The Body As Identity

No Yes
© Eileen Brady Nelson



The Body as Identity-a Response to Ta-Nehisi Coates

When I finished Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, I felt that familiar, sharp prodding inside telling me that there was something I needed to write. I found myself moved by the intimacy of the form he chose and his raw and truthful subject matter. Why were Coates’ words about his body, his fear, his vulnerability and rage swimming in my mind, pulling me along in their wake? Why did this text, when I am of a different race and gender than the author, speak to me so? The answer is that I could relate to the threads of human experience he built his memoir around. I want there to be no mistake. I am not appropriating Coates’ experience as an African American, nor am I even saying I can truly understand his rage and pain. I, instead, found myself looking at my own experiences as a woman, in relation to three themes from his work: the body as identity, the vulnerability of the body to violence, and the fear one has to live with in relation to that violence. The poem and images I have chosen to share here address these themes in relation to the female body. Naomi Wolf, the author of The Beauty Myth, quotes Virginia Wolf as saying that it would be decades yet before women could tell the truth about their bodies. I titled my poem after this idea, calling it “What if For Once I Told the Truth About My Body?”