Last weekend, while chilling by the pool in our one pieces, grillin’ burgs and sharing a bottle of wine, my friends and I found ourselves talking about body positivity.
One had just watched Amy Schumer’s recent-ish movie, I Feel Pretty, the one where she knocks her head in a SoulCycle accident and wakes up to a prettier, skinnier, and consequently more confident, version of herself in the mirror.
I watched it when I got home, and had a similar take. The film was, I believe, intended to address the self esteem issues fostered by impossible beauty standards and a society that’s obsessed with appearances. But as my friend pointed out during our conversation, Amy Schumer isn’t really all that fat.
Of course, compared to the airbrushed models and surgically-enhanced celebrities gracing the cover of every magazine we read growing up, she’s not exactly “the ideal”. But still, the suggestion that her newfound confidence shouldn’t match her actual body type is somewhat unsettling.
Regardless of how you feel about the movie though, it made some waves. Just like the Dove: Real Beauty commercials did. And the Lane Bryant: I’m No Angel campaign. And the Everlane plus size underwear mishap. People love a body positivity debate.
To be clear, I’m in favor of this body positive movement that’s currently underway. There is a massive need to celebrate body diversity and encourage a more empowering, accessible definition of beauty.
The average woman in America wears a 16-18 dress size. Which is so, so, so far off from the size 0-2 models depicted in the movies, magazines and billboards we see everyday. It’s why the statistics on body image are so maddeningly sad. 91 percent of women are unhappy with their bodies and consequently resort to dieting or worse.
So there’s no question that we need people like Jes Baker, Tess Holiday, and Sabina Karlsson leading the charge to change our concept of beauty.
But… here’s my schtick with body positivity.
We’re still making this a conversation about the female body, instead of so many other things we could be talking about.
What about equal pay? How about healthcare? Access to education around the world?
We don’t talk about men’s bodies this much. We certainly don’t weigh both sides of the conversation, or debate whether or not we’re discussing it the right way.
Women have so much more going for them than their dress size, or what they look like. Why are we spending so much time talking about this?
And here’s the other thing.
While it sounds delightful to wake up everyday feeling confident and looking in the mirror telling myself “I love my body just the way it is,” the truth is sometimes I don’t feel that way.
Does it mean I’m not deserving of going after what I want, or worthy of being loved? Hell no. We all deserve that, no matter our body type or size.
But I think it’s okay to not love my body 100 percent of the time as an antidote to hating it. I think it’s okay to want to detox for a few days after that weekend with my friends. It’s realistic that my confidence might take a hit if I gain a few pounds. I’ll recalibrate soon enough.
But now with this body positivity stuff, it seems like not only are we expected to deal with conforming to unrealistic beauty standards (sorry there’s no getting around it just yet), but we’re supposed to feel ashamed for being unhappy with our bodies on top of it. We’re supposed to love our bodies, haven’t you heard?! It’s all a bit exhausting.
As this article in Racked suggests,
A lot of people are genuinely sick of being pushed to feel bad about themselves all the time, and they probably also don’t want to expend the energy required to performatively love themselves in the body positivity mode preferred by the idea’s advocates online. They probably just want to buy and use soap that works, have access to clothing in their size, and not think about their physical selves so much. They also probably don’t want to be denied job opportunities or refused lifesaving medical care because of what they look like.
Somehow, in a crazy roundabout way, this all comes back to how women are handling the issue. Somehow, blame for a lack of progress is still placed on the shoulders of women – the ones who aren’t choosing to love or hate their bodies, or even to think about it all that much.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’d like to get to a place where a woman’s worth is not dependent on her body, and it’s simply an irrelevant conversation. Maybe someday we can move on to more important things – because there are many more important things.
How do you feel about body positivity? For it? Against it? Neutral? Let’s discuss!