Under the Skin: One man on Body Image
We asked our own Irving Chong to think about his body and the relationship he has formed with it in relation to his surroundings, society, and history. Here is what he had to say.
1. When asked if I could change anything about my body the answer has not changed since I stopped growing. I want bigger hands so I could palm a basketball and that I was three inches taller because I felt that would be the optimal height for me to play basketball.
2. Men's bodies aren't objectified the way woman's bodies are. They aren't policed the same way. They aren't controlled the same way. Nobody is invested in what I do to my body. Instead people are more interested in what my body is capable of. Is it strong enough? Is it fast enough? How co-ordinated is it? How much can I drink or eat? My body’s currency is never beauty. It's always function. And yet, my body will never be the standard of beauty or function. This fact will not stop it from being judged against these arbitary standards. This is something I'm still wrestling with.
3. Growing up, my dad would always asked me how many other Asian kids were in the same room. He's didn’t ask because he only wanted me to be friends with other Asians. He asked so he knew that there were other people in the room who might not automatically ignore me. It took me awhile to understand, but there are some spaces in life where I will be invisible due to the colour of my skin. Some spaces where people will always see right through me unless I give them a reason to notice me. I'll have to consider, am I wearing the right clothes, do I have something to offer, anything to effectively mark my place in the room. I’m just starting to learn and research about what it means to be Asian Canadian. When people who look like me first immigrated to this continent under the Confederation, the government enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act and installed a head tax to prevent too many of us from destroying their vision of a white, heteropatriarchal society. I'm in the process of figuring out what it means to Asian-Canadian in a space where, historically, I was not wanted. My body is a living example of settler colonialism, occupying space on stolen land.
4. My body is privileged. I will never have to worry about finding clothes that fit, searching for chairs, stools, or seats on an airplane to sit semi-comfortably in, or living my life in accordance to the walking distance, number of stairs, or possibility of obstacles in my way. I have a fast metabolism and don’t need to worry if my body can burn off all the food I eat. I don't have to worry or even think about how my body fills space and how it moves the majority of the time. The world is designed and shaped for bodies like mine. I never thought about it before or even noticed. That says it all.
5. There are people in my life who see, hear, and care about me without fine print. Generally, I feel I protect my heart by still expecting the worst, but I trust them. I remind myself I can lean on them and its okay. No body is an island.