Our bodies are complex. I would know as I’m taking an Anatomy class this semester and I have a lot of body parts to remember. Parts of the musculoskeletal system, the nervous system, the circulatory system. As I learn about the thousands of body parts, I can’t help but reflect on my own. I catch myself touching my arm when we talk about the humerus in class, or glancing down to the metatarsals in my feet. All this talk about anatomy got me thinking about bodies and definitions. The way I see it, in today’s society, the parts of the female body have three definitions: the real scientific dictionary one, the one riddled with societal expectations, and some third body-positive definition that we don’t really talk about. For example:
Vagina [vuh-jahy-nuh] noun
The passage leading from the uterus to the vulva in certain female mammals
The female reproductive organ that society prefers not to readily or openly acknowledge
The pubic region outside the vagina must always be free of hair to ensure the appearance of prepubescence
My Definition: A magical and empowering part of the female body
The women gathered far and wide to celebrate their vaginas, no matter the glorious size, shape, color, or presence of hair.
Breasts [brests] noun
The pair of mammae occurring on the chest in humans and having a discrete areola around the nipple, especially the mammae of the female after puberty, which are enlarged and softened by hormonally influenced mammary-gland development and fat deposition
The parts of the female body which must be neatly packaged within a standard “brazier” at all times, and never be revealed in public so as to avoid being distracting
Alternative Definition: The parts of the female body that shouldn’t have to be forcefully covered up or contained as if they aren’t there
She attending the protest with her breasts bare, making an exuberant statement to “free the nipple.”
I grew up hating my body. I was disgusted by it. I thought I was too fat. I thought my parents were embarrassed to have a fat girl for a daughter. Children can be cruel, and I endured fat shaming to such a degree that I would beg my mom to let me stay home from grade school. There were times when I would’ve gladly stood upright in anatomical position, palms up, ready to carve out all the parts that I never wanted.
I wanted a smaller waistline. A gap between my thighs. I remember when my aunt told me for the first time (and certainly not the last) to suck in my stomach when I walked. I remember being puzzled, but I obeyed, and now I never take a step without pulling my stomach into my core. I also remember when she gingerly touched my collarbone and said she wished her own pushed out of her skin like mine did.
I guess even grownups want to change their bodies.
Thighs [thays] noun
The parts of the lower limb in humans between the hip and the knee.
The parts of the female legs that must be physically toned, must not have any cellulite, and must not jiggle
My definition: : The parts of the female body that may or may not have a gap between them, but in either case, are still majestic.
As she pulled up her underwear, she looked in the mirror and saw that her thighs were beautiful, dimples and all.
Belly [bel-ee] noun
The front or under part of a vertebrate body from the breastbone to the pelvis
The part of the torso that can never be flabby, or have any rolls or stretch marks
My Definition: The belly can be characterized as having any shape, round or flat, and still look dazzling
She wore a crop top today, showing off her gorgeous belly, crisscrossed with stretch marks.
Legs [legs] noun
Either of the two lower limbs of a biped, as a human being, that support and move the body
The lower limbs of the female body that must be completely hairless at all times
My definition: The flawless parts of the female body that are always sexy and stunning
When she climbed into bed that night and brushed her beautiful legs together, she felt the familiar prickles of hair and took comfort in knowing that she never has to shave.
I used to play softball, fastpitch, and slowpitch. Every summer I’d stand for hours in the sweltering heat hoping for a hard line drive to be hit smack into my glove for the out. I played first base because the position made me feel exhilarated. It’s the first stop for every hitter, and whenever I got someone out and stopped them in their tracks, stopped them from flying past me on their way to second base, it felt amazing. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I liked that position because it often didn’t require me to throw the ball to someone else, and if I wasn’t throwing, then no one would see my arms jiggle.
Arms [ahrms] noun
The upper limbs of the human body, especially the part extending from the shoulder to the wrist
The upper limbs of the female body that should never have any fat and should never wiggle with movement
My Definition: The upper limbs perfect for giving a fellow body-positive feminist a joyous hug
She threw her arms in the air with a shriek, reveling in their wobbles, as the roller coaster soared down the hill.
But lately, alternatively, I’ve been on a body-positive kick.
For the past few months I’ve looked in the mirror and haven’t hated what looks back, and honestly, I don’t know why. I think I’m still figuring it out. Maybe I’m just growing up and realizing that I have more important things to worry about. Maybe it’s because I feel more confident in the summer with a tan. Or maybe it’s because I’m starting to accept myself for who I am.
I’d like to think I’m growing to accept myself and my body. I’d like to think that it will last forever, that I’ll never look at my flabby and fat skin and think that I’m not good enough. I’d like to think that I’ll never look at my breasts again and wish they didn’t spill out over the sides of my bra. I’d like to think that one day I’ll stop consciously reminding myself to suck in my stomach to the point where my back starts to ache. I’d like to think all of these things.
But even now, in my joyous phase of loving my body inside and out, there’s a small part of me that thinks it won’t last. Redefining my body over time will keep me appreciating it in new ways though, and that’s how I intend to keep loving myself, all of myself. Hopefully as I continue to study anatomy I’ll continue coming up with bigger, better and more empowering definitions to share.