In the beginning, man created God. Man created God in his own self-image, and when he saw what he had made, he said, this is good.
Encouraged, man attempted to create woman–as his own counter-image. Man wanted a woman who was different from himself, but not so very different as to be frightening. Man wanted an object that wouldn’t challenge him, but he also wanted a human being, as he was often lonely and in need of company. Man created many, many images of woman. Strange images. Beautiful images. Expensive images. But when man tried to create woman in the image of his images, he faced the most difficult project of all.
Man wanted a blonde woman, and he got one who was dark. He wanted a woman who was thin around the waist, and he got one who had rolls of fat. He wanted one with tiny feet, so she would seem delicate to him. But woman did not have tiny enough feet.
Man tried to persuade woman to do his bidding–to imitate the images that he had created. But woman just laughed at him. She loved herself and her body, and she pitied man. She sewed together some fig leaves for him, and offered him a few apples as consolation. She did not predict the trouble to come. She ate, sunned herself, and tended the garden.
Man became very frustrated with woman. No matter how he threatened, pleaded, cajoled, all she did was shake her head and laugh.
So man made an enormous claim. He claimed he owned everything in the garden. He owned the apples, he said. He owned the ground. He owned the snakes. He even owned the air. And finally, he claimed, he owned woman. And if woman was to have access to anything at all–if she was to eat, walk, breathe, or make love–she would have to do her damnedest to become like the images he created.
Woman resisted for a long time but, owning nothing, she eventually did her best to comply. She pinched herself into a girdle, bound her and her daughter’s feet, bleached her hair, bleached her skin, plucked her eyebrows, shaved her legs, struggled in long skirts, moved carefully in tiny skirts, teetered on heels, binged and starved, and sometimes even hired plastic surgeons to cut into her flesh to make it right.
The once laughing woman became very sick. She became sick from attempting to change her body, and she became sick of failing. She became sick of man’s insults, which he still gave to her no matter how closely she matched his images. And she became sick of man’s whistles and stares. She became sick of wobbling on heels, of dieting, of throwing up in bathrooms, of weighing herself on a scale. She was sick of man’s images of her, which seemed to undermine the best of who she was. And even though she was never, ever, ever suppose to say it outloud, she started to get sick of man himself.
But regardless of how sick woman became, man still liked his images, and man was still the owner of just about everything: the stores, the coffee shops, the movie industry, the major magazines. Man owned the government, the police, the military, the media. He owned an expanding porn industry. And he still claimed to embody the image of God. Woman had to be nice to man.
So, woman started battling man’s images of her, rather than man himself. She criticized some of the images–the billboards, the magazines, the movies, the TV. She started support groups. She developed her own tiny magazines with pictures of big women. She started her own line of clothing. She publicly argued for the acceptance of fat.
She told herself that she was beautiful just the way she was, and part of her knew this was true. But another part of her never quite believed it. Despite her best efforts to love herself, she continued to feel inadequate, judged, ashamed.
Woman eventually came to realize that all the body image support groups in the world, all the repeated affirmations of self-acceptance, all the counter-propaganda that argued that fat women, older women, this and that women were sexually appealing wouldn’t change a damn thing, because man still owned the garden. By this time, the garden was quite devastated, but it was the source of all food, and the only place to live.
So long as this owner-of-everything wanted woman to be his counter-likeness–similar but inferior, an interesting human being and an unthreatening object–woman was always going to have body image problems. She would continue to feel inadequate and ashamed, and she would continue to be sick.
Finally one day, woman said, Enough! She decided to no longer worry about her self-image. She no longer spent her time trying to convince herself and others to accept her body just the way it was. What a red herring, she said outloud. She decided to think bigger, and bigger, and bigger, until the whole world started to rain in woman-thoughts: woman-loving, woman-respecting thoughts. Thoughts that weren’t altogether gentle and kind, but were impatient and demanding, and quite threatening to man.
She boycotted. She organized an international all-woman strike. She sabotaged man’s manly systems. She demonstrated. She retaliated. She learned self-defense. She laid claim to the lands and the waters, and everything that came of them. And she refused to be bought off until the reclaiming was complete. She no longer pitied man. She was no longer intimidated by him. And she no longer looked at herself through his eyes.
It wasn’t easy, but woman succeeded at what she set out to do. The garden was reclaimed–by her, by the snake, by the air, by the garden itself. And man, well, he wasn’t happy at first. He had put up a big fight. He was still recovering from the fight. And from the loss of all his images of woman. And from his acknowledgment that he cannot create God in his own image.
Man pitied himself for a long while. But this time, woman ignored his sighs. She refused to forget what she had been through. She tended the garden, but with a lot more caution than before.
And man, shut out by the woman he had known for so long, was forced to do a lot of hard thinking. Lonelier and sadder than he had ever known himself to be, he eventually faced the reality in front of him. He finally came to remember and understand the beauty of woman, and the garden, and life. And even though it was really scary at first, he realized the only way he could ever reunite with woman and the garden was to surrender to, and honor, the moving, temporary moment of being alive.
And woman thought that this was good. And a whole new story began.