09 Jan Why I have stopped trying to defend Body Positivity
For a long time, I so much wanted to promote body positivity on my platforms by sharing my own journey. The body positive movement has been a major help in learning to value my body despite it not always being represented in mainstream media and has taught me about loving other bodies too, in respect of our differences. My passion for the movement was what inspired my body positive bucket list challenge a few years back, and while I still have an enormous love for everything it represents, I find myself lacking the drive to defend body positivity like I once had.
I think in many ways, body positivity has sadly become a trend, and that people like to say, “I am body positive” without really promoting or educating themselves on what body positivity means, but rather use it to get more likes, or people commenting “Queen!”. I also feel like mainstream media are jumping on the bopo bandwagon but are only including women who fit the bill of being the “right kind of curvy.”
By excluding bodies that don’t meet a certain shape, size or type, you’re telling people that they are not worthy, which makes them feel less than about themselves, and ultimately this results in someone profiting from these insecurities (i.e. crash diets, pills, gym subscriptions, Spanx, and cosmetic surgery.) Then, there’s the problem where media (in all its forms) photoshop everyone to be hair-free, acne-free, cellulite-free, etc, etc. which sets unrealistic expectations for young people, which again, results in thriving companies who profit on our insecurities, while we continue to suffer from mental illness, depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
Body positivity, at its core, is accepting that ALL bodies are worthy; worthy of love, respect, consideration and being represented. Body positivity means not making someone feel any less about themselves with the hopes of profiting. It means being inclusive by representing all races, genders, and body types, including disabled bodies too. It means you don’t discredit someone based on what they look like, but rather value them for everything that they are!
But I guess as the years have gone by, and I have gained a better understanding of how big the discussion around body positivity truly is, I realize that body positivity is a very personal thing and perhaps it means different things to different people.
As an example, given my history, I am very aware of the dangers of crash dieting and hate (read: am sensitive to) someone claiming they’re body positive while trying to sell me a shake. I feel that if you’re promoting a crash-diet and profiting by getting people to sign up, you are basically telling people that their bodies need to be changed and by drinking your slim shake, they’ll immediately become confident, just like you! In the end, I believe that everyone wants to feel better about themselves, so I think it’s pretty messed up that you are profiting from saying, “look at me, I love my body now – I just had to drink this shake, not eat 20 food groups for 40 days, and live on a diet of olives and popcorn and guess what? You can too at the low cost of $9.99/month!” All while ignoring that your crash-diet can be a trigger to an eating disorder or depression, not to mention the bad and dangerous information you are supporting and selling as a “healthy-lifestyle!” But let’s be frank, while I know right now that your slim shake isn’t going to be the happiness and acceptance I so badly want, on a bad mental and body day, I’d be very tempted to buy your shake and the disgusting pills you’re promoting.
But for someone else on their body positive journey, they might feel the injustice when they don’t see their own gender or race being represented by brands and media.
Truthfully speaking, there are 2 kinds of people; people who understand body positivity and people who don’t. I feel that people who make the effort to educate themselves in understanding body positivity, generally support it and love what it stands for, while others don’t feel like the movement resonates with them and thus, don’t understand it. And, that’s completely okay! Everyone has a different understanding and opinion on different trends and topics, and I feel that as long as we have mutual respect and healthy conversation about those differences, we can move forward and grow.
Funnily, my husband falls into the camp of not completely understanding body positivity, which made my bucket list challenge incredibly difficult, because despite it being something that I felt was important to me, I also felt like I had to defend it with the hopes of getting his approval and understanding. And THAT is the problem (not my husband not getting it, but rather, feeling like I needed to change his mind.)
I have grown in so many ways, but so has my understanding of what body positivity means to ME. It’s no longer about stripping down to my underwear for a flattering photo shoot, but rather looking at my body and not finding every reason to hate it, not being persuaded to destroy my body through crash diets and finding reasons to be grateful for what my body does every day. And I realize now that feeling like I need to defend something, with the hopes of getting someone’s approval is what was wrong.
My journey is my own – you may be further along in the journey, or perhaps only starting – but one thing remains, you do not have to compromise your own happiness to try convincing someone you are worthy of being loved and understood. ALL bodies are worthy of love, respect and representation. That’s the truth. But it’s not my job to change your mind or tell you why I think you’re doing body positivity right or wrong.
So, I am not.
I am walking away from this self-entitled role I took upon myself. I am not the authority of what is and isn’t bopo, because in the end, body positivity is different to each of us and personally, if it doesn’t make me feel good about myself, then it has no place in my world!
I am glad that the movement has inspired a conversation and has made remarkable changes in what we see in the media. I am also happy that people are so passionate about the movement, that they feel the need to defend it online, opening the dialogue around problematic habits, but for me, I just don’t feel the need to defend it anymore. You either get it, or you don’t… and that’s cool! But here’s your reminder: you are worthy. Always!