My body is more than sexy. My body is strong, supportive, life creating. My body is self sustaining. It's soft and warm, yet tough and relentless. It aids me to live and do all of the things I want to. It's fine if you think my body is sexy. But it doesn't stop there. My body had many purposes before society decided it was sexy and exploited it as if my body were theirs.
At work, I have to wear a one-piece. It would be inappropriate if I did not, although the kids are welcome to wear two pieces. Because showing my fully-developed chest and curvy hips would be too sexy. But I didn't sign up for my body parts to be symbols of sex. I was just born with them. My body's function at work is to swim and help kids swim -- not to be sexy. Why do the two seemingly always overlap? It's not my fault if you find my body sexy, and now I have to hide it because of that? This is not my camp's fault, but the overruling societal codes it must abide by. I can't wear a tank top on a 100-degree day, because my shoulders and skin are too suggestive. I've learned this since I was a little girl. My campers ask me why I can't wear a bikini like them. But one day, their bodies will be over-sexualized by society. And they won't be able to wear bikinis to the pool, or tank tops to school. They didn't decide for their bodies to be symbols of promiscuity -- you did.
Believe it or not, my breasts serve a greater purpose than for you to look at, talk about, scrutinize. They will nourish my future children, provide survival for my babies. My children will be sustained by the function of my breasts, the most biologically natural thing a body part could do. Yet you do not see them as sources of survival and motherhood: they are sexual. And now, because you decide that, I have to cover them up like they're a secret. We think this way because we raise our kids this way -- that skin is inappropriate, that our private parts are not private because we choose to protect and cherish them, but because their crude presence is sexual and distracting. The other day, a child came in wearing a Superman costume which left her thighs exposed, similar to bathing suit bottoms. Her creative and spirited costume became an opportunity for scrutiny when another child next to me innocently asked, "Is that appropriate?" This girl is 7 years old (if you really wanna get freaked out, she was born in 2009), her only intent wearing the costume is to pretend she's something else for the day. But the minute another child questions her outfit, it becomes sexualized. "Inappropriate" is a word we're misusing, and what we really mean by it is "too sexy" or "too at risk for being perceived as sexy." My beautiful mother, who is always concerned over her weight and appearance, wore a brand new orange suit to the beach last weekend. She came out to show my brother, sister and I to make sure it was OK. When she emerged, we all stared. The suit was a bright and summery orange, exposing the V of her freckled chest. Finally, I broke the silence. "You look great!" I exclaimed, and my brother and sister were soon to follow. Her face showed skepticism. "Are you sure it's not too sexy?" she asked us, looking down at her body. My 55-year-old mother, the woman whose body I have known better than my own for 19 years, was afraid to be "too sexy" or too suggestive. Her fear unfortunately was later confirmed on the beach, where a woman visibly mocked my mom to her own daughter sitting next to her. As soon as my mom lifted her shirt off, the woman nudged her daughter, gestured towards my mother and blatantly pointed to her own chest, urging her daughter to get a look. I can only imagine what she was saying to her daughter if she was this shameless to openly and visibly criticize my mom. I couldn't believe it. This woman was so obsessed with my mother's comfort regarding her own body, she had to draw attention to it and make it a point of conversation. As a survivor of breast cancer, my mom should love, cherish and embrace her breasts whichever way she feels comfortable. I felt the same pain for my mother than I did for the little girl in the superhero costume. Both just trying to live their lives in their bodies, and being mocked and questioned while doing so. 50 years apart in age, yet facing the same sexual shame from society. This woman discredited my mother as a survivor, as a mother, and without even realizing it. She objectified my mom's body for her own ridicule. As if my mother's breasts haven't carried the weight of three children, the weight of tumors and treatment and pokes and prods. Like my mother hasn't borne that weight. Because in that moment, my mother wan't a woman. She was just a beach-goer attracting attention with her own physicality -- naturally. But my mother's body is more than sexy.
We tell girls to strive for more, we encourage them to do more and achieve more things beyond their looks. Then when they do, we tear them apart for their weight, hair, outfit choices. I did not choose for my body to be sexy. I chose for it to be more than that. I did not choose to change my skirt in 6th grade, for the chance some young boy may find my curvy thighs distracting. I did not choose to have to change my top when it left my shoulders exposed and vulnerable. I did not choose for my body to be sexy -- you did. Society did. But you and I will combat this idea. By wearing what the fuck we want and not being unapologetic for it. By correcting those who minimize us to our body parts. By writing and reading articles like these. I hope every girl feels comfortable and confident about their bodies after reading this -- because they're yours. Girls need to know they aren't the ones being sexual and perverted by embracing their bodies and displaying them in the ways they want, but it's society who is the pervert. It's society who decides our breasts and hips stop at being sexy -- but we know they are much more. Be proud of your body, it's the only thing you'll ever truly own. And do not let any small-minded person dampen, undermine, or interfere with that ownership.