Here’s the thing, a lot of people focus on the sentence, “body positivity is for everyone” and then completely drop any critical analysis around what being body positive means. So I’ve written a post about 6 things that I have seen in the bopo community that aren’t body positive at all. In fact, some of these things are downright oppressive. I talk about the ways the movement can be racist, ableist and more. So if you really want to be body positive, make sure you never do any of these six things.
You are not body positive if… you believe body positivity is only okay if the person is healthy. I’ve seen this comment around, “I love your confidence, as long as you are healthy.” WTF?!?! No, not okay and definitely not body positive. Here’s the thing, health is a privilege that is not afforded to everyone. Many people in the body positive community have spoken out about their chronic illnesses and how our society would never define them as “healthy”. Excluding them for that reason is without a shadow of a doubt, ableist. So if you believe that body positivity is only okay if someone is both fat and healthy you are not body positive. People are not obligated to eat a “healthy diet” or to “exercise” in order to be considered body positive and to be deserving of respect and love. Many people with physical disabilities do not have the capacity to exercise in the ways that are traditionally mandated for a “healthy lifestyle” and so comments that exclude them are not body positive. There is no requirement of health to join the movement.
You are not body positive if… you go on a diet specifically because you want to look thinner or otherwise change your appearance according to societal beauty standards. I don’t want to get lost on this one point although it does seem to be the most controversial of any I’ve raised before. Dieting is not body positive because it is entirely based on a mindset that desires to change the shape or size of one’s body “for the better”. If you truly loved your body exactly as it is, why would you want to change it? So let me ask you if your diet and exercise routine caused you to gain weight and go up two dress sizes, would you keep doing it? If the answer is no and you are still trying to convince yourself (and me) that you are body positive I really think you need to reconsider why. If the answer is yes, you may be one of the rarest dieters that are truly doing it to improve their internal health regardless of the impact on their external appearance.
You are not body positive if… you body shame other people, especially those with marginalized bodies like trans women, people of colour, and visibly fat individuals. If you make fun of trans people for not passing or for any other reason, you are not body positive. If you are racist, you are not body positive because the movement is for all races and skin tones. If you exclude anyone, especially if you include an entire race of humans, you are not body positive. If you think that body positivity stops at a certain dress size, you are not body positive because the movement is for all body sizes and shapes but especially for those our society teaches us to hate the most. People over a size 24 are often excluded from the body positive community, a duplication of what we see in the mainstream media and in clothing stores everywhere. True body positive activists advocate for people of all sizes but they focus on those that face the most oppression.
You are not body positive if… you police what other people wear or think some clothes, like crop tops and bikinis, are only for some body types or genders. Some of you may remember the Oprah Magazine article that said it wasn’t okay to wear a crop top unless you had a perfectly flat stomach, well that was definitely NOT body positive. If you ever comment on what someone is wearing in a negative way you are not body positive. We all deserve to wear what we want and not be limited in our exploration of fashion trends simply because of our body size. The same goes for gender-based wardrobe policing, for example, if you would shame a man for wearing a skirt, that is not body positive. Clothing is gender neutral, it is literally fabric sewn into different shapes, it cannot have a gender. Therefore, any gender is permitted to wear any clothing item they choose to.
You are not body positive if… you slut shame or modesty shame, someone. We all deserve to make these choices about our wardrobes and sex lives for ourselves without judgment. Jumping off the previous point of us all being able to wear whatever we want, that includes how much or how little we choose to wear as well. There is no better or worse when it comes to how much we cover ourselves, some prefer to live a nudist lifestyle and others prefer they be covered from head to toe, often for religious reasons. If you have judged either of these choices, you are not body positive. This includes shaming women for showing off too much cleavage, especially since it is often true that plus size women will potentially have curves that have them labeled “sexy” regardless of what they wear. Being body positive means accepting that we all get to decide what we do or don’t do with our own bodies and that we do not have to explain our choices.
You are not body positive if… you dominate conversations about marginalized bodies by focusing on privileged ones. If you respond to posts about fat or disabled bodies with “all bodies” you are not body positive. If you respond to posts about fat phobia with comments about how skinny girls dislike their bodies too, you are not body positive. You may think you are trying to ensure everyone is included but what you are actually doing is trying to silence a group that is rarely heard from or seen in the mainstream media by derailing the conversation. If you reinforce the beauty standards our society sets by promoting yet another thin or medium size, able-bodied, straight, cis, white woman. If body positivity truly is for everyone, I shouldn’t have to keep saying this, but for some reason I do. If the last 10 people you gave shoutouts to fit these qualifiers, you are not body positive. So I hope you commit to doing better and making space for all people by sometimes choosing to pass the mic. You don’t need to speak on behalf of others, you need to make room for them to speak for themselves and to direct your audience to them so they are heard.
This blog post contains lingerie from Foxers Boxers that was provided to me at no cost as a part of our collaboration agreement.