Monday, March 12, 2007

Our Bodies, Body Images - Gender, Aging and ...

Others have posted things on various blogs critical of the Washington State University events focusing on "body awareness" which particularly for some women touched upon some rather "sensitive" (at best) issues.

As a 55+ year old male who works out in the gym about six days a week I see both men and women regularly in our glory, shame, neither and both. Young women in particular seem very intent upon being so thin and properly shaped. Men seem often more focussed on their muscles and sometimes their aerobic strength. Older women and to a lesser degree men seem to often focus on our bending, stretching, our aching backs and the like.

It is sad to see the women who often appear to be around 45-50 years old, thin, but no longer "young", imitating the 25 year olds with their piercings in their midriffs and small outfits, trying fleetingly to be "youthful".

It is sad to see the sexism (at times at least) apparent as women must struggle to be appealing to men - to be thinner and appear younger.

It is also sad to see both women and men try to deny ourselves at times and in varying ways as we try to feel in control of our bodies and our lives, having increasing reminders of our vulnerability as we start to see peers dying too young. Our bodies don't bend as easily as they once did and we recover from injuries more slowly.

Sexually I no doubt am not the only man around who has issues relating to how I've aged perhaps "prematurely" . It is hard to talk with other men and women about such issues. Even if shame doesn't overwhelm us we've not learned to be open in areas we feel weak in and few of us have peers we feel safe regularly talking with.

I know that when I was younger I used to deny various parts of reality. I could use my strength - in running and later in bicycling to be an excuse for how poorly I stretched and bent my body. Now I must exercise regularly to avoid back pain.

Respecting our limitations and working with, rather than against, our bodies is important. As we learn to understand and respect ourselves we men in particular may also respect others and be more aware of our sexism and our excessive foci on various body related issues.

In a way I feel much better now, as I want to maintain my strength, rather than reach for some pinnacle as I might have done years ago. I also hope, no doubt vainly, that more younger men and women will learn from us older folks and make less mistakes than we have made in our lives.

Thanks!
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