Review of Adrienne Celt, “Her Beautiful Body”, Strange Horizons 5 Feb. 2018: Read online. Reviewed by Danielle Maurer.
This is one of those stories that makes you go “hmmm.”
The premise is simple enough. A woman’s body is being featured as a museum exhibit, and you are invited to experience the exhibit. The narrator is your tour guide, pointing out interesting features of her body, as well as commenting on the “activists” who are angry about the exhibit.
On the one hand, wow. What a metaphor for the objectification of women. This is literally a woman reduced only to the value of her body; the guide summarily dismisses the mind, saying that the body “could [not] possibly be improved by something so intangible and distant as consciousness.” The activists who focus on her life, on the things less physical that made her a person, are also dismissed by the narrator. Instead, we are left only with her body as an object to study and worship.
On the other hand, there’s something oddly beautiful and accepting in the description of the woman’s body. She is not perfect, but rather perfect in her imperfection. She has blemishes. And, as the guide states, “there are stories in her beautiful body.” This is true of anyone’s body, and there’s an almost empowering message there for women, who are so often judged by how closely their body meets society’s standard for perfection.
I’m really not sure how to feel about “Her Beautiful Body,” but perhaps that’s the point. It made me think and feel, and that’s some of the highest praise I can give to a story.