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Ask not what you can do for your body

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Helsinki chapter.

For the past decade or so of my life I have been experiencing a quasi-physical condition the exact nature of which (probably understandably) I would prefer to not discuss in an online publication. The relevant part of it is that, as it stands now in Finnish public healthcare, the medical treatments for this condition are strongly gatekept and the resources limited; thus, I have spent the better part of my late teens and twenties in a suspended state of uncertainty, interspersed with short bouts of jumping through medical and bureaucratic hoops.

I was finally formally diagnosed and approved for these treatments a little more than a year ago now and found to my surprise, that waiting for a rotating cast of medical professionals, most of whom I only met once, and all of whom were individuals with their own personal problems and agendas, to maybe choose to alleviate my distress at their leisure, had been almost more anxiety inducing than the condition itself. The relief which came from finally having the means to inhabit my body in a natural way was almost secondary to the relief of having the power to do so.

Having repressed awareness of my physical form to the best of my ability throughout the process for the sake of my mental well-being, I was now regaining ownership of my body.

It was springtime, as it is now, which is perhaps the most sensual of all the seasons; bodies, like the Earth, return to life with a vigor that in the months of frost and darkness preceding it feels almost fantastically improbable. The first things I found myself doing with my newfound autonomy were not related to observing how my body changed from an external perspective; rather, I was, perhaps for the first time since childhood, inhabiting it with purpose. Chronically unathlethic all my life, I was now suddenly running and biking around with an enthusiasm that even led to a mild sports injury, just for the sake of feeling myself move and sweat and tire from effort. Having so far led an existence characterised by caution and moderation, I was now making rash decisions in search of nothing but pleasure. I began feeling and wanting.

I had been expecting to find joy in viewing my body as an aesthetic object, but instead, the greatest joy came from discovering all its possibilities as a locus of aesthetic experience.


The rather loosely defined body positivity movement has been, perhaps due to being coopted for commercial purposes, often been too focused on expanding the definition of an attractive and desirable body. This is partially all well and good; the Hollywood-Instagram-brand of attractiveness is damaging and restrictive, in addition to just being aesthetically plain boring. But attractiveness and desirability, no matter how inclusively we define the terms, are still externally imposed values. Being beautiful, or cute, or hot, is simply one out of roughly a million things a body can be or do. A body, especially in springtime, and in the summer to come, can do at least the following things:

Lie in the grass under a tree and look up at the canopy swaying in the wind. Run downhill really fast. Bike downhill really fast. Float in water. Get sun-tired. Wipe out a dish with fresh bread. Spit cherry pits on the lawn. Doze off while talking. Fit perfectly into the nook of another body. Be woken up by sunlight. Hear the bubbling of the stovetop coffee maker and sense the smell filling the apartment. Make and eat a leisurely breakfast. Taste. Smell. Hear. Feel. See. Move. Rest. Repeat.

Ask not what you can do for your body. Ask what your body can do for you.

English major, film enthusiast and aspiring writer with a special interest in queer studies. Finnish/Hungarian. Never to be taken seriously.