I’ve never liked my legs. I grew up the daughter of a woman who’s 5’10″ and all legs, and have always been acutely aware that I did not resemble her in that regard. Whenever I complained about my legs, my mother would tell me that though I did get my grandmother’s large ankles, I also got her large chest. “You either get legs or you get boobs, Megan” she’d say. “You don’t get both. God is fair like that”.
It’s a good line, but it isn’t actually true. We are born inside our bodies, each one having it’s own relative strengths and weaknesses, and fair has nothing to do with it.
I’m aware, and have always been aware, that not liking my legs is pure vanity and not something I should allow myself to indulge in. Many people are not as fortunate as I am to have have healthy, functional legs and it is superficial and small to quibble about such things as length or shape. In the grand scheme of things, my legs are perfectly fine. But as much as I tell myself that I should not focus on such trivial imperfections, every summer when the weather gets warm and all the stores begin stocking their little sundresses, I face this feeling anew. You know what I like less than my legs? Not liking my legs.
No matter how much progress women have made in society, there is still an incredible premium put on a woman’s looks. For men, being desirable and being handsome are two different things, because a man’s humor or strength or talent or wealth or a dozen other qualities color how desirable he is perceived to be. By and large, a woman’s perceived desirability is based almost entirely on her perceived beauty. Sure, we can be doctors and lawyers now-a-days, but if we want to be seen as important or desirable, we better be hot doctors and hot lawyers. Not only is the pressure to be beautiful incredibly pervasive in our culture, but what is considered beautiful is so extremely narrow. And though I reject the double standard society places on men and women when it comes to beauty, because it is unfair and destructive, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t effect me.
So I was both humbled and exhilarated when I saw this video of Aimee Mullins’ incredibly inspiring presentation at the 2009 Ted conference. This really was a paradigm shift for me. I can honestly say that I both admire and envy Aimee. She is confident, intelligent, articulate, brave, bold and yes, totally fucking hot. And she doesn’t have one pair of great legs. She’s got 12 of them.
(If you can’t see the video below, try refreshing your browser. If you’re reading this on an ipad, you won’t be able to watch this, but there is a great TED app for the ipad that has this and all their other videos viewable on the ipad for free)
“Pamela Anderson has more prosthetic in her body than I do, nobody calls her disabled” – Aimee Mullins