Feeling the body

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“In trying to examine one body part, 
I’d lose sight of another. I couldn’t 

imagine what I looked like during 
the fractured angles of sex.

At the river’s edge, it was impossible
to see all of myself at once.

I began to understand nakedness
as a feeling.”

Fragment of Primordial mirror by Ama Codjoe

Because of March 8, the lab of rtve, the Spanish public broadcaster, launched an application in which they show “how machismo marked our adolescence.” Depending on the year of birth chosen, they show music videos, film clips, advertising campaigns and trends in the media that have in common the dismissal, invalidation, stigmatization and control of the body. When looking at the results according to the year in which my mother was born, it was not a surprise to see that the object of these actions is the female body: “tricks to lose weight” that are summed up in starving, the stigma towards menstruation, the lyrics of a boy band that talk about raping until you get a “yes”. Nor was it a surprise to see those from my year of birth, which although 40 years later and many advances and achievements made by feminists and human rights groups, continue to reflect a very similar relationship between society and the female body.

I talk about my mother and about myself because being a woman is recognizing the non-abstract collective wound that is there, invisible but cracking the skin from the inside out. Violeta Luna, Ecuadorian poet, essayist and teacher, also reminded me of it when I read her text Rimando el cuerpo (Rhyming the body) printed in the Colombian publication brujas: las mujeres escriben (witches: the women write) from 1983. In a moment of detachment with myself I had the deep feeling that my body wasn’t mine, and in that text she speaks of her painful conviction of having lost her body there, of having learned to feel it, live it, and love it as a place for the other. The other, which has also been marked by sexism and socialized to dismiss, invalidate, stigmatize and control.

Luna talks about the prohibition of touching and feeling one’s own body. And today, 40 years later, the feeling that this permit still doesn’t exist reverberates in my head. With this I am not denying that stigmas have changed, that there has been a transformation, but I acknowledge and claim that what I feel in my body is not the result of isolated experiences. This permission to be in the body with a different objective than to be desirable by the gaze of the world permeated by sexism, we don’t give it to ourselves, not even to ourselves. This certainty hit me in the face while scrolling Twitter, when I saw that someone responded to the following fragment of Annie Ernaux’s spanish bot with this meme:

When I found myself surrounded by other women, in the supermarket, in the bank, I wondered if they had, like me, a man stuck in the head all-time.

That is me. I AM THAT, I thought, like a revelation that confirmed that this body still feels like it belongs to others. I also thought that I wanted to write about it. At the same time, I asked myself why I want to publish a text like this, or like any other. What do I want to write for? Perhaps it is like Joan Didion who, in her text Why I Write from the book Let Me Tell you What I Mean, mentions: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means”, to understand “what is going on in these pictures in my mind”. More precisely, in the “images that shimmer around the edges”. Reading this clicked on me, because although the images in my mind don’t dictate the words to me like Didion, they do ask me questions.

So I believe that this seed-text has been growing in me for a long time. Maybe since I was 3 or 4, the age I was in the image with shimmer around the edges that comes to mind often lately, making me think about my body and how the world has gone through it. That motion image and the sensations I feel in my body when reliving it pushed me to want to write. I write to try to undo the tangle that takes shape inside because I don’t even understand how it was done, where it came from. How many birds passed over it and shit on it. At what point did it become so embedded in me. I write to feel the body and, outright, reclaim it. ✨

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