“Guns”, i.e. the upper part of the arm, where the triceps and biceps, when toned, make a clearly defined curve. I’d never heard that word until a few days ago.
When Katie Couric, the first woman in the U.S. to become a network television anchor, spoke at a New York City conference I attended last week, BlogHer, the 5,000 women attending, (most in their 20s and 30s), sent in their questions for the on-stage interviewer to ask her.
I was excited!
I expected smart stuff from these hip, young bloggers, like:
What do you think will happen in Syria?
What story has moved you the most?
What do you think of this year’s Presidential race?
What’s your best advice to a young journalist?
Instead, one of them was: “Great guns! How’d you get them?”
Yes, her upper arms, for a woman of 55, were strong, smooth and toned.
But, seriously, can we not, possibly stop focusing on what a woman’s body looks like?
My favorite part of the Harry Potter films is the invisibility cloak.
If I were granted a super-power, this is absolutely the one I’d choose. I’m damn grateful my culture doesn’t force me into a chador, seeing the world only through a tiny mesh screen, but I’m so weary of the 24/7 yammering about how thin/smooth/hairless/flawless my body must be in order to be attractive to others, both men and women.
I saw a woman on the train into Manhattan that morning, like so many I see where I live, in an affluent suburb north of New York City. She wore a tight athletic vest and workout pants, lean as a whippet, defiantly hip-less. Easily in her 50s, possibly beyond, her eyes and stance had an intensity I find really unsettling.
You can smell the desperation to be better than, the angry determination to rule their flesh, to beat back the softness, roundness or dimpling that betrays their body at its true age, 55 or 62 or 47.
So their weirdly ropy guns — Madonna has them — have created a whole new arms race, with flesh-as-metaphor: I’m fitter/better-toned/stronger/healthier/prettier/more disciplined than you.
As a 55-year-old feminist, a former nationally ranked athlete whose sport — saber fencing — left me covered in small bruises people assumed meant I was a battered wife — I find this sad, and ironic.
I’ve known elite athletes whose bodies didn’t even look like this.
Jocks of all ages, male and female, have a sort of walk I find insanely sexy — a rolling, relaxed gait that shouts, quietly, how comfortable they are in their bodies. They know they’re strong and fast and flexible. They don’t need to prove anything.
I love being strong. I can still hit to the outfield. I value my muscles and what they do for me. I’ve always had big thighs, and use them happily for hiking out of a sailboat or hiking the Grand Canyon (four hours down, eight hours up.)
But, with age, my body is changing, softening, drooping. Thanks to my new hip replacement, I now have a shiny six-inch scar on my left hip. No bathing suit can possibly cover it.
I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror for the first few months, so shocking was this new permanent part of my body. Now I bear it proudly, running and dancing and climbing stairs as I once did, with breathless ease.
I wish our minds were as valued as our bodies.
I wish our arms were valued most for their willingness to embrace, to comfort, to soothe. To wave a banner or placard of protest. To plant and hoe and paint and execute a lovely port de bras.
I wish women — and men — would cherish our bodies, above all, for their strength, flexibility and power.
(We do this for every Olympic athlete.)