Body Power

When my youngest daughter was in middle school, I found myself sitting across the desk from the school principal, armed with reams of printouts from the ACLU discussing what public schools can and cannot do in regards to school dress code.

My daughter had been called to the office for wearing a shirt that showed cleavage. She was a tween and very proud of her cleavage. Her top was not inappropriate—nor was her cleavage. She was just a little more developed than some of her 12- to 13-year-old classmates, who happened to be wearing the same exact shirt (after all, everyone shopped at Limited Too). My contention was that, unless the school was going to prohibit every other sixth- or seventh-grader from wearing that shirt or a similar one, they ought to leave my kid alone. Unfortunately, shaming young girls about what they are wearing or how they are wearing it is not new. Read Heather Martin’s piece on page 12 for a solid look at this issue.

Our bodies, women’s bodies, can be miraculous. Our bodies can grow, deliver and feed babies; run marathons, climb mountains, swim channels, march for causes and dance all night. Yet somehow, we often find reasons to hate our bodies—our tummy is flabby; our face is wrinkled; our breasts are too big or small; our fingers are too long or short; our teeth are crooked. Whatever it is, we beat ourselves up constantly. I am often amazed at the length, both in pain and cost, to which we will go to hide and/or eradicate our perceived flaws. Trust me, we’ve had many conversations around the Maine Women Magazine content planning table about this. But ultimately, we agreed that our Body Issue would focus on Body Positivity. Hurray for that!

Start your journey through this issue by reading the great On The Street piece on page 24, and then take a peek at our reader comments on page 23.  I love hearing Maine women talk about what they love about their bodies. On page 10, you will meet a woman named René Goddess Johnson who works as an artistic director and is a fit dancer from Portland. René understands that women of all shapes struggle with embracing their bodies. As a young woman, René loved her body and took pride in it, but being in an emotionally abusive relationship changed all that and she eventually suffered from body dysmorphia. Now, 11 years later and after a lot of hard work, René says, “being a physical performer has brought me back to that full body kind of self-love I most enjoy.”

Stef Doyle has Marfan’s Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissues and how the body grows, including exaggerated height. Stef, who works as a caregiver and is also a standup comedian, considers her body “a gift” because many other people with Marfan’s are in wheelchairs. Stef says, “If I could, I would give that caregiving experience to the average Joe so they could see what a beautiful, amazing body they really have.” Stef mentions that her partners have found her body to be attractive, and goes on to say, “Our bodies are a lot more attractive to other people than we often realize. There’s always somebody out there who thinks you’re a hottie.” Read more of Stef’s story on page 8.

Enjoy this issue and enjoy your own body! I want to extend a very special thanks to Étaín Boutique for working with us on our beautiful cover this month—so awesome!

Lee Hews

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