When I turned 40, my social media feed changed. I’ve always gotten some advertisements for yoga and other fitness products and programs. I’m a yoga teacher, so I’m a good target for those kinds of ads. Likewise, I’ve always seen at least a handful of ads for makeup and hair products. But it seemed like the very first day of my 40th year, when I opened up Instagram, a new regime was in control.
The advertisements I saw were all about holding off the aging process. Ads that tried to convince me that my body’s hormones are now wrong, and I need to fight them. Ads for wrinkle reducing ointments, programs guaranteed to help me lose weight through some sort of weird ‘aging body’ math, ads for diets that are ‘guaranteed’ to give me more energy. Ads for shapewear – products that encase the human body in uncomfortable, tight-fitting, sausage-casing-like garments that are designed squish me into a more socially acceptable shape.
It was honestly overwhelming. In the face of that onslaught, I did wonder: am I…okay? Am I broken now? Is this the thing so many women talk about – that at some point we are no longer deemed worthy of love?
I found that I was looking more closely at my wrinkles.
This past winter, I started back in therapy. It had been many years, but my father’s death on top of the isolation of the pandemic had turned a normally manageable level of depression into something that was anything but. I wasn’t coping anymore.
One of the things that came up in my sessions was that I was having a hard time feeling good about my body. Like most of us, I put on some pandemic weight. On top of that, I broke my ankle the day of my father’s memorial service. Three months off my feet cost me some strength and flexibility, and added more weight. However, like most people in our culture, rather than honor that I just gone through the wringer, I started to have some real self esteem issues.
My therapist started me on the book we’re talking about today, ‘The Body Is Not An Apology.’ I can’t recommend the book or the workbook that goes with it highly enough. There are dozens of brilliant ideas and revelations in the book. The one I want to share with you today has to do with what author Sonya Renee Taylor calls the Body Shame Profit Complex.
Every day, we are drowned in a tidal wave of messaging that our bodies are not okay. This takes overt forms like the ads I saw on my social media feeds when I turned 40. However, it’s also present in more subtle ways. When we look at the heroes on television shows and movies, they’re presented as slender, athletic, and young. When the ‘good guys’ don’t look like us, we take a message from that whether we realize it or not. Women in their 40s, like me, tend to be portrayed as no longer desirable. We’re the bad guys, or the nagging wife, or the jealous older woman. When we do connect to our sexuality, it’s mocked – we’re called cougars or pumas and there’s a thread of messaging that we shouldn’t be dressing in clothing that draws attention to our bodies. There’s no way to win here – no matter what we do, the message from the Body Shame Profit Complex is consistent: our bodies are wrong.
I consider myself pretty lucky in that I grew up in a hippie household. My parents did their best to protect my sister and I from the Body Shame Profit Complex. But unless you’re willing to completely separate yourself from society and move off into the woods somewhere all alone, it’s impossible to escape the deluge of messaging. Despite my parents’ best efforts, the message that I’m not worthy enough as I am got through to me.
There are powerful tools within The Body Is Not An Apology to begin reclaiming our body sovereignty. To recognize when the Body Shame Profit Complex is sending us a message, and to develop constructive responses to that messaging. Through inquiries and prompts for consideration, Sonya Renee Taylor helps us unpack the messaging we internalized about both our bodies and the bodies of others. Through simple, effective tools, she helps us begin the journey toward a healthy relationship with bodies – ours, and other people’s.
I still have hard days when it comes to my body, but underneath all that habitual thinking, a new way of looking at the world is emerging. A pride in myself, a better love of and appreciation for all the bodies around me, and a rejection of the billionaires who try to profit off of my pain and self doubt.
I don’t see as many ads now. I’ve had a good time reporting all the ones that show up on my social media feed as scams or ‘offensive.’ Because they are.
I am the most beautiful I have ever been right now. And I will always be the most beautiful I have ever been in the future. There is nothing wrong with my body.
This blog was presented as a mini sermon at the Sunday, September 26th service of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick.
Powered by Patreon
If you enjoy my weekly blogs, please consider supporting me through Patreon. Patreon is what enables me to invest time in writing, teaching and exploring the wide world of spirit. Through small monthly donations from supporters, I am able to make ends meet and devote time to this Work that would otherwise be spent at a mundane form of income generation. Here’s the link: https://www.patreon.com/glassewitchcottage