“Hey girl…do you work out?”
Normally I wouldn’t turn around because I’m hesitant to assume any catcalls are for me. However, this wasn’t my first rodeo, and I was fairly confident the statement was intended for me seeing as it was 8 a.m. in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
As I looked up from unloading my groceries I noticed the parking lot attendant eyeing me up and down. In his defense, I was wearing athletic shorts, a tank top, and some running shoes; maybe he was just striking up a friendly conversation about common interests. I responded with a simple yes, to which he replied:
“I bet you could knock a man out with those arms.”
The longer I unloaded a giant cart of groceries (bottles of water, cases of LaCroix, and other heavy things) without any offer of assistance this dude just kept checking me out. Enough is enough, I thought to myself. Maybe I should’ve had a little more grace, but at this point I was fed up. I stopped, looked him square in the eyes and said: “I haven’t yet, but man would I sure like to find out.”
That’s Not All
You might be thinking that I’m taking this a little too seriously or that I’m some man-hater who is rallying in the streets with my top off. If you know me, you would know that neither could be farther from the truth. I’m the first to laugh it off and I’m very much a big fan of the male species, you guys are great, keep up the good work.
But unfortunately this isn’t the first time I’ve been the recipient of such remarks. Just within the past few weeks here are some comments that stick out:
“Dang, welcome to the gun show.”
“You don’t look like everyone else.”
“You’ve gotten really big.”
“Do you lift?”
“She’s got biceps for days.”
Sticks and stones my she-definitely-squats ass, words do hurt. The words we hear shape us whether we want them to or not. When someone comments on your body it seeps down into your bones either positively or negatively. Whether it’s fat shaming or fit shaming it’s shaming nonetheless. It doesn’t matter how you package the criticism or the “compliment” the odds are that making a judgment about someone’s body can induce a type of shameful effect one way or another.
It’s Not Okay
Under zero circumstances is it ever okay to talk about someone’s body. Zero, not a once, don’t do it. Seriously, just stop.
Don’t tell someone they look skinnier, it can imply they were once fat. Don’t ask if someone’s pregnant because oh-my-gosh-what-if-she’s-not. Don’t tell someone they look good, they could be battling against an eating disorder or, more commonly, disordered eating. Don’t tell someone they look tired, we all know it just means rough. See where I’m going? Let’s all make a concerted effort to not comment on people’s appearances in general because odds are it has the potential to do more harm than good.
Maybe it seems extreme, but better safe than sorry.
We Have No Right
As human beings who occupy a position on the planet we don’t have a right to anyone’s body but our own, which means we have to keep our hands and our judgments to ourselves.
Let me say it again- we are not entitled to anyone’s body- not mentally, not emotionally, and sure as hell not physically.
Fellas, we need to chat for a second before we continue with our regularly scheduled program. Never in a million years have I or would I approach a man and ask him if he worked out, so why do so many men feel as though they’re allowed to do so with women?
Unfortunately, the answer is pretty simple. Friend and writer Micah J. Murray sums up this type of double standard perfectly when he said:
“As men, we are culturally conditioned to believe that we are entitled to women — their attention, their time, their bodies, their sexuality. Movies and commercials and songs and jokes reinforce the lie that women are objects — symbols of status, or a reward to be earned.
If we don’t consciously interrogate and deconstruct this idea, it will permeate our view of women and we’ll never realize it.”
The sooner all of us can begin to pull apart the idea that we are entitled to anything, let alone someone else’s body, the sooner this world will be a safer place for everyone- both physically and emotionally.
So to answer the original question:
Yes, I Work Out
Yes, I work out.
Yes, I work really hard.
Yes, I am proud of my body.
No, you cannot talk about it.
And no, I refuse to alter the size and shape of my body based on preconceived notions of what a woman’s body is supposed to look like. As a woman I am in a constant battle that I’m too much, too big, too strong, too loud, too much of anything. I cannot in good conscience return to former thought patterns that tell me to shrink or downplay any part of myself because in so doing I am likely to lose the whole of myself.
There are so many other and better questions you can ask me. Ask me what gets me out of bed in the morning; what makes me sad, how I feel when it’s cold outside, my favorite movie, anything honestly. When you settle to comment on my body or ask about it you’re missing out on the rest of who I am. While I am finally learning to be comfortable and confident in my own skin I would much prefer you to get to know the woman inside of it. When we settle for the physical we are missing out on the eternal and if that’s not a shame I don’t know what is.
Quite often the person inside is stronger, more beautiful and more resilient than any body that could ever contain it.