Body Images

Think of some of the most famous masterpieces of art – Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Michelangelo’s David, or Alexandros of Antioch’s Venus de Milo. What do they all have in common, other than being hailed as some of the greatest pieces of art ever created? 

They all portray beautiful, naked depictions of the human body. And millions of people visit them every year. They have been studied by art students for hundreds of years and recreated on posters, puzzles, signs, statues, and countless other ways. They are exquisite in detail and in beauty.

When Katie and I were in Iceland, we visited the Secret Lagoon. Before entering the lagoon, all patrons are required to shower. The rules are very strict about this and must be followed exactly, including showering completely naked before putting on a bathing suit. While this might not seem like an issue, Katie and I found it disconcerting that the other women had no inhibitions when it came to stripping and showering next to each with no dressing rooms, no shower curtains, no privacy of any kind. Katie was very uncomfortable, and even at my age, I was somewhat unsettled with the whole ordeal. I had very mixed emotions. I wanted to show Katie that it’s okay to be comfortable with your body while at the same time telling her to remain modest. Does modesty still count when you’re in a room of other females? Is it the “judging” of others that leads us to be ashamed or embarrassed, or is it what we’ve been taught about ourselves? 

You see, we have been raised in a country where the human body has been greatly devalued. The media portrays the body as nothing more than a sex item with all exposure of the human body appearing only in pin-up magazines and pornography geared toward enticing sexual prowess. Furthermore, women with “perfect” bodies are glorified while any woman larger than a size 6 is chastised for her weight and size. For the most part, women, in general, are objectified rather than being honored for their skills, talents, and intelligence. We seem to have lost all sight of what is beautiful and what is vulgar, and the result is that females in our society don’t know whether to be comfortable with their bodies or ashamed of them. They don’t know what is acceptable or inappropriate. And how do we determined what acceptable or inappropriate is?

We teach our children to be modest, but society encourages premarital sex. We teach them about “good and bad touching,” but we allow them to watch movies, television shows, and internet content in which rape and molestation is the norm, even celebrated. We tell girls to love their bodies, but we fail to tell them how to have healthy bodies, which is the best way to love ourselves.  

As the mother of young women, I often find it hard to know where to draw the line. So I do the best I can. I show them works of art, talk to them about modesty and chastity, teach them how to take care of themselves, and pray that they see their bodies as things to be cherished, taken care of, respected, but not dirty or in need of repression. It’s an ugly world out there at times. I hope we’re able to teach our children to see the beauty in the bodies that God gave us and to respect and honor everyone for whom they are, regardless of how they look.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Six Reasons to Put Down Your Phone.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

Unmasked

3 Apr 9, 2013 1-12 PMHalloween is upon us.  That time of year when everyone dons a mask and tries to be someone they’re not.  But let’s be honest here, don’t you sometimes feel like every day is Halloween?  Everywhere I look, I see people trying to fit in with those around them.  Whether it’s high school girls with lots of makeup and matching outfits trying to look and act like the “popular crowd” or middle-aged men and women trying to look or act like teenagers, I often wonder why everyone always tries to be someone they aren’t.

How many times have we seen movies where, at some point, the male lead takes off the glasses of the female lead, lets her hair down, and tells her she’s beautiful?  Do we all swoon because he’s finally seeing how beautiful she is without her glasses?  No!  We swoon because he finally recognizes how someone so different from everyone else, someone not trying to conform, is the most beautiful girl of all.  He sees her for who she is, inside and out, and he realizes that in spite of her being a nerd, or shy, or even crossed-eyed, she’s the one he’s in love with!  Let’s face it, it’s not every girl’s fantasy to be loved because she is just like everyone else.  We want to be loved because we are who we are, and that’s good enough, in fact, better than good enough – it’s perfect. Look at one of the most popular entertainment genres out there – the musical.  Wicked, Billy Elliot, The Lion King, Footloose, Flashdance, Frozen, Matilda, even The Sound of Music – they all have one message in common – Be who you are, embrace it, show it to the world, and live the life you were born to live.

I was ridiculed a lot in high school by my peers for standing out, for dressing my own way, for being a little too loud and a little too peppy.  I had gone through all those years of elementary and middle school hiding behind the popular girls, and I was determined not to do that in high school.  No matter what, I was going to be myself, popularity be damned.  Here’s what I learned: yes, there were girls who hated me and boys who were annoyed by me, but I didn’t care, and in the end, it didn’t matter.  I was never “in” the popular crowd, but I was friends with them, along with every other group in school.  I never felt the need to fit in with anyone, and it turned out that I fit in with everyone.  And really, that’s the way it should be.  After all, as everyone under the age of 50 understands, “each one of us is a brain… and an athlete… a basket case… a princess… and a criminal.”  It’s when we stop hiding all of the facets of who we are that we are able to show the real person who lies beneath the mask.

