Now the #thisgirlcan video has been doing the rounds for a while
Sport England released the TV advert to show a whole variety of women doing and enjoying sport in order in encourage others to do that same. Some far so girl power, right? Well some women objected to it, and the week it was released The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 did a lunchtime piece debating whether it was another form of sexualisation of women's bodies.
In the west we tend to look at our bodies as only a vehicle for our heads (to paraphrase Ken Robinson's excellent TED talk). Any bodily functions are seen as unpleasant and/or shameful. The only thing "pleasant" (ie. of pleasure) to do with bodies is sex.
So I get it. The leap is not far from celebration of bodies = sex. But it's a leap that unsettles me. Which is probably why I'm still thinking about it a month later.
I agree, the advert is a sexualisation of these women's bodies, but I don't think that that's wrong. Bodies are sexy. All bodies. I would say the problem here is not the objectification of women as sexual beings. We already are sexual beings. No amount of feminist protest, or advertising will change that either way.
The problem is we run from our physicality. We emphasise the intellectual, and increasingly the digital, denying that we are merely a sentient bag of meat (too gross? Sorry). A body that can be hurt, and get sick, and die. That thought is scary and threatening. We deny our bodies in the hope that by doing so we will avoid our mortality. In fact we achieve the opposite. By denying our physicality, we deny the present. We put off the goal we want to tackle today in order to do it "tomorrow" (the mythical tomorrow rather the Wednesday that will follow this Tuesday).
I think we need to get over ourselves! Bodies are the original machine for living in. They do amazing things, like walking and talking and seeing and hearing and thus playing and dancing, and yes even sex. You know that simple joy when your brain and body are doing things together? It brings a kind of peace that isn't found anywhere else. Mindfulness. Being Present. Whatever you want to call it. I get it in yoga (because it's hard to think about your Friday deadline while balancing on your hands with your legs wrapped around your elbows); I get it when I take myself off for a walk; hell, I get it when I do DIY. I need more of that in my life. We all need more of that. That feeling of synergy between brain and body, when you're feeling it, radiates. Other people can feel it. And that's really sexy.
Now there is the school of thought that says if you allow one level of sexist behavior it opens the door to the extremes of the spectrum, sexual violence. I am in no way qualified to talk on that. I understand the argument, but I don't see that denying the fact that we have bodies does anything to prevent those people who intend to use that fact against us. Doesn't shedding light on our relationship with bodies not reduce the areas of shadow in which malicious people can hide?
You should be relishing in your body. You should be using your body. Sure, it will wear out one day, but unlike a car or a jumper or a computer, using it usually extends the period of use.