *do* is suggesting that more functional, more able bodies are superior.

        This. I’m not sure it’s what Chloe meant, but it is definitely how it came across to me.

    • Posted October 19, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

      I hardly ever post, but I had to put in my two cents about this comment.

      This blog constantly seeks to challenge a lot of the classist, racist ideas that exist in our culture. I’ve read many feministing posts that address the gamut of struggles of people from diverse backgrounds: women AND men, differently-abled people, transgendered people, people with different sexual orientations, and people from ALL races and economic circumstances.

      There are many women who are struggling to love their bodies – that struggle, however insignificant in your eyes, is still an internal hurdle caused by external social pressures. As far as being white goes, race is not something we can choose – we should all love our own skin for the color it is. Being healthy (both physically and mentally) is something we all strive for.

      I would encourage you, Ana, if you feel so strongly, to post your own story in the community section, or to have a dialogue with one of the feministing writers. If you feel that you or any other demographic is not being represented, there are many ways to take action (including this site), but please don’t discourage any other woman from loving their body.

  7. Posted October 19, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been thinking about your beautiful post all day Chloe. I think it’s brilliant the way you’ve moved past all the body image stuff and gone to deeper, more powerful things about your body.

    Then again, since I’m the owner of a virtual body, I wondered if your post kind of made my body irrelevant… in the end I decided that even though I can’t heal myself or carry a child, that I do in fact Love My Virtual Body… a lot!

    Hence a blog post of my own:
    http://vaneeesa.com/2011/10/20/i-love-my-body/

  8. Posted October 19, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    I think you guys are kind of missing the point. In this post, Chloe is modeling a great attitude to take for “Love Your Body Day.” Namely, pick something anything, that you love about your body and run with it. Everyone’s list will be different, but that’s kind of the point.

    Good post Chloe. I’m glad your body can orgasm too.

  9. Posted October 20, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I’m addressing this to Chloe because I’m a big fan of her writing:

    I realize the VERY good intentions of your post: celebrating our bodies as they are. But the emphasis on what you can “do” (= ability) still made me quite uncomfortable as someone with disabilities.

    Usually when one writes a piece meant to buck oppressive, judgmental thinking and celebrate the way we are, the author writes about a quality that is ostracized – a skin color, sexuality, a body size, physical features considered to be deformities, etc. It’s the honesty of the author IN SPITE of adversity that inspires. You instead decided to celebrate things about your body that mainstream society does not ostracize at all, but in fact agrees with you are wonderful. So for those of us who cannot dance, have children, heal cuts, or do gymnastics, this post simply reminds us of this and it’s hard not to take it as bragging. (I know that wasn’t your intention.) You did invite us to list our own things we love about our bodies, but I don’t think there’s anything my body can do that yours can’t.

    Unless you do have certain limitations. (When I was born, the doctor reassured my mother, “EVERYONE has physical limitations. Some people have bad knees, others need glasses. Emily’s achondroplasia is just more obvious than others’.”) Had you written about such limitations instead, accompanied by the same beautiful photo, I would have found it a more productive path toward opening a discussion about pride in the face of adversity.

  10. Posted October 20, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Talking about what each of our bodies can ’do’ reminded me of this piece of Walt Whitman’s poem, ”I Sing the Body Electric”:

    All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your
    body or of any one’s body, male or female,
    The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean,
    The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame,
    Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity,
    Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from woman,
    The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping,
    love-looks, love-perturbations and risings,
    The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
    Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
    Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening,
    The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
    The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair,
    The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the hand the naked
    meat of the body,
    The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,
    The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward
    toward the knees,
    The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the
    marrow in the bones

    Everyone’s body can do something; I think the main point is to celebrate your own something(s), even if it’s as simply as thanking our brains for folding inside our skull-frames.

  11. Posted October 20, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure that one of the (many) virtues of feminism is that Chloe can love her body for any damned reason she wants.

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