Hello dear blog readers! It is with great pleasure and excitement that I introduce myself to the community as the new Endangered Bodies New York blog editor.
I had started to grow passionate about resisting the toxic visual culture that impacts our freedom to live productive and satisfying lives while still living in London a few years ago. I wondered what it would be like if the mediascape were suddenly inundated with stories celebrating women’s lives – lives made possible to live through the gift of our wonderful bodies. At that time I started a blog called ‘Not Just a Pretty Face’ and invited women to write about all of the ways in which we are more than merely something to be looked at. I invited women to celebrate their subjectivity, that is, their thoughts, sensations, feelings, their very experiences:
You could be forgiven for thinking that the only thing that matters to girls and women is their looks. So ‘Not Just A Pretty Face’ is a celebration of the diversity of what it means to identify as girls and women.
We are bombarded with fashion and beauty images from all sorts of media where the pinnacle of femininity is to shed pounds, tone muscles, have this type of hairstyle, that type of dress, and who knows what else. And all for what? Why are we expected and encouraged to put so much effort, energy and finance into making ourselves ‘beautiful’? Because we’re worth it. Apparently.
Well we’ve got something to say to the world. We girls and women do things. We’ve got interests and hobbies and skills and achievements that require more than simply being born looking a certain way, which is increasingly never good enough anyway. The fashion and beauty industries perpetually invent flaws in us so that they can then be our ‘friends’ and show us how to fix them. Well guess what? We’re on to you!
Those of us who are too fat, too dark-skinned, too disabled, too poor, too ugly, too short, too old, too queer, too masculine, too whatever, to be considered ‘beautiful’ want to remind the world that our bodies are more than mere objects. Grooming ourselves might be fun but it never really seems possible to get it quite right given the unattainable and narrow standards that are set. Besides, feminine adornment isn’t necessarily every girl’s and woman’s cup of tea. Yet the ‘choice’ to opt out comes at a price, which is to be excluded from the dominant cultural definition of what it means to be ‘properly’ feminine.
With so much emphasis already put on looks and appearance, we think it’s high time society stood up and took notice of all of the aspects of being girls and women. Although there is potential pleasure (though not guaranteed) in being admired as ‘beautiful’, and although it is important to broaden the cultural definition of what it means to be ‘beautiful’, it is just as worthwhile to remind ourselves that our bodies serve a greater purpose than merely being there to look at. There is much more to life than the body-object. Bodies are the places from where we experience ourselves as subjects embedded in the world. Without your body there would be no you, so imagine the power of treating our bodies as integral to our very selves – imagine the power of connecting with the body-subject.
Having had just moved from Dublin to London at that time (I’m an Irish cailín), the women who contributed were mostly Irish and English. As blog editor I wish to begin bringing their stories to you in the hope of encouraging the New York community to ‘break the Internet’ with celebration after celebration of living our lives as body-subjects.
Initially, I believed it was necessary to begin with women since men, although also targeted by popular culture, continued to be represented in a variety of ways and not only as body-objects. Since then, however, I have met enough young men in my work in NYC as a professor of gender and sexualities studies to know that we are all affected by the narrow and pervasive images of idealized bodies in the culture. And so, I will make it my mission to reach out to men as body-subjects too. Moreover, I will be pursuing as inclusive a representation as possible since the body positivity movement has got to be accessible to everyone.
And so, without further ado, I invite you to join in and get writing. The new blog campaign for Endangered Bodies New York, called Subjectify this!, invites you to send pictures, videos and/or stories that celebrate the diversity of what it means to be human. Whatever it is, a poem you’ve written, a song you’ve sung, a picture you’ve painted, an experiment you’ve designed, something new you’re learning to do, a challenge you’ve risen to, tell us all about it. Celebrate! Let the world know that you are much more than just a midriff or a six-pack. Let those consumer capitalists know that you’re ALREADY great. So go on! What are you waiting for?! ... We can’t wait to see, read and hear all about you at firstname.lastname@example.org