10 Lies Women Need To Stop Believing About Their Bodies

Our bodies are amazing, full stop.
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1. Your body needs to look a certain way to be "bikini-ready." Do you have a body? Are you in possession of a bikini? Congratulations. You are bikini-ready.

2. Your body shouldn't produce discharge. The notion that a woman's lady bits should be 100-percent dry and pristine unless she is menstruating is 100-percent incorrect. It's perfectly normal and healthy for the vagina to produce fluids, as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains in its handy-dandy "Vaginal Discharge Fact Sheet." "Most women have discharge sometimes," it explains. "Some women have discharge every day. Other women only have discharge once in a while." If the fluid changes scent or color, or if it becomes noticeably heavier or uncomfortable, then of course talk to a doctor. Otherwise, embrace discharge for what it is: An effective tool for keeping the vagina healthy and infection-free.

3. Your body should always be hair-free, except when it comes to your long, glossy locks and perfectly-manicured brows. Despite the fact that we live in a society that stigmatizes women with body hair, it's perfectly normal -- and most women have it just about everywhere, including their faces and toes. Do whatever the hell you want with yours. You want to shave/wax/thread/trim or even bedazzle it? Great. Want to let your body hair go free and, gasp, dare to celebrate its beauty? Good on you.

4. Your body would be so much better if you just "ate clean." Reminder: there is no such thing as a "clean" food. Is, say, a beet or an avocado more nutrient-dense than a Cheeto? Indeed. Will eating whole foods likely serve you well? Sure. But as L.V. Anderson put it in her takedown of the "clean eating" craze for Slate, the idea "implies that anyone who doesn't eat in the way you deem 'clean' is eating 'dirty.'" It assigns a moral value to food that simply doesn't exist, and plays into the completely inaccurate idea that being thin makes one better at life.

5. Your body can be perfected. In a way, points #1-4 all fit under this broad umbrella, but the notion that there is some ideal version of your body out there just beyond your grasp is so pervasive, so pernicious, that it bears repeating. Your body would not be "perfect" if only you toned up/lost 10 pounds/permanently erased all traces of body hair and aging/changed your skin color/subsisted solely on $19 cold-pressed juices and wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Women's bodies are not projects to be perfected, and perfecting them is not the key to success and happiness.

6. Your body's #1 health threat is breast cancer. Breast cancer absolutely poses a serious risk to women's health. To wit: The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, and it is the second most common cancer among women in this country, behind skin cancer. Upping awareness of the risk factors and improving women's access to quality, affordable care is an incredibly important thing.

But it's also important to keep in mind other conditions that take a major toll on women's health, like heart disease (the number one killer of men and women in this country) and skin cancer (which is on the rise in young women). It's not about fear-mongering; it's a reminder that education empowers women to take control of their health.

7. Your body isn't good at sex. Yes, when it comes to heterosexual intercourse-ing, there exists an orgasm gap that is real and significant. But it isn't because women's bodies aren't good at sex at some fundamental physiologic level. In fact, women are capable of having multiple orgasms. "Unlike men, women don't require a refractory period in between sexual experiences," sex educator Laura Berman once told Everyday Health. "Instead, women can jump right back into the plateau or excitement stage and build their way up to another orgasm in just minutes." Or, as the actress Lizzy Caplan reminded the world, "the female body is far better equipped for sex than the male body ... they're actually the sexual athletes, not the men."

8. Your body isn't strong and powerful. Try telling that to actual superhero Serena Williams. Or Misty Copeland. Or any member of the U.S. National Women's Soccer team, who collectively -- in the words of President Barack Obama -- "taught America's children that 'playing like a girl' means you're a badass." Or Deborah Cohan, who faced a double mastectomy like a complete and total boss. Also ... this girl.

9. Your body's highest purpose is to have a baby. The fact that many women are capable of growing actual human beings, then ushering those beings safely into the world is truly awesome, in the full, traditional sense of the word. But being childfree, by choice or otherwise, does not make women any less real. As Gloria Steinem has said, "everybody with a womb doesn't have to have a child any more than everybody with vocal cords has to be an opera singer."

10. When it comes to your body, other people get a say. The number of ways in which people try to define and delimit women's bodies are endless. Lady mags tell women they're pears or apples; catcallers tell women if they're desirable. Politicians try to regulate women's bodies. Some men try to convince women that they are entitled to their bodies. Others like to weigh in on whether or not women's bodies are "pure."

F**k that noise. No one gets to tell you what your body is or isn't, or what it should or shouldn't do. You get to have the loudest voice about your own body, and yours is the only voice that matters.

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