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I visit the locker rooms at least 5-6 days a week so you’d think I see more butts, boobs and/or vaginas then a porno, but I don’t. I see next to none! What I see is women scurrying to the sanctuary of a bathroom stall with an armful of clothes, or girls trying to hide their rumps as they maniacally hop and shimmy into their pants. I've even found myself conversing with the bare back of my friend as she sets a speed record for shirt changing.
Women are operating incognito in locker rooms and it makes me wonder, why are we so embarrassed to change in front of other women?
Author and doctoral student (Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta), Marianne Clark says the act of undressing and being naked, and particularly where there is the potential to be observed by others, can be daunting, as much of the way we think about ourselves and our self-confidence is wrapped up in our notion of ourselves as fully clothed. Undressing in front of others can disrupt our experience of ourselves, because it reveals an intimate self we don't usually freely display.
It's also clear that in North American societies where the "body beautiful" is celebrated - both dressed and undressed, as something to look at and a reason to be seen - the ideal body is young, thin and toned. Clark said she found plenty of social and cultural layers in many women's stories that indicated their awareness of the societal notions of beautiful, healthy bodies that influenced their own feelings about the shared undressing experience of the change room. "I think even in the change room, women are carrying with them these knowledges and understandings (of the fit female body) that society has constructed," she says.
Is the reason that so few of us feel comfortable in our own skin because all we have to compare ourselves to is the media's unrealistic portrayal of women? In a culture where little value or respect is given to women's bodies-- using them to sell everything from milk to houses-- have we inherited and internalized more shame then we realize? Have we taken the concept of "modesty" so far that we are giving our daughters unrealistic perceptions about what a real woman's body looks like?
I for one, am tired of being brain washed and bullied by the content projected to me by corporations. We can take the power back by giving more real examples of what real bodies look like. And the change room is the perfect platform to embody the change you wish to see!
If you are body conscious, start by acknowledging your body. Even if you feel like a weirdo, start by undressing in front of the mirror at home; once you develop respect for yourself and your body, you may find you aren’t as bothered by other naked women at the gym. By empowering yourself you also empower those around you.
One small step for you, one giant leap for female kind!
And if you’re a happy nudist, maybe just try to keep the moisturizing and bending over to a minimum.