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February 12, 2018

What the Body Positive Movement is Not About.

A post shared by Tess🌙 (@tessholliday) on Jan 20, 2018 at 1:49pm PST

In recent years, the body positive movement has gained momentum, challenging the beauty and body standards we’ve long accepted as most desirable.

Companies like Dove, Torrid, and Aerie, to name a few, have lead the way with advertisements using real female bodies of all shapes, sizes, and colors. This was a huge change from the thin, Caucasian, photoshopped illusion of perfection we have come to expect from our media.

Real talk—I’m a short, curvy girl. Not curvy in the hourglass way we are taught to appreciate. I’m an apple body type, meaning I carry most of my weight around and above the waist. I’m five-foot-two and 200 pounds. Usually, when I see a woman in print who resembles my body type, she is in the “before” photo. So, it’s super refreshing to see real bodies—bodies like mine—being celebrated instead of shamed.

Pioneers like Tess Holliday and Jessamyn Stanley have started initiatives like #effyourbeautystandards and #everybodyyoga, giving plus-sized girls and women strong, beautiful role models to admire. They are challenging norms, and literally changing the way we see women in the media and beyond.

As wonderful as this is, body positive goes beyond allowing fat bodies or bodies of color to grace our magazine covers and television screens. It’s about loving our bodies exactly as they are. It’s about complete and unconditional self-acceptance—something that is damn near impossible in our culture of impossible, artificial standards.

Being body positive is about loving our scars, stretch marks, lumps, bumps, freckles, and all. It’s about celebrating our uniqueness, and appreciating all the different ways we can live in a beautifully imperfect human body. It’s about ending things like fat shaming, skinny shaming, slut shaming, and all the ways we tear each other down. Because, at the end of the day, no matter what shape our human body might be, we know that inside, we are all the same.

It’s about women supporting women, leaving judgement and competition behind, and embracing unity and sisterhood.

But, it never seems to fail. For every body positive post, there is an internet troll waiting to inject their uninvited negativity into the conversation. I’ve experienced it firsthand when writing about my own experience with weight. My message is always one of unconditional self-love and acceptance, and is always met with judgement from people who don’t understand what it’s like to live in a fat body, and can’t fathom trying to love a body that isn’t perfect.

Let me spell this out very clearly: the body positive movement is not about glorifying obesity.

We’re not here to encourage people to be unhealthy in any way. In fact, many of us share openly our struggles with eating disordersdiet culture, and the many ways we abuse food to cope with emotional pain in our lives. Nobody is more open about our body issues than those of us who are living in bodies that do not fit within the narrow beauty standards we’ve been sold. We’re not here to pretend everything is perfect—we’re here to address all the taboos around weight, race, sexuality, and the ways we’re taught to objectify and dehumanize the female body.

Yes, of course, we realize that carrying extra pounds on our bodies comes with risks to our long term health. We get it.

But, we refuse to believe that a few extra pounds can diminish our worth as human beings. We refuse to treat ourselves or others like second-class citizens because of the number on the scale. We understand that our clothing comes with three tags: the brand, the size, and the price—and none of these things can be used to determine the value of our lives and the contributions we will make as individuals.

Being body positive means we understand that each of us is born deserving respect, love, dignity, and kindness. We are born with intrinsic value that cannot and does not vanish simply because we look differently than someone else.

The body positive message is not to encourage people to be unhealthy or overweight. It’s to encourage change. Change at the cultural level, that begins with each of us individually taking our power back from all the industries that are getting rich by making us feel badly about ourselves. Changing the way we treat others, the way we think about weight, the way we objectify and degrade women—in the media and in real life.

Being body positive is understanding that no matter how hard we try, we can never hate our bodies into better health. Our shame and self-loathing can only hurt us and perpetuate the cycles of self-harm so many of us struggle with. Our emotional well-being is a powerful force in our physical health, and loving our beautiful bodies in all shapes and sizes is a wonderful step in the direction of emotional healing and wellness.

No, we are not here to encourage anyone to be unhealthy. Quite the opposite. We are here to remind everyone that they are absolutely perfect, just the way they are. Every body is beautiful, and everybody deserves to feel good in their skin.


Author: Renee Dubeau
Image: Tess Holliday /Instagram; Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Travis May

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