Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Join the Body Gossip Revolution

by Guest Contributor Natasha Devon, Body Gossip

There are some great people doing some great work out there, Natasha and the team at Body Gossip are helping to change the way people thing about their bodies. Read on to find out how you can join the Body Gossip Revolution

Our relationships with our bodies are intensely private and incredibly complex. Often, our knowledge of what is healthy does battle with illogical desires to conform to an aesthetic prescribed to us by a society obsessed with thinness, youth and perceived wealth. We form emotional attachments and associations with aspects of our physicality. We’re increasingly obsessed with how we’re perceived and what we project, seeing our bodies as a vessel to be sculpted at will to an imagined ideal. As Body Gossip writer Kate Tym says in her poem ‘What are we Protecting our Children From?’ - “the concept’s f**ked”.

My Nan maintains, somewhat spuriously in my opinion, that her generation ate when they were hungry, stopped when they were full, saw chocolate as an occasional treat and got enough exercise going about their day-to-day lives to render a gymnasium a laughable concept. I’m sure rationing had some hand in this.

Perhaps our grandparents did enjoy a more carefree, straightforward and healthy relationship with food and with their bodies. Or perhaps the post-war generation saw scrutiny or analysis of the same as a self-indulgent luxury. Whatever the truth, there can be little doubt that paradigms of beauty, diet and exercise regimes and the average person’s feelings towards their bodies have transformed beyond recognition in the past 50 years.

At Body Gossip, our aim has always been for the public to ‘initially think about their bodies more, so that ultimately they can think about them less’.

 This mission statement found the necessity to arise from an encounter I had with a environmental campaigner at an awards ceremony back in 2009. She expressed utter incredulity that a campaign such as Body Gossip had the audacity to even exist, in times when the world is on the verge of exploding (or something). “Body Gossip…… Isn’t that the thing on Facebook where people whinge about not liking their stomachs?” she asked “have you any idea how close the planet is to extinction?”.

(In fact, Body Gossip is a campaign which was founded in 2006, which invites everyone in the UK to write a story or thought about their bodies. A selection of these are then performed by a cast of celebrities in live performances and short films. We aim to give the public a powerful voice to shout about all things body image related. But she wasn’t to know that.)

She missed the most fundamental point, which is that the planet about which she is so concerned is populated by people so crippled by low self esteem and lack of body confidence, they’re not giving much attention to environmental matters (or indeed, anything else). I generalise, of course.

Acceptance of our bodies liberates our minds. When we’re not occupied scrutinising calorie intake and cellulite and celeb beach bodies, our minds are free to concentrate on the truly important things. Crucially, we’re also likely to discover what it is we’re actually passionate about and, indeed, good at. This is particularly true of young people. The Body Gossip educational programme ’Gossip School’ has shed light on a generation who see working towards a model-like physique as more valuable use of their time than working towards a GCSE.

In a society where the government monitors the education system via exam results (leaving less academic children believing that they are ’stupid’) and reports on the employment market sending the message that even the most academically gifted children aren’t guaranteed a job at the end of all their hard graft, who can blame teenagers for pursuing a looks-based career as a ’quick fix’? Yet, when their bodies don’t bend to their will, low self-esteem and self-hatred are the result.

And that was all very bleak, for which I apologise. Because if you are reading this, you subscribe to the Beyond Chocolate philosophy, proof in itself that there is a community of people prepared to think positively about their bodies and about themselves.

At Body Gossip, the pieces of writing we have received from the public have similarly demonstrated that, contrary to what we might have been led to believe, it’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to body image. There is undoubtedly, however, progress to be made in this field, and damage to be undone. Some stories have been celebratory, others self-deprecating. Some are humorous, others deeply moving. They cover topics such as eating disorders, body dysmorphia, injury and illness, pregnancy, adolescence, ageing, disability and ethnicity. Gradually, we are building a snapshot of how a person living in Britain in 2011 feels about their body.

And you know what? It’s really not as depressing as all that. Yes, many of us feel imprisoned in a minefield of mixed messages, scrambling for some kind of clarity. And yes we’re invariably a bit confused. But the pieces we’ve received tell the stories of countless people who have been propelled towards acceptance, seeing their bodies for what they are -A vessel which allows us to live this crazy thing we call life. We’re receiving the message that health is the most valuable commodity one can own.


We will be publishing a book of real body stories in August - A self help book for the Nation, by the Nation, including submissions from celebrities and from the public. You can submit your body story by going to www.bodygossip.org/book.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.