Why My Body is Not a Flexing Ocean

by Oriana Asano

Writing good poetry requires talent, but being able to deliver at Poetry Slams and bring people to tears is another thing entirely. A performance done by a woman named Samantha Peterson called “Dead Men Can’t Catcall” is floating around the web right now among my friends. After hearing the title, I knew I had to watch and share it. She performed this piece at CUPSI (College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational) this year at Finals. During her passionate performance, she asks her audience to see her body as a body that takes up space instead of “some sprawling thing in the distance.” Watch her performance and watch yourself swell with tears.

It’s important to recognize that artistic metaphors are a form of policing bodies and how we allow ourselves to discuss them. To be told: “your body is a landscape: the orchard I would set on fire to match the color of your mouth” sounds nice. It’s a compliment, but it’s not a brave or revolutionary way to break away from fat-phobia. In fact, it’s the only socially approved way our culture has found to talk about fat body acceptance. By comparing the fat body to rolling hills and valleys, it’s a compliment once removed. It’s a sheepish compliment you give with eyes fleeting, not being able to hold eye contact the entire time. I’m not saying that bodily metaphors are something I’m going to detest from now on, but I’m going to be critical of the way people frame the way they compliment my appearance.

So, why do we always talk about the beauty of fat bodies in metaphor? Why can’t we just talk about the beauty of fat bodies as bodies? Sure, it’s nice to be told that my body came from nature and that’s why my stretch marks resemble the shallow valleys of sand dunes, but my body is beautiful simply because it’s my body. To hell with all the indirect innuendos and poetic metaphors. Like Peterson says, “my body is good like a body.”

My body is not this! My body is a body. 

Image courtesy of Britannica.com

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