I Am Not A Number

I am a 10, unless I am a 12 or a 14, sometimes all three at once and more often than not, none of these all at the same time while also still not being an M or an ML but definitely never a SM. All of these are a labels we pin to ourselves, we tag ourselves with to boost our body confidence. Or more realistically, give us a boot with which to kick ourselves.

I am not a number.

I am a woman whose body has given birth twice. My hips are not where I left them back in 2010 before my first pregnancy, my shape has changed although not in the way I would expect with my fluctuating weight. My body shape changes on an almost daily basis, moves with the changes of the moon and whether or not I’ve had beer, pasta or lentils that day. The size I get up to on a morning can sometimes dramatically differ from that which I face when I go to bed.

So when I buy clothes there needs to be a bit of breathing room, not just literally but figuratively as well. Clothes need to be worn in to feel at home on my body. The numbers are essentially meaningless except they can frame your whole self-perception. They are they to tell you which item should fit you but there is so little between the sizes in terms of fabric and so much between them in our heads. Not only that but the dress sizes are not universal. A size 12 in one shop could be a 10 or 14 in another.

I’ve been known to shop at certain places because they are generous in their sizing and I can twirl around with glee that I am in a dress size smaller than the one I think I am in my head. How screwed up is that? My body shape is my body shape regardless of what the number says on the tag. The more we try remember this the happier we will be with how our bodies look.

Last week I found the most perfect raincoat that I’ve spent years on the lookout for. The shop had a size 10 and a 14 in stock. I felt like I DESERVED to fit into the 10 since I’ve been going to the gym and eating well. I didn’t. My arms were too big for the arm holes and I knew that there was no way I could get a cardie underneath. The shop assistant suggested I try the 14, I said no. I said no to my perfect coat.

I went off and found another branch which also only had a 10 and 14. I tried on the 14 and it not only fit but fitted perfectly. My perfect coated fitted me perfectly in its inperfect-for-me size. I realised that I was so hung up on the number that I was prepared to let go of a beautiful and much needed coat because of it.

Then I realised I do this ALL. THE. TIME.

Sod the sizing; something that fits me in a size can look completely different on a similar sized friend because clothes are not made to fit our individual bodies they are made to fit an unseen idealised mannequin shaped body. Our bodies are all wonderfully shaped and do amazing things, we need to remember that so we don’t get hung up on someone else’s label for our bodies.

There is a way around this which is to make our own clothes. Only when I started to try sew my own clothes did I realise how much I could adapt something to really fit me and how good it felt to have clothes that truly fit. This is not always an option due to time, faff, cost of fabric. Recently I have taken to getting some great charity shop finds and adapting them to my body, which is surprisingly satifactory. But really, the best way to fight the numbers is to stop paying attention to them. If you care what the label says inside, cut it out. As long as it fit and you feel good, that is all that matters.

International Women’s Day

I don’t really understand what International Women’s Day means apart from the fact it marks a year since I last stepped foot out of my old office. There are many campaigns around today; I like the idea that Oxfam is raising awareness for women across the world by encouraging all us women to get together. Although I am failing to understand the point of the day.

Surely the inequality of women, the violence and oppression should be something we DO something about every day of our lives, just like we should DO something about the suffering of all humankind every day. Not just take a day out to CONSIDER women across the world and THINK about our similarities and differences. Doing means more than thinking. In a much less important way, this is how I feel about Valentine’s Day. I show love every day, not just think about doing so on one day of the year.

A friend of mine put this as his facebook update today:

“So, you reckon if we give them a day we won’t have to deal with that glass ceiling/ equal representation in parliament/ equal wages/ some kind of plan to treat domestic violence and sexual assault more seriously as crimes stuff the’re always banging on about for a few more years? And you’re using International Dress Your Dog Like A Pirate Day as a model?”

“Yep. That’s kind of it in a nutshell.”

It sums it all up perfectly. That is not to say I am against IWD but that the progress towards equality is in such a sorry state if we need such a day to highlight the work still to be done.

I really am not sure if I should treat IWD as a celebration, a starting point to do more or with apathy. Although it is apathy that has brought much of the hard work of second and third wave feminists to this stand still. That ‘feminism’ is now an insult, something women should be ashamed to say we are. I will stand up and say I am a feminist and I hope my son will as well. Yes, that is right, I said son. I dearly hope my little boy will grow up to believe all people should be treated equally and will be proud to call himself a feminist.

I don’t know how all this fits into the idea of a Day for Women. I am not even sure that I would choose to spend one particular day with my women friends over my male friends and not just spend time with them all together as a group.

Last year it seemed to have poignancy given my treatment at work while pregnant. I saw it as some kind of sign that I was bigger than all of that, bigger than the boss who refused to provide me with a suitable chair during pregnancy so I suffered crippling back pain, bigger than the money I had to fight for each month as it was taken from my salary for attending ante-natal appointments and out of office work meetings. I let the stress of that place which held back women, held back my career and passed of my good work as that of other men in the office just fall away from me.

It took a lot longer to allow the anger to pass from me that such workplaces still exist, that such attitudes still exist here but I am a better person for doing so. As a bonus I also got sanitary bins installed in the ‘Girls’ toilet for the next woman who worked there. Yes, they didn’t even bother with sanitary bins.

All of that is in the past and the woman I am today is far stronger, far more canny than the woman of last year. I will take much pride in Mother’s Day this year.