There’s an old adage that the least popular kids in high school are the most eligible ones twenty years down the line.  So here’s my advice to the world, for what it’s worth.  Be yourself now.  Why wait?  Don’t worry about what others will say or think, just be the best you that you can be.  Take off your mask, and be proud of who you are.  Life is too short to live in someone else’s shoes, or their costume.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Her children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Unbound

DSC05175Standing in the Academia Museum in Florence, Italy, in all his glory, is Michelangelo’s David.  Said to be the perfect depiction of the human body, this sculpture is visited by approximately 3 million people each year.  But just around the corner from the statue of the perfect body stand Michelangelo’s non-finito sculptures, the Slaves.  For many years, it was thought that these four pieces of marble were simply unfinished works, but many scholars now believe that the great master purposely left them the way they are to portray man’s struggle to break free of his bondage – perhaps his own internal or perceived shortcomings. slaves-bearded-atlas-760x6422

The other day, as I was getting into the shower, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  As usual, I started thinking about how inadequate my body is with its scars and rolls, far from the perfection sought by the great masters or by society.  Then it hit me.  The scar that runs along my lower abdomen represents the 3 beautiful children I brought into this world.  Without that scar, there would not be Rebecca, Katie, or Morgan.  Those rolls, that I work so hard to get rid of, are a result of a combined twenty-seven months of carrying my children.  The lines and shadows on my face trace the many joys and tears of a good life.

slaves-awakening-young-760x628I worry about my girls and how they see themselves in this world
where girls are expected to be pencil thin and have perfect, unblemished bodies.  I’m pretty sure that when the Bible said that God created us in His image, it didn’t mean that God looks like Channing Tatum or Naomi Campbell, so why are those the types of bodies that we all worship? Do three million people stand agape in front of the David because they recognize the bodily perfection or because they are seeking it and can’t find it in the real world?  Is there truly a “perfect” body?

What have we done to our youth?  Most girls and young women don’t have childbirth scars, wrinkles, and the like, yet everyone expects them to have absolute perfect bodies no matter their genetic makeup or body type.  We actually had a doctor prescribe dieting and extra workouts for a child who is a year-round athlete and eats nothing but healthy food.  I don’t know whether to worry about her becoming overweight or spiraling into bulimia.  The idea that all girls should look like a Kardashian is ridiculous.  And we mothers, grandmothers, big sisters, and aunts – in fact, all women –  need to stop contributing to that fallacy.  Being healthy is good, being overly conscious about our weight and bodies is not.  Stop talking about being “fat,” and posting memes on Facebook with complaints about your body, and most of all, stop putting down other women for the way they look.  Let’s rejoice in who we are and we have to offer this world.  slaves-bearded-atlas-760x642

When I look at my friends who have multiple children, I see true beauty, inside and out.  When I look at my friend who suffered from anorexia, I see someone who is brave and strong and can do anything she puts her mind to.  When I see girls trying their hardest on the field or in the classroom, I see young women learning where and how they belong in this world.  When I see girls scantily dressed, showing off body parts that should only be seen in the shower, I wonder what they will do someday when faced with body fat, wrinkles, age spots.  How will they adapt?  Do they not know that their bodies will only look like that for a short time and that there is so much more that they can and should be proud of?

So I ask each of you females to make a pledge today to become unbound.  Stop complaining about the way you look.  You are beautiful.  And if you don’t like it, change it, but do it right. Let your daughters or those other young women in your life who look up to you see that you like yourself and that you are living a healthy lifestyle, looking out for your body’s best interests but not trying to be something that society says you have to be.  Do it for you, not because you think someone else believes that you should look a certain way.  And point out the good in the women you know, not their flaws.

slaves-awakening-young-760x6282I ask each of you males – husbands, boyfriends, fathers – tell the females in your life that you love them just the way they are.  Don’t just tell them that they are beautiful because beauty is fleeting and subjective, and eventually, they won’t believe you anymore.  Find the very best things in them and help to make those parts shine for the world to see.  We must get past the superficial and start appreciating each other for who we are and what we have to give.

There are very few Davids in this world, but there are many Slaves.  We are all slaves to our bodies, to the demands of society, to the inner voice that tells us we aren’t good enough, pretty enough, sexy enough.  It’s time to break out of the marble that encases us and be slaves no more to the warped idea of perfection.  It’s okay to aim for perfection, but know that we are human, and humanity is far from perfect, unless of course, it’s carved in stone.  And I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather lie in bed next to a warm, soft, imperfect body than a cold, hard, perfectly chiseled piece of marble.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online. Her children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.