The Body Politic

Women who are big or small, wide or narrow, short or tall, are most likely to be so simply because they inherited the body configuration of their kin; if not their immediate kin, then those a generation or two back. To malign or judge a woman’s inherited physicality is to make generation after generation of anxious neurotic women. To make destructive and exclusionary judgments about a woman’s inherited form, robs her of several critical and precious psychological and spiritual treasures. It robs her of pride in the body type that was given to her by her own ancestral lines.

If she is taught to revile this body inheritance, she is immediately slashed away from her female body identity with the rest of the family.If she is taught to hate her own body, how can she love her mother’s body that has the same configuration as hers?–her grandmother’s body, the bodies of her daughters as well? How can she love the bodies of other women (and men) close to her who have inherited the body shapes and configurations of their ancestors. To attack a woman thusly destroys her rightful pride of affiliation with her own people and robs her of the natural lilt she feels in her body no matter what height, size, shape she is. In essence, the attack on women’s bodies is a far-reaching attack on the ones who have gone before her as well as the ones who will come after.

Instead, harsh judgments about body acceptability create a nation of hunched-over tall girls, short women on stilts, women of size dressed as though in mourning, very slender women trying to puff themselves out like adders, and various other women in hiding. Destroying a woman’s instinctive affiliation with her natural body cheats her of confidence. It cause her to perseverate about whether she is a good person or not, and bases her self-worth on how she looks instead of who she is. It pressures her to use up her energy worrying about how much food she consumes or the readings on the scale and a tape measure. It keeps her preoccupied, colors everything she does, plans, and anticipates. It is unthinkable in the instinctive world that a woman should live preoccupied by appearance this way.

It makes utter sense to stay healthy and strong, to be as nourishing to the body as possible…

(Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. Women Who Run With the Wolves, page 217)


8 thoughts on “The Body Politic

  1. MOI

    i dont mean to belittle your pt. because you are right. but dont you think our culture also pressures men to look a certain way? (for instance, the macho, supermuscles man?)


  2. Peter,

    Absolutely. But, since men are in a privileged position in society, they aren’t called to task for it as women are. You can still be a guy that’s hefty and have a television show and lots of girlfriends to boot. But where are the women? The point is that men are chunky, lovable, and cuddly when they are thought “over-weight” by society’s standards, but women aren’t thought of this way.

  3. Girl, I just LOVE this book!! It should be required reading for every female child…high school, maybe, or even middle school!

    I love Estes description of meeting her own cultural tribe. They thought she needed fattening up 🙂 LOL

    Unfortunately, it won’t be until women THEMSELVES begin to embrace their unique forms with gratitude and sacredness, and stop trying to navigate the world via their ‘sexyness’ (and you know the types that I’m talking about….they’ve put the feminist movement back about 20 years!), that we will see a shift here.

    It starts with us.

  4. Grace,

    Oh, I so agree. I’ve really been getting into this book as well. I’ve had it for years and now the universe just handed it to me. I too liked the part about the fattening up. 🙂

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