Dangerous Curves

Why is my body type offensive? I work in an environment where there is no dress code, so attire can run the gamut from professional to casual in the space of a week and I’m not just talking about casual Fridays. Every unit has their manager and sure, they each have their preference. But it’s just that, a preference. They can dictate, but there’s no real recourse for them to enforce and no matter what happens, you just have to wait them out until they move to their next unit or next assignment. It’s also the first in a long time I’ve worked somewhere where there’s no uniform. I get to choose what I want to wear and as much as I try to buy certain types of clothes, I have a 42” challenge that I can’t seem to surmount.

You see, somewhere round about the time I turned 14, my hips realized their ethnicity and decided that they wanted to be a particular width. Since then, the slimmest they’ve been is 40” and this poses a serious problem when selecting clothes. What fits in the waist is tight around the hips and what fits the hips bags at the waist and often looks sloppy. It’s rare to find something that sits comfortably on me, no matter where I shop. Uniforms were always a challenge because they had to be altered to suit, but coming into this environment, I thought it would be easier. There are slim women and larger women and they all wear some amount of form-fitting clothes. Couldn’t be a problem for me to do the same right? Wrong

So I’m wide of hip, but my waist is also relatively small and I work out so my midsection is usually trim. I have a nice figure. I work to keep it that way. And because of that, every time I wear clothes that fit a certain way, I end up in a meeting with my supervisor. I started to pay attention, catalog the other (frequent) times when other women wore similar styles. I also took notice of the fact that some of those women also had snide or derogatory remarks when I dressed like they did. So… it clearly wasn’t what I was wearing. It wasn’t my attire that they found reproachful. It was how I filled out the garment. They were offended by the shape of my body. Imagine that?! I can do things to mitigate it, sure. A-line skirts are my best bet, but I can buy so many and no more. And moreover, why should I have to? Why should I have to hide my body so others can feel comfortable and less offended? What is it about the cinch of my waist and the flare of my hips that other (usually women, sigh… always women) find so objectionable?

Why is my body, largely in its natural state, unprofessional? Not the cut or colour of my clothing. Not the length and fit of my attire. My body. I see the looks. I hear the comments. What amuses me most is how excited they get when I gain a little water weight during PMS and they assume I’m ‘getting fat’ and gleefully point out that my belly is a little distended or my arms look a little chubby. They look so happy. I wish I felt as happy as they did when the smiles fade as my body changes after my period and I subject them to my form once again.

And every time it happens, I’m reminded of how black women and other women of colour are shamed for our body type. I’m reminded of how so much of the fashion industry revolves around women who are slim of hip and small of stature. And I’ve realized that my body is offensive because it’s sexualized and cannot therefore be seen as fit for the professional sphere. Well, not the office professional anyway. My body is offensive to other women because it angers them that men, even their men, may find me more desirable. It offends them because somehow, the shape of my body reduces me to a vessel for sexual pleasure and reduces my capacity for intellect or aptitude. And so, if I want to be taken seriously, I should hide my body. Or I should stop doing the things that maintain my shape. Or I should use my body for what it was clearly intended and find a man to keep me so I don’t have to invade their professional spaces with my unprofessional countenance.

Well, I’m done with being self-conscious. I will not be shamed for looking the way I do and for maintaining it. It’s this mentality of telling women that they’re acceptable only if their body has a certain range of dimensions, that contributes to eating disorders, unhealthy dieting practices and the mental and emotional issues that plague our young women and cause them to do various procedures that endanger their health and too often their lives. When I think about how it has affected me, it breaks my heart to imagine how a young girl, who has yet to develop a sense of self, would feel. I’m at the age where I can brush certain things aside now, laugh it off and keep going. Not everyone can, regardless of age. We all need to be careful of the things we say and do and how we impact the self-esteem and body-consciousness of our girls and women.

In the meantime… whatever they’re thinking about me, the only thing that’s going to happen is what I want to happen. It’s doubtful we’ll ever get to a place where a woman who looks a certain way isn’t forced into a sexual role in the minds of some. But at the very least, we should be able to wear what others can without being ridiculed or complained about or having aspersions cast upon us. Doesn’t matter though.

Let me go pick out my clothes for tomorrow…

One thought on “Dangerous Curves

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