A review by Wallis Moulton of the book 'More Than a Body'

I would like to begin by stating that I am privileged to be a white, Eurocentric, straight, cisgender, able bodied woman. I ask that readers take that into consideration while reading as I take it into account while writing.

During the earliest days of quarantine, I decided I wanted to get better at applying makeup and develop a skincare routine that works for me. Not only did I develop a love for colorful eye makeup, cream blush, and brow gel; I also developed a myriad of style phases. These included getting a pixie cut, shaving my head, dying my hair pink, and avidly thrifting items like; old man button-ups, mom jeans, then going back to skinny jeans, then a mix of both, and have now landed somewhere between “cheugy” and “drippy.” Wow. That was a lot… even for me.

Through all of this, my body changed a lot. I started 2020 at a sort of athletic and strong 200 pounds and am currently hovering around a “slovenly” 250 pounds.

I have found that my self image has been both the best and worst that it has ever been. My confidence has skyrocketed in public and especially online but in private, I struggle trying to see my body as beautiful and okay.

The idea of “body neutrality” has been abstract for a few months in my mind but has become much clearer since reading More Than A Body: Your Body Is an Instrument, Not an Ornamentby Doctors Lindsay and Lexie Kite. 

Body neutrality is a term that was coined in 2015 by Anne Poirer to subvert the commodified “body positivity” movement while it moved away from independent schools of thought into a commercial space. Body neutrality expands beyond body positivity in that it allows people to recognize that their body is good because it is a body, not because it looks good or because it is accepted “at any size” or some other similar sales slogan. Gaining body neutrality is realizing that your body is good because it houses all the things that make up you, and you are certainly good!

Within their book, the Kites frequently call upon the metaphor of “The Sea of Objectification.” This sea is a sea that we all swim in. We begin our lives on the beach, unbothered by the thoughts of others regarding our appearance, good or bad. Then we begin to wade into the water. We begin to drift out into the open ocean of appearance based self-doubt, self-confidence, and self-esteem. This metaphorical sea causes us as humans to lose our personal sense of value within the lie that the way we look indicates how worthy, lovable, and “good” we are and, therefore, leads to the self-objectification that the Kites expound upon.

The doctors Kite explain that this self-objectification often causes women–and men but women are the target audience for this book–to deny themselves the joys and pleasures of life simply because of the way that they look. Lindsay often cites how she abandoned her love of competitive swimming because of her self-consciousness wearing bathing suits. 

One issue that I occasionally have with misandrists and those that preach about a toxic body positivity is that they rage against individuals that wear makeup. Yes, it is unfair that female presenting individuals are expected to have clear skin, pink lips and cheeks, and stunning eyebrows and lashes without any sort of effort but what some of these individuals fail to acknowledge is that some of us like wearing makeup, doing our hair, dressing in a feminine way. The Doctors Kite touch on this subject by explaining that the way we present our bodies benefits our minds more than it does our physical person. Sometimes, in order to feel like I am cool, strong, and beautiful, is to wear green eyeshadow. Sometimes, this same girl who sits on her bathroom floor filming TikToks with rhinestones all over her face feels most confident with no makeup on at all.

It’s all about balance; balancing what’s good for your mind and body together because they are part of the same being

The Kites also confront the trauma of deep-seated self-esteem issues through an appreciation of the little people we were before we waded into the waters of objectification. They are sure not to blame the individual for their trauma but the institutions and stigmas that shaped that trauma. 

Something that I have begun doing because of this book is that I have been avoiding looking at my reflection in shop windows  or cursory glances in mirrors to check my appearance. I have also begun taking into account what I do as true self-care or what I call self-care to appeal to societal ideals. How I hide myself to avoid the increased scrutiny I face as a fat woman. I have also begun taking time each night before I go to bed to apply lotion to each part of my body and thank it for functioning the way it does because it houses me.

My body is good because it allows me to express my thoughts in speaking and in writing. . It allows me to snuggle with my spouse. It allows me to cry when I feel sad and laugh when I’m happy. It gives me energy and allows me to rest. My body is good not because it looks good, it simply is.

Fiction Recommendations: The Works of Jane Austen, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (non-fiction), Passing by Nella Larson