A couple weeks ago on the playground I overheard a (sweet, kind, innocent) six-year-old girl tell my five-year-old daughter that she should exercise every day so that she can be skinny like her, the friend.
My daughter, sheltered thing that she is, said, "Why would I want to be skinny?" To which she was told, "Because being skinny makes you pretty. Like me."
I stood there and thought: Fuuuuuuuck!
And then I hopped over towards them, like a twittering bird, and said something about how all bodies are beautiful, all colors, shapes and sizes, but those girls were long gone, running across the playground in hunt of a good tree to climb.
I tried to bring it up in a casual way at home. I infused a couple conversations with comments about the beautiful shapes all bodies take, about how I love the way my post-pregnant belly jiggles, but really I was thinking, Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
What power do I have in the face of this big old world?
Which is why when Dede Cummings gave me a copy of The Bodies of Mothers by Jade Beall, a new release by Green Writers Press, I though, ah, this. I thought: images. Maybe.
I spent hours/days/years poring over The Family of Man as a kid. I memorized those photos, those subtle expressions, those faces, those wants and desires and emotions, finding myself in them and making sense of the world I belonged to.
I brought home The Bodies of Mothers yesterday and lay it on the table where my daughter was sure to see it. She did. She picked it up. Brought it to the couch. Said, "Mama, will you come look at this with me?' Which we did for an hour, looking at these naked bodies covered in tattoos and stretch marks and moles, these bodies with sagging breasts and big asses and skinny asses belonging to beaming, radiant, self-loving women of all different shapes, colors and sizes.
I thought: yes.
I didn't buy this book, but I would, for any daughter of mine. Images like this are the best tool or weapon we have to stave off this culture of judgment, body-hatred and competition. My daughter and I looked at the book again this morning. It's a bonafide magnet. We read the women's names. How many children they have. We looked at their bodies. We looked at their radiant faces.
Go buy a copy, friends!
You can order a copy HERE, though much better would be to order it at your local bookstore. That cheap price they offer? That just means they're giving less than their share to the author and the independent, green publisher.