Our Bodies As Stories 

By Loré Yessuff 

Rani Ban is a visual artist who creates prints, t-shirts, and ceramics centered around women taking up the space they deserve. Rani’s work is whimsical, lively, and necessary. She visualizes the female body realistically and with so much care. Her figures have body hair, round bellies, and charm. Everything she makes feels like a hug, which is funny and fitting because she actually has a hug print. Since stumbling upon her online, I’ve really enjoyed following Rani’s musings, creative process, and fondness of her pup. I am always delighted by her Instagram updates, but recently one of them especially struck me. On International Women’s Day, Rani shared a print about womanhood and bodies that basically made me stop breathing. The print contains a lovely poem that goes:  

“There are so many ways to be a woman 

no definition in ink or box 

to stay inside 

no shoes to fill  

I get to pick my own  

no appearance expectations  

those were made to sell 

& anyways pretty is boring 

I’d rather be me  

and carry my body  

like a story:  

tender, mine, and meant to  

change with time” 

This piece articulates such fundamental truths that we’re all trying to believe in. The truth that our existence surpasses the limitations of one-dimensional ideas. The truth that these ideas are boring anyway. The truth that our bodies are not meant to be plastic or lifeless, but full and decorated. Immediately after reading that poem, I purchased it (and the hug print, of course), because I wanted it close. I wanted to see it every day, even if just subconsciously, and remember the truth it holds. My favorite part of the poem comes at the end:  

“I’d rather be me  

and carry my body  

like a story:  

tender, mine, and meant to  

change with time” 

It always makes me smile. It’s so simple, so pleasant, so sincere. I find myself thinking about this part quite often, especially the two lines “and carry my body like a story.” I really admire this metaphor of our bodies being stories. It’s very pure and wonderful. Our bodies as stories sharing the tales, facts, and imperfect doodles of who we are. Our bodies as stories. Not objects, not machines, not agendas. Imagine if we were all taught that as children. Imagine if we were encouraged to read and learn ourselves and each other the way we are taught to study the alphabet or algebra, to not rush through the pages, but to consider them as we go along. Our bodies as stories. Not objects, not machines, not agendas. Just imagine.   

It’s kind of amusing to think about my feet telling the ground about my shoe size and favorite dance moves. Or my fingers reminding a mug about my favorite blood orange nail polish and how I always lose rings. Or my eyes whispering words of comfort to tears as they muster the courage to fall. Or my nipples giggling with each other as they sprout out at the sight of someone I fancy.  

Perhaps Rani did not mean for the metaphor to be taken this far. But I can’t help it. This idea gives the compassion that many metaphors about the body do not. Often times, the body is seen as a sort of holding cell for the more “important” parts of us: the mind and soul. This tendency is evident through the language we commonly use. For instance, we train our minds and feed our souls, but whip our bodies, as if our they do not also deserve affection and time. This comes from a long history of viewing our bodies as inferior and even impure. (There is a whole field of philosophy dedicated to the relationship between the mind and the body. I won’t get into it here, but I’ll reference some interesting links below.) No wonder many of us struggle to see our own physical beauty.  

Because of these limited ideologies, the very nature of how we think and speak about ourselves is inherently discouraging. But viewing the body as a story reframes our cultural paradigm. It lends us the space we need to move, to breathe, to become and unbecome. Like the mind and the soul, our bodies are a part of who we are. And we should spend less time trying to fix or force them and more time learning about their intricacies. I’m so happy that Rani shared this print/poem with the world. It has obviously affected me in more ways than just being a satisfied consumer. Hopefully, artwork such as hers will aid our culture to shift towards this liberated way of thinking about our bodies, which is just to say ourselves.  

Links for continued reading about the mind-body relationship:

https://yellowco.co/blog/2018/06/25/belief-body-shame-embodiment-freedom/ 

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/mind-body-relationship_n_1850211 

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dualism/#MinBod 


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