The body positive movement is, to my mind, the best thing to come out of the internet since my two best friends met on Bumble and fell in love.
As a girl that grew up as part of a generation that relied solely on magazines and the actions of adults around me to know what merited ‘normal’ and ‘what we should aspire to’, the encouragement now available online to love yourself and love your body is greatly received and has helped me massively in my self acceptance.
As a teenager I was, like so many others, desperately insecure. I felt overweight, ugly and out of place. Every night I would go to bed with my eyes squeezed shut repeating my one wish over and over again: please, in the morning, let me be thin.
And then I’d wake up in the morning and nothing would be different and I would grab hold, unceremoniously, of the rolls that made up my stomach until there were angry red marks left on the skin.
I truly, truly, hated my body.
But then I grew up a bit and I started this blog, wrote my book., which was in itself hugely therapeutic, and my eyes were opened to a whole new world and I learned a valuable lesson: you’re okay as you are.
It didn’t happen overnight, this transformation, this mind alteration, but it did happen. Gradually, quietly, my relationship with this weird hunk of flesh changed so that I can now say with absolute confidence that I do love my body. Even the parts of it I don’t necessarily like, I love.
The stomach rolls I hated so much don’t bother me anymore, they really don’t. I am now, what you’d call, totally body positive.
This should be wonderful news; one more person in the ranks. Another woman who has shaken free of the shackles society placed on her as a child and been able to embrace and adore the body she has been given.
But it’s not always that simple.
Because there is a bit of a misconception surrounding body positivity at the moment, as far as I can see. And that is that body-positivity is reserved for women of a certain size, ones that shop in the plus-size department, ones that identify as fat.
There are people out there who claim that people like me, and my size ten frame, are jumping onto a bandwagon that wasn’t made for us and in doing so, we are missing the point and undermining the movement.
It’s easy to see how this has happened.
As a world still dealing with social media with a mixture of awe and trepidation, we are quick to make mistakes. Once something has been identified as a trend, a buzzword, a hashtag, marketeers are quick to monopolise on it.
All of a sudden every health food blogger, fitness guru and protein shake company are using this word exclusively. Use my product, and become body positive. They’re missing the mark.
The backlash that inspired this post was to Louise Thompson’s (yeh, me neither) new ‘recipe and fitness’ book called, *hrhum*, Body Positive. She’s posing on the cover looking utterly sensational.
(I’d be feeling pretty fucking positive about my body too if it looked like that, but whatever.)
There are problems here. Lots of them. Most notably I take issue with the fact that this is a book full of recipes and fitness, no doubt encouraging women to become healthier. If they do that, I imagine, they might be able to look like Louise. And if they look like Louise then they can be body positive too. Wouldn’t that be nice?
What this book is doing (along with other brands and influencers hopping on this ‘bandwagon’) is integrating body positivity into the very society that evoked this backlash in the first place.
It’s implying that in order to be body positive you must make a change, you must work, you must do better.
We’re sorry to hear you’re not body positive right now, let us help you improve so that one day you can be.
Body positivity was never supposed to be about improvements. Body positivity is loving the skin that you’re in. It’s embracing and adoring your flaws. It’s loving yourself, unconditionally. No matter what size you are.
I have a body that society considers relatively positive anyway, the world is seemingly on my side. But body positivity isn’t about what anyone else thinks. Body positivity is about what I think.
I can understand the backlash to this ridiculous exploitation of a movement, I really can. I feel it too. I’m angry that marketeers are using our own concept against us. We created body positivity because we were sick of people telling us we needed to change, telling us how to be better, telling us what we needed to look like.
And it’s a kick in the fucking teeth to see women with seemingly perfect bodies using it as a tool to encourage change and to imply that that, in turn, is ‘inspiration’.
But we have to be careful with our next move.
Because our knee jerk reaction will be to do something that body positivity was never supposed to be about, and that is to shame, criticise and judge the women that are making these mistakes.
YOU DON’T NEED BODY POSITIVITY!
THIS IS CLEARLY WRITTEN BY SOMEONE WHO HAS NEVER STRUGGLED WITH FOOD BEFORE!
That’s an incredibly dangerous misconception, it’s an assumption and you know what they say about assuming. None of us have any idea what anyone else has been through, and what their relationship with food and their body is like. To comment on a ‘slim’ woman’s body in a derogatory way is no better than the criticism that bigger women has been receiving for years.
Because at the end of the day it’s still body shaming.
As far as society is concerned, Louise’s body has always been positive. The body that she has is the one that we have been shown for years and years and told that we need to look like.
Calling her book body positive was bloody stupid.
Body confident? Fine. Body positive? Missed the point.
The point is this: anyone can be body positive. Body positivity is as simple as feeling positive about your body. As. It. Is. It’s not about changing it, altering it, restricting food, working out more, wearing something flattering. It’s about embracing every single part of you.
And we have to allow everybody to do this… we even have to allow Louise to be body positive (although, admittedly, probably not call her ‘improve yourself’ book that).
I am allowed to be body positive, we all are. So let’s be careful with how we rebel against societiy’s totally misguided attempt at using a word they think we all want to hear.
Let’s rebel against it by loving ourselves even more, becoming more positive, prouder, happier and embracing every damn flaw.