As loyal Godemiche followers may know, there was a recent social media incident where Adam expressed a less-than-favourable opinion of pubic hair, and many body-positive folks understandably took this as a major offense. While Adam and Monika issued a sincere apology, they also saw the opportunity to take a mistake and turn it into a learning experience to educate both themselves and others about body positivity. It’s a word we hear regularly around these parts, but it’s not something anyone’s often looking to define; for that reason, I was thrilled to be a part of this project both as a blogger, and as a fan of Godemiche.
In preparation to write this post, I read a lot of articles on the definition of body positivity, trying to put into words exactly what it means to love yourself and in what ways this is often practiced. But you know what? None of those articles satisfied me; everyone wanted to be specific, defining body positivity as something as simple as size acceptance or fat acceptance. These are both crucial pillars of which body positivity stands upon, but I’d like to think that in this day and age, body positivity comes down to one simple thing: your body.
To worry about whether you’re too fat or too thin to be loved by society, yourself, or those around you, is a parasite that seems to live in your brain forever. But what if those aren’t your issues, or at least, not your only issues? What if you hate your patchy skin, your thick leg hair, your big teeth, or that obvious scar on your arm? What if your genitals don’t live up to how society thinks they should look, or even more, what if your genitals don’t match up with the person you are at all? Where is the body positivity for these folks?
It’s for everyone. Loving your body is for every person experiencing self-doubt around their physical experience, and this doesn’t just mean size. Our bodies have a lot going on, and society has a lot of ingrained behavior that likes to tell us what is right and wrong – but that in itself is wrong. The only person who can decide you look good, is you.
I don’t think I could find a straight definition of what body positivity is, because it is really so many things.
What body positivity is:
- To recognize that no body is perfect, and that we are all worthy of love no matter our perceived flaws
- To celebrate these flaws and learn to love them as a part of ourselves
- To accept ourselves and others just as we are, and to see the beauty in all bodies
- To not give in to society’s standards, just because you feel it’s the thing you should do
- To express yourself through your body – whether it be tattoos, body hair, or wearing whatever you want – because it makes you feel damn good
What body positivity isn’t:
Glorification of Obesity
I’ve encountered some people who seem to think that fat acceptance is celebrating an unhealthy lifestyle and encouraging others to join – like a cult. (In fairness, telling me to eat pizza is probably the quickest way to get me to join a cult) But this is an image that needs to be broken; for one reason, because it’s not true. It’s just not. But the other reason is because if you buy into this, then you’re fat-shaming those who are a part of the body-positive movement by bringing faux “concern for your health” into the picture. Many think the health platform is an acceptable way to practice fat-shaming, but it’s not; it’s simply a more self-righteous way. You don’t truly care about our health; you just don’t like how what we look like doesn’t line up with what you think is acceptable.
A Way to Guilt Others
It should go without saying that a movement involving positivity of any kind should have no association with guilt, but it needs to be said. For instance, the diet and fitness community has a way of making us doubt ourselves in the form of before/after photos. How many transformations have you seen where the author states how much he or she hated themselves, how ugly they were, and how they NEEDED to lose weight? How many times have they proclaimed “never again” or “going to the gym is the only kind of body positivity”? There is no right and wrong kind of body positivity – if it makes you feel good and it’s a step towards being content with who you are as a physical person, then it’s not wrong. Just because one person found their body-positive journey one way, doesn’t mean that’s the way for you.
A Marketing Tactic
With the mainstreaming of the body-positive movement, it unfortunately brings about companies using it as a buzzword to sell everything from jeans to diet plans, touting how becoming your “better self” is what body positivity is all about. While nurturing your body in a physical sense is, of course, an act of self-love, claiming that these capitalist ways are the path to body love is false; body positivity is in the mind.
Now that we’ve established that, let’s visit just a few of the physical aspects that body positivity can include, depending on who you are.
As a pillar of the body-positive movement, learning to accept the size of ourselves and others has been a long road. When I’m not plagued with doubt while staring myself in the mirror and grabbing at my tum, I’m hearing other people remark on how “she’s too big to be wearing that” or “maybe she should eat a sandwich”. How on earth are we supposed to feel good when we’re surrounded by a constant negative dialogue stating how we SHOULD feel?
Accepting our size is the first step towards loving ourselves; if you’re already very happy with your weight, then congrats! You’ve crossed the first and most common hurdle into body positivity! But if not, simply look around and find beauty in all those around you; I often find myself looking at a woman on the subway and thinking “Wow she’s gorgeous. And she’s bigger than I am.” These moments call attention to the fact that our size is not the defining factor in our appearance, and it is definitely not the deciding factor in our self worth.
Pretty much all humans have body hair, and yet all genders face a stigma over this natural state (some more than others). Women are shaving themselves to resemble an Olympic swimmer from head to toe, while men hear all about brozilans and why they MUST wax their back hair. There’s no way to win… except to embrace what you love.
I for one prefer to keep smooth underarms and I even like the routine of shaving my legs in the tub; not everyone does, and that’s alright! Your body hair is no one else’s businesses, and while others can freely express a personal preference, they have no right to take away your comfort. Shaving is hard work, and for some, shaving the pubic area can be downright painful; discuss with your partners about what makes you both comfortable, while both acknowledging that what you do have is perfectly natural.
Many people will argue that something as simple as skin doesn’t have a place within the body-positive community, but how is that possible? It is literally the casing for our entire body. Even before size, skin is the part of us that others see first, and it’s not always ideal. Ranging from those who hate their freckles or struggle with psoriasis, to the extremes of skin disorders like vitiligo, which is the loss of skin-darkening melanin in places all over the body. These days, freckles are celebrated rather than concealed, and even models with vitiligo are making a splash, but it’s not always so easy. Seeing yourself represented in the media is always fantastic, but this rarely changes the gnawing self-doubt, and body-positivity is there to help with the self-criticism that we all know so well.
This is an issue that stems well beyond body positivity, but it deserves a place within this community. Trans or non-binary folks may feel like they were born in the wrong body, with genitals and gender-biased features that don’t match up with their gender identity. If you think it’s hard to look in the mirror and see a flaw that you don’t feel belongs, then imagine that applying to the rest of your body. It’s a tough journey, and the brave people who reject the judgment and embrace their natural beauty deserve their body positivity moments as well.
For many, it comes in the form of mantras like, “I am strong” and “my body loves me” to remind them every day that there is nothing wrong with their body just as it is. Of course for others, transitioning is the most body-positive act for their life. In fact, this is one thing that some people in the body positive community wont tell you or even admit themselves: sometimes body positivity means changing something about yourself. There’s no shame in tweaking something to better fit what you feel is inside you, whether that’s something as minor as a new tattoo, or as major as sex reassignment surgery.
There is never a wrong way to love yourself.