Why Every Body Matters

Every February around Valentine’s Day, Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week (SRH Week) is marked in communities across Canada. It’s a great time to promote sex positivity, safer sex and sexual health as a vital part of overall well-being. To help you participate, the Sexual Health Educators Network– made up of representatives from a variety of community health organizations in Winnipeg– including SERC and Klinic, sends out resources and campaign support to organizations around Manitoba.

This year’s theme: #EmbraceEveryBody

The following is an excerpt from the network describing this year’s campaign:

The mainstream image of a “desirable” or “worthy” body is generally very limiting: it’s heterosexual, cisgender*, able-bodied, Caucasian, thin, hairless etc. The Sexual Health Educators Network firmly believes that all bodies are good bodies, and with our SRH Week campaign this year, we wanted to marry body positivity with sex positivity. Thus: the #EmbraceEveryBody campaign was born. The campaign includes a poster and a social media component that aim to encourage people to reflect on how THEY embrace every body on their own terms, and how they can (figuratively) embrace the bodies of other people in their lives.

I remember the first time I was exposed to the idea that the societal construct of beauty for women, which we are assaulted with from a very young age, was not necessarily something we should have to accept.  I was 17 years old and in a high school English class, watching Jean Kilbourne’s award winning 1979 film, Killing Us Softly. I recall the feeling of watching that film, being suddenly and painfully aware for the first time of how outside influences had been subtly shaping my self-image over the last 17 years, and how these influences had of course helped shaped the minds of the women who came before me, and the damage that we were doing to ourselves over generations of this type of psychological torment. I was angry and righteous, and still self-conscious, because the reality is it is very difficult to unwire decades of messaging from a very young age. I knew that I wanted it to be better for the girls and women who came after me- and that I wanted to be a part of making in better.

This leads me to another great documentary I got to see recently that I highly recommend, called She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry a comprehensive look at the history (herstory) of feminism and activism.

I am now a few decades older than that righteous and self-conscious young woman. I have learned a lot about myself and my self-image in those ensuing years. How our sense of self-worth can ebb and flow, how other folks and the larger world can influence it if you let them, how precious and fragile we are.   I think the most important things I have learned is that we are all worthy of love, of feeling beautiful, of being seen as fully integrated wholes that are nothing less than miraculous in our very existence.  And that we have to protect this feeling in ourselves and those around us, we have a responsibility to embrace every body, including our own.

Below is a picture of my post for this year’s #EmbraceEveryBody campaign. I challenge everyone reading this to visit the site http://srhweek2016.tumblr.com/ to download your own card and upload your photo/statement- be a part of the message!