Saturday, 9 March 2019

The Problem With Saying Body Positivity Isn't For You



Body Positivity has, in the last year or so, become a bit of a buzz phrase.

You see the hashtags on social media, you hear people talking about it...but what does it really mean?

Body Positivity is often seen as a movement  which encourages people of all shape & sizes to learn how to love and feel good about their bodies - but while that is a great and worthy cause, and something I fully support, it's actually not what body positivity was intended to be about.

Body positivity was started as a movement predominately for those who live in bodies that are outside of what is considered the societal norm. Bodies that come under fire regularly in society for the way they look.

Because as much as it's an undeniable fact that people of ALL sizes, even those considered the societal ideal, will experience issues with body image at some point in their lives  - it has to be accepted that those people living in bodies outside of the social "norm" DO face abuse and judgement on a much more frequent basis. They are also excluded regularly from many every day aspects of our society (Think about airplane seating that doesn't fit larger bodies, restaurant seating, clothing stores which stock only up to a size 16, clothing brands in general that rarely stock anything past a size 24, etc) - things which just do not happen to those in smaller bodies.

Apart from a small minority, body positivity is largely seen by people to be a good thing - but something I've noticed a lot of lately is people talking about their own personal inability to get on board with it.

I see endless posts from people saying things like "I think body positivity is great, it just isn't for me".

And although I DO sympathise with that and understand where it's coming from...I have to be honest, I do have a bit of problem with people who outright declare it "not for them".



And the reason for that is that no matter how we dress it up.... beneath people’s inability to consider body positivity as "for them" is a core belief  - whether conscious or not - that fat=bad, less than, not good enough.

That they desire "better" than this...that they hold themselves to a higher standard, that they feel they have to push themselves beyond simply loving themselves as they are because they're worth more. When surely loving yourself unconditionally should be the bar we're all aiming for?

Scratch beneath the surface of the many protestations of "health concern" so often bandied about in the comments when any fat person shares a photo of their body online without declaring their hatred for it, and it's easy to see that this hatred is rooted in fear. Which comes from the fatphobia that we're all taught, in many different and often subtle ways, from childhood.

Unfortunately for us, fat shaming and fatphobic messaging is EVERYWHERE in our culture.

Not just in the obvious trashy mags which pit womens bodies against each other  but in the everyday tv shows we watch daily, the movies we take our children to see, the plays we enjoy and the books we read.

The fat characters in the vast majority of stories and novels are usually portrayed as lazy or the butt of jokes. Loners, weirdos....Or else they are the villains.

There are constant but subtle jokes made about the laziness and slobbishness of large bodies in movies. I’ve clocked it twice this week alone in seemingly innocent movies targeted at children.

And over the years, this teaches people from a very young age that fat=wrong.

It teaches us that we must never become fat, because fat people are bad people, lazy people, people who don't have friends or romantic interests. Fat people are the outcasts of our society.

And in turn, this makes us fear being fat. (And, in turn, it makes us fear fat people. As though that stigma can transfer to us through proximity to them.)

Diet culture then uses this and the fear it instils in us to make millions upon millions of pounds every year preying on people’s (women’s, in particular) desire to be liked and to please our culture with obedient and conforming bodies, making us obsess over always striving to make our bodies either become smaller or at least look smaller... rather than risk the alternative.

Most people probably think that fatphobia doesn’t affect them but the uncomfortable truth is that it does affect the vast majority of us.

How many of us have used the word “better” when describing our desire to have a smaller body?
How many of us have said we want to "Look better" in our clothes instead of saying "Look smaller"?

This tells that it’s within us to judge one body type against another and see a smaller one as automatically “better” - which isn’t our fault, it’s what society has conditioned us to see all of our lives.

But to me the point of the body positivity movement is so much more than simply learning to accept our own bodies as they are and stop fighting against them - but rather it’s about retraining our minds to finally see the way we’ve been conditioned to view women’s bodies as a whole. It's about unlearning those years of lessons in fatphobia which not only affects our own self worth but also the judgements we place on other people in our society and, in turn, affects the way we treat them.

And it's about enlightening other people, particularly women (who studies show are the most damaged by the fatphobia in our culture), to see the way that we're being controlled by this fear instilled in us.

It’s about teaching people to question things...such as while it is absolutely within the best interest of the diet industry and the patriarchy that we spend our lives so focused on controlling our body size and our looks, is it really in our own best interest?

Imagine if every woman in the world decided tomorrow that she is completely happy with the way she looks - how many industries would be out of business? Think about the number of diet and weight loss companies, "Magic pants" companies, plastic surgeons, cosmetic brands etc that would be out of pocket if we all suddenly decided that we love and accept ourselves as we are.

Isn't it eye opening to realise just how much of a financial interest there is in keeping women insecure about their looks?

I know it certainly was to me.

Of course all women have the right to do whatever they please with their bodies, including diet.

 But it’s the judgement of other women’s bodies and the pitting of women against women and fat vs thin that is the issue to me.

And it's that which I am keen to fight against.

Because learning how to love my own body, while a worthwhile pursuit, really only benefits me.

Whereas getting to grips with the way fatphobia affects our society as a whole and trying hard to unlearn all of it, benefits many more people...particularly if it's something we all try to do.

So please...do what you will with your own body but do please think about the wording you're using when it comes to describing size and appearance, think about the fatphobic messaging you hear in our society, question it, and educate your children to think twice about it...don't turn a blind eye.

And please don't say that body positivity isn't for you - a movement based on the acceptance of marginalized people and the right of every individual to be accepted as they are is for everybody - it has to be.



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