Body positivity is guided by the understanding that feeling positive and accepting of appearance can improve mental health, reduce the risk of eating disorders, and allow someone to function at their best. – Taken from this website
All social movements risk commodification and body positivity is no different. The biggest criticism comes in the form of health concerns. Whether directed at the body-positive idol or society at large, many fear that body positivity promotes obesity and excuses behaviours that stop people becoming or staying healthy. – Taken from this website
I am in the midst of reading four books. I do that sometimes… read a bit of one and then another and then yet another. Back and forth.
Sometimes, they all share a similar theme. Sometimes, not. This time? Kinda/ Sorta? But also, not really, unless you consider body shaming, prejudice, women’s issues, race issues, mental-health issues… hey, wait! Yeah, they all ARE sorta along the same vein. Kind of.
Let us begin this conversation at the beginning. Here is every time I’ve mentioned “weight” and “fat” in this blog. As you will see, it’s quite a lot. Reason? I’m fat. I haven’t always been, but mostly, especially as an adult.
Two of the books happen to center on body positivity. One was given to me as a gift. The other, I bought myself. Synchronicity is a funny thing. My mom and I were discussing this entire notion two weeks ago and my friend’s book arrived about three days later. I have looked at the other book at least a half-dozen times and always passed it by. Until now. Either I was ready or God was. Either way, I bought it. But I’m getting head of myself.
She is my contemporary (born in 1961) and her story of teen life in Long Beach, California, was very familiar to me. Or, shall we say, the agony of teen life as a girl struggling with her weight in sunny, skinny, tan California?
It’s ABSOLUTELY what it was for me! Spaghetti-straps, short-shorts, tube-tops (and in the late 1970’s disco era: spandex) were very unforgiving… and bikinis? Oh boy!
You get the drift, I know.
And so began a life of dieting to fit in… for me… for Manheim… and those who would come later, like Kern Lima and Taylor.
And here is where we will begin to pull apart the threads.
Taylor says, in her book, that being *anything* other than the perfect-specimen (my word) bring up the first of many truths: Women apologize for EVERYTHING (her words). Well, her exact words are these:
Living in a female body, a Black body, an aging body, a fat body, a body with mental illness is to awaken daily to a planet that expects a certain set of apologies to already live on our tongues.
^^^^^ TRUTH TRUTH TRUTH TRUTH ^^^^^
Did I mention that she’s a poet? That “live on our tongues” kind of gives it away… and I LOVE IT. I also resonate with her as someone who has always felt “too much” of … well… everything.
Kern Lima is famous for starting IT Cosmetics… but also for a certain speech:
It seems even the softer-round woman has the same darned experiences as those of us who are larger. Figures. (A pun!) It is AMAZING to me how cruel people can be to those they deem “unacceptable”… and the piling on can be epic, especially among some women.
Side note: Couldn’t women just support other women? Ugh.
Okay, so now you have an idea of what each of these women brings to the table.
At this point, I must reach out to any men with body issues who amble on by… yes, you have allies for body positivity. Click HERE. While most of my experience is with women, I do love a man who has been affected by cruelty because of some added weight. While it is his story to tell, it also hurt me FOR HIM. Oddly, it felt like a light tease but was anything-but. You know, like, “Up for seconds already, man?” as they give him a “good-hearted” slap on the shoulder and look at his rounded tummy. What can a person do in that situation? Get seconds or go sit down… either way, damage has been done. So, while most of what I’m writing is gender-specific, some of it goes all across the spectrum. Fat is fat and nobody much likes it. Am I right?
So, we have visited the side of body positivity. Now, let’s visit the other side.
Let me begin by saying that I totally understand and agree that the body positivity movement has THE POTENTIAL to give some overweight people the false idea that they are just as healthy as non-overweight folks. (More on my thoughts on that subject later.)
According to WebMD: People who are overweight can be considered healthy if their waist size is less than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, and if they do not have two or more of the following conditions:
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- High cholesterol
So yes, *some people* can actually be healthy and fat… but let’s get real… 35″ or 40″ waists are not anywhere near close to what most of us would consider “morbidly obese”. If I had a 35″ waist, I’d look positively normal-sized, compared to now. Not joking.
Since I am not an expert on this subject, I defer to those who know more than I do… doctors and internet gurus (kidding about that last one – except, check out the video below the Doctor’s. It’s excellent!)
Here is a really deep dive into the subject: Tess Holliday has inspired millions of women with her ‘Body Positive’ message. Unfortunately, that isn’t the only message she’s spreading.
So, what do you think after watching and reading?
Here’s what I think:
All people who are fat KNOW IT. We don’t need you to tell us in any way, shape or form (another pun!). We see ourselves in mirrors, reflections and other’s eyes. We get it.
We know that lots of folks find us ugly, disgusting, lazy, gross, sexually-unattractive and unworthy of space and time.
We know that we have trouble climbing stairs, walking long distances, standing for work, walking the mall, tying our shoes…
We know that we don’t fit in airline seats, theatre seats, classroom seats, some car seats…
We know that we can’t shop in most retail clothing stores…
In all cases, we will therefore pay more (in some cases, double) for something that normal sized people take for granted.
Most people who are fat know it isn’t the healthiest way to live. Don’t worry. Our doctor tells us. Family tells us. In some cases, even friends tell us. And for sure, our enemies do.
(Sheryl is a fat pig without a brain in her head. <<< Said to me – no, not directly, actually said to his wife about me while I stood there – by the husband. The wife was my friend. She sat silent. I understood. He was beating her. I dared to help her. They stayed together. The friendship ended. Hope she survived.)
We get it. We really do!
All that said, WE EXIST.
And since we exist, you know what would be nice? Treating us like we matter no matter what we look like. Right as we stand. Fat, thin or in-between.
Again, getting real…
Because it’s difficult to carry extra weight, most of us will try to lose it — again and again — with varying levels of success. I should know, as all fat women do. We’ve done it a hundred times. Maybe a thousand. I stopped counting years ago.
FOR ME: This is not about telling me (or any fat person) that we’re beautiful the way they are. (We are, by the way! But that comes from within, not outside ourselves.) No, it’s about telling us WE ARE WORTHY OF RESPECT and LOVE … whether we lose the weight or not.
And dropping the shame that is so often part-and-parcel with being fat.
As for Manheim, Taylor and/ or Kern Lima... I DO love their message(s).
And while I think it’s important to remember that being slim is almost-always healthier than being fat…
… until and if I ever get there … no matter what …
I deserve all that life and love have to offer me; a too-big, too-loud, too-much-of-everything woman.
How does all of this make you feel?