I take a pottery class on Wednesday evenings, nothing major, just messing about with clay and occasionally making a vase or something to take home. Well, last night, I finished my candle holder - just needed to go to firing - and so I had to start something new. So I decided to try my hand at a little sculpture.
Now, I'm not the most visually inclined person in the world - my visual recall is somewhere about the level of the three blind mice and I can't draw for toffee - so to be honest, I wasn't expecting it to go that well. But I started anyway, and decided to make a fat lady, mostly because one of the other women in the class had made one previously and it looked pretty cool.
So I got my lump of clay, and I was playing with it, and rearranging it, and trying to work out where boobs go on a person. Obvious, you would think, but I'd never really given it any consideration, just from a purely technical perspective, where breasts land on a body, or how a stomach curves, or how hips swell.
And it hit me as I sat there trying to make my little clay woman's breasts fall right - not too perky or sticking out like basketballs - I'd never looked at a woman's body like this before. I'd never just looked.
Every glance I've given to every woman's body I've seen, whether real or an image, has been steeped in judgement: too big, too small, too flabby, hips too wide, boobs too big, bum too flat, bum too big, boobs non-existent, wow just right. Doesn't matter whether what I saw was positive or negative in it, every single encounter of my eyes with women's bodies, including my own, has contained judgement. I have never in my life before looked at a body and just...seen its components.
I mean, I looked at that Julian Freud painting of the fat woman and thought "damn, she's fat". Never occurred to me to look more closely, just to see how it all fitted together.
It has never occurred to me to just see what's there for itself without any of my or society's bullshit heaped on top of it. Just what's there.
So this is a challenge to myself: try to look at women's bodies and see what's actually there without putting a value on it. Don't look for good any more than I look for bad. Just...see.