On Saturday, I Facebook posted Roxane Gay’s recent writing, “My body is a cage of my own making”: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/01/roxane-gay-my-body-is-a-cage-of-my-own-making?CMP=fb_gu
Comments posted, and most especially one in which Gay is referred to as a victim, triggered me to immediately defend her. Am I alone in thinking that in this society being called a victim can be equivalent to being called a loser? It is true that loss is involved when a victim. Yet, I have heard people say with disdain about others, “Oh, s/he is such a victim.” I have been criticized for acting like one. I am unsure that this is the meaning this commentator had in mind when she wrote, “Victim. This was a great piece showing how this author remains forever a victim — by society, her coping skills, and her abusers from long ago.”
Yet are we not all victims? Have we not all been harmed, duped, and/or sacrificed in some way by someone or something recently and long ago? And will we not forever be? I have also been wondering what the opposite of a victim is? Is that a perpetrator? Or is it what Gay, and each of us are, too? Survivors.
Are we not all overwhelmed at times by the prospect of letting go of our survival mechanisms? It helps me to remind myself that I no longer need whichever one I know needs to go. But the first step is seeing how we acquired them.
In her writing Gay speaks of her extra weight as protection and in response to having been raped, at age 12, by a boy she loved and several others. Her way to survive was to think of ways to make herself unattractive to men. And now, her protection has become too heavy to carry and dropping it is daunting and difficult, and to add insult to injury she is criticized and judged for it. (And those boys, where are they now as men and what havoc are they wreaking in other lives and do they carry the responsibility of their act or is Roxane Gay carrying it for them? I am curious if their collective weight at the time of the act could add up to the extra weight she has carried.)
Our bodies are our boundaries and in some ways the body is a cage, yet it is also a home. Our body is home. And we are the host at the door, hopefully, deciding who (and what) we let in and don’t. When that home has been violated. especially at a very early age, before we have learned and acquired dominion over it, the price we pay to have comfort in our homes is higher. It’s terrifically unfair, as life can be. As male privilege is.
What has male privilege done to a female’s image of her body/home? And what has male privilege and abuse cost females in terms of self/body/home protection? How can we measure the influence of others on how a female presents her body to the world? Feeling at home in one’s body is a challenging task while living among others who set “acceptable” standards for it.
For the record, I do not think this is only a female issue though it is easily arguable that a female’s body is more monitored and criticized than a male’s.
I think about Lucy Pilgrim, the character in my first novel, and how she struggles with her body/her home. I smile when I look at a sketch of her above and the exaggerated shoulders, knowing how she was carrying much more responsibility than was hers. Also notable about Lucy and this article is how Lucy, refusing to see herself as a victim, made it impossible for her to see the damage that had been done to her, and thus, blinded her to her vulnerability, and thus, her healing.