Our Unruly Bodies

“This is my fierce face. HURGHH!!!” 


It is easy to paper over one narrative with another. It is easy to tell yourself motivational catchphrases—that to be strong is to be beautiful, to be small is not to be weak, to be successful does not mean to have it all. But to believe it is a different thing altogether, and perhaps those are the answers I seek. It can be difficult to live the questions when you can only guess at what the answer might look like. I long for the day where I am unabashedly confident in my own body and capabilities, the day where who I am on the mats is who I am off it.

–"Grappling", from Making Kin


What an interesting time we live in. As the world moves towards the promise of virtual societies, which raises interesting questions about ideas of embodiment, why do we still have such strong views about bodies, particularly about other people’s bodies, and even more particularly, women’s bodies? Isn’t it odd that many people, who do not inhabit said body, have very strong opinions about what your body should look like, and what it should, or should not do?

When I received the invite to speak at Unruly Bodies, I loved the title. I thought it beautifully captured the discomfort and the proud rebellion of inhabiting a body that is disruptive, and I am deeply honoured to be able to sit alongside Siew Ling and Aarti in conversation. The irony is also not lost on me that while to be unruly is to be not amenable to discipline or control, many of us govern our bodies with a certain degree of discipline in order to keep our bodies healthy. Therein lies the question, whose control do our bodies resist?

These days, I am trying to pay more attention to my body. My health hasn’t been great and I am trying to listen to my body. As part of that, I have taken up meditation. There is an exercise called ‘body scanning’, in which you are guided to pay careful attention to how your body feels that day. When I am doing this, I am made acutely aware where my muscles feel tight, where my body aches. But what is interesting to me is that the exercise does not tell me what to do with my body, it does not tell me to relax, or suggest ways I can ‘fix’ the problem, only to breathe and to sit with my body and all its discomfort.

I am constantly learning to sit with myself,  sometimes literally. It is my hope for all of us that we are able to sit with ourselves and our unruly bodies in all their discomfort and glory. We hope you will sit with us in conversation on 31st March at Unruly Bodies.

Sending sunshine,
Contributor to Making Kin: Ecofeminist Essays from Singapore
Founder and Co-author of Choke Clinch Crank Combat


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