Martha Nussbaum on Aging and Self-Loathing

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Martha Nussbaum writes here in the New Republic, “It’s Time to Take Back Our Aging, Smelly Bodies: Why it’s Important to Resist Shame and Disgust.”  Here is an excerpt:

In the 1970s, we women used to talk about loving our own bodies. Inspired by the generation-defining tome Our Bodies, Ourselves, we trained for childbirth without anesthesia, we looked at our cervixes using a speculum, and in general cultivated in ourselves the thought that our own bodies were not sticky, disgusting, and shameful, but dynamic, marvelous, and, more important, just us ourselves. Today, as we boomers age, male and female, what has happened to that love and excitement? I fear that my generation is letting disgust and shame sweep over us again, as a new set of bodily challenges beckons.

In conversations, in the ways people I know meet medical challenges (routine and not-so-routine), I’ve noticed not just a discomfort with the unpopular aspects of aging (sagging skin, brown spots, loss of muscle tone), but something more general: a shrinking from the body itself, a desire to deny that this body is who we are. * * *

What has become of that youthful surge of profound self-love? As we age, we are yielding to all the forces we tried, back then, to combat: not only the forces of external medical control, but the more insidious force of self-loathing.

Read the full piece here.

-Bridget Crawford

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