a project by Alexandra Aquilina
“This is the body of Christ”, they said. Eat from it. The body that is given to you. That ultra-muscular stereotypically “perfect" male body. Flexing abs and biceps before crossfit was even a thing.
My body on the other hand, the one given to me to inhabit during my time on this earth. My body. No evident “defects'' but disappointing, confusing and inept nonetheless. My body, which at around the age of 10 or 11 stopped being mine. It began to function on its own accord. Doing things I didn't want it to do. It stopped being something that gave me joy and allowed me to feel joy. My body, which oftentimes felt more like someone else's. Not just because of the growing disconcerting disconnect between my body and my mind and slow loss of control, but because suddenly, as though a switch had been flipped between junior school and senior school, suddenly, other people seemed to have a great interest in controlling and commanding my body at their will. My body was now an unruly entity which they wanted to control. My body was an unruly entity which caused a commotion simply by existing. It was their body.
"My body was now an unruly entity which they wanted to control."
My mother, who accidentally instilled in me a terrible relationship with food out of fear of the health problems and obesity she witnessed in her own mother. My mother, who took me to remove my body hair at the age of 11. My mother who controlled what I wore and who I hugged because my ass was too big and my breasts were growing and who feared for the safety and sanctity of this body. My peers who judged my and their breast size, period date, hickeys, body hair. My peers, who decided which items on the checklist did or didn’t make your body a woman’s body.
My teachers, who said I tempted male lecturers into impure thoughts with my teenage body covered in jeans and a t-shirt, as I sat silently in class trying to do my work. This unruly body which had the power to convince grown men to have sinful thoughts about teenage girls simply by existing on this earth. Teachers who told me to be silent because being argumentative is unattractive. Being bossy is unattractive. Know your place little girl.
The unknown boys and men in clubs who reached out in the darkness and grabbed my young flesh as if they knew it, as if they owned it. Men who shouted things across the street about my awkward developing body. Constantly bringing attention to this hunk of muscle and fat which I couldn’t communicate effectively with let alone feel attractive in. The customers in the shop I worked who judged my skills and intelligence based on my nail polish colour. My prospective employers, who felt that my hair colour stopped me from doing my job.
"Moments do carry you away. But I never could.
Get carried away."
My body. With a life of its own. But now my body again. No longer bleeding suddenly and profusely, through my school clothes and down my legs. Pain like two knitting needles stabbed through the base of my back into my uterus. Trying to regain control, but real control is also just out of my grasp.
Like when a fear of pregnancy repeatedly disrupts thoughts during sex. An intimate moment warped by paranoia, because mistakes do happen, and moments do carry you away. But I never could. Get carried away. I wasn’t allowed to. Always there, always aware. Because here, it's not your body, and it's never your choice.
So we pump our bodies with pills and hormones, maybe for something, maybe for nothing. A never ending list of side effects. And away with the control. Try and pull it back. Ask for options, but no. You are too young, it’s not available, you might want kids someday, this option is only available for women who gave birth.
It's always something.
I grew older. My body grew older. I sporadically tried to keep it healthy. Death looming over my shoulders. Death and new thoughts about this specific part of my body. Will I, should I, can I, use my body as nature intended - to give new life? Have I contributed enough to this world? Have I affected enough lives? Do I need to create life? Is that egocentric?
And again. Wormhole.
What if my body is broken? What if after all the therapy, and years of saving up and preparing to be really ready instead of getting married at 20 and pregnant at 25 as prescribed….what if then, I just can't? What if like my wonky hip, and my wonky knee and my wonky ankle, I have a wonky reproductive system? My body, which has difficulty breathing and lungs which might, one day, turn to stone. What if my body will also have difficulty conceiving? What if it just fucks it up and everything goes wrong and there is no question heard in the background asking, who should live mother or baby?
And just like that after the years spent reclaiming what is mine, my body is theirs again. A battleground for politicians and activists who argue over whether my body is worth more than that of my dead child. Again and again. No dignity. No autonomy. No control. Till the day I die. No dignity in death either.
Living in this hunk of muscle and fat and bone which is not mine, never was and never will be.
My body is dirty.
My body is a struggle.
My body is a battlefield.
My body is a statement.
My body is a temple.
Artwork: Alexandra Aquilina (she/her)
This project was commissioned by Sibling Collaborative LTD as part of Sibling Series: Witches and Bitches
Page Design: Mia Quimpo Gourlay (she/her)
Facilitated by: Madalena Miles (she/her)