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A different view of bodies

Posted Feb 17 2011 11:36pm
I just started reading Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene tonight.  It's considered a science writing classic, yet I still hadn't read the book.  It was either checked out of the library, or I forgot to look for it, or I could only find the super-duper deluxe anniversary edition at the bookstore.  But I stumbled across it at the library a week or two ago, and so I eagerly checked it out.

The idea of the book (if I can boil it down to a sentence or two after reading the first three chapters) is that plants and animals and microbes are really just genes' way of making more genes.  I haven't read enough of the book to know whether or not I totally believe it, but the book's thesis isn't really the point.  One of Dawkins' comments was that

A body is the genes' way of preserving genes unaltered.

Or, in non-Oxford University PhD speak, a body is the genes' way of making more genes.

As part of my eating disorder treatment, I learned a lot about how people viewed women's bodies over time.  They were objects or trophies.  Something to be subdued.  Something to be ignored.  Something to be feared.  And we discussed how we viewed our own bodies.  In my case, it was something to be conquered and tamed. Literally mind over matter.  I wanted to not need sleep or food or water or any of that.

It is one view of the body.  A skewed and not all that healthy one, granted, but it's a view.  Many of my therapists in treatment told me that I should think about what my body does rather than how it looks.  That my body should be my temple.  That I should love my body.

Mostly, I'm ambivalent about my body.  It does most of what it needs to.  It is what it is and I generally don't think about it too much.  No, I don't like how I look but whatever.

This quote struck me because it was such a different way of looking at a body.  Not wondering whether it was larger or smaller than me.  Or exercised more.  Or whatever.  Just that a body was what our genes used to make more genes.

The simple practicality of that statement--whether you agree with it or not, and as I said, I haven't finished the book, so I'm not going to say--was really eye-opening for me.  A body is functional.  Maybe the key to body acceptance is to stop making it so damn complicated.
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