One single moment has always stuck with me since freshman year of college. I was in an acting class and we had a “final” exam where we had to deliver a monologue we wrote ourselves. A spoken-word performance in a way. I got up and did mine and felt proud of the work I had put into it– of the content I had created, and the vulnerability I had allowed myself to feel in front of my peers. As I sat down next to one of my classmates after I had delivered my piece, she said to me: “Oh my gosh, I was staring at your ass the whole time!” I felt burned. I had just given a piece of myself to the class, and that was the feedback I got? I had never felt so objectified in my whole life. It caught me off guard because I always expected to get comments on my body from creepy people on the street and never dreamed I would be objectified in the classroom by one of my peers no less. I wish I had the guts to tell her how uncomfortable she made me in that moment.
I regretfully have to say that this instance has happened multiple times to me. I think often it is coming from female peers who are trying to be body positive or are trying to compliment me. I understand many of the comments I’ve received have been delivered to me with good intentions. I cannot say that their effect has aligned with their intent.
We are lucky to live in a moment of body-positivity that has swept over social media with people of all shapes and sizes. We have a long way to go, of course, but right now we are in the beginning of something huge. For some people, it may make them feel great to receive comments on their figure. I respect that. For other people, feeling confident in their body may be more of a preferred personal journey. I completely understand that. I will be the first person to tell someone that they look fierce. Because you know what? Body positivity is about how you feel about your amazing, capable, empowering, and beautiful body. I will tell you that you look stronger, you look powerful, you look great, but what I will not do, is to analyze your body in such a way that makes you feel like nothing more than just that- a body.
We are all remarkable because of who we are on the outside and the inside. The classroom setting, or any professional setting for this matter, is about crafting and utilizing our intellectual capabilities and pushing ourselves to become more than we are today.
Another recent instance that pushed me over the edge and frankly inspired me to write this was when I walked into one of my classes at Tisch School of the Arts, ready to learn more about myself and push myself as an artist in a comfortable environment, and someone looked at me and said, “Is that a self-grown piece of ass?” Meant as a compliment? Yes. Received as one? No. I am at a point in my life where I did not let the comment phase me and I still felt comfortable to take risks as an artist in the classroom setting. Right after I left the class, the comment resurfaced in my mind and began to bother me again. What really began to bother me is that I’d now heard these kinds of comments again and again in an educational environment.
I constantly hear the phrase “You never know what people are going through” in my head and try to remind myself of it frequently. I am reminded of the phrase whenever people make comments about my body to me in the classroom. If anything, I hope you as the reader walk away with this: we cannot meddle in things we know nothing about. We never truly know how people relate to their body and unless they share it with us, we have no business getting in their way. Wherever you are on your journey with self-love towards your remarkable body, I wish you peace and joy and resilience on it.
I would also like to thank the song “Into the Unknown” from the Frozen 2 soundtrack for giving me the confidence to write this article and say things that have been in my brain for a long time.