I’ve been oblivious when it comes to the struggles that my plus size sisters have been through, for the most part. I have been told in my life that I am like a puppy. I come into the room bouncing and jump on everyone’s lap thinking they are all gonna love me. This is true, and is why I have been mostly shielded from the body shaming, but also I kind of don’t put up with it. I have written about when someone tries to criticize me I shut them down pretty quickly in a calm way that usually makes them understand how stupid they are for assuming they can tell me what to do with my body. I am pretty good at that, while still not alienating them. It’s a talent, perhaps I’ll teach you later.
I still see the forest for the trees however. I see how the media and our culture permeates everything with a — be slim or be outcast — shade. I don’t know anyone who has not noticed the glamour-ification of thin. To that end, I am so happy about the body positive movement.
On a large scale people are getting it wrong, even those who should know better. Shape Magazine’s Editor’s letter this month talks about body confidence. She talks about how “ninety one percent of women have body dissatisfaction” and “When you feel good about yourself you take care of yourself.” All right, that’s good stuff, but then she says, “Of course loving your shape doesn’t negate the need to have body goals: those targets keep you motivated and excited about staying fit and healthy. But there’s freedom in focusing and articulating those goals. If the vision of slimming down and feeling amazing in a bikini or a slinky sundress works for you use it…” That’s fine and even true, but if you are trying to push a body confidence message then you have missed the point. The point of the body confidence movement is that we should feel beautiful and confident as we are. Also, by not knowing how ridiculously not body confident that is reeks of co-opting a movement in order to sell magazines.
Women we need to stop being so critical of each other. We need to lift each other up. I think that is what my idea of body confidence is. I don’t think it is wrong to use a bikini as a goal, but if we are talking about body confidence then I want women to be empowered to love how they look right now.
While I’ve always been pretty confident but I can’t say that I have been jumping on the bikini bandwagon. I don’t see me doing that at all. I know other women do it, but it makes me uncomfortable. As I type this I think, I don’t want my flaws out there for everyone to see. I don’t want my stretch marks, lily white belly, and thighs to be shown to other humans. It is an instinct to think of those things as flaws. It is an impression that has been left there by years of socialization. I think back to when I was a young girl in the back yard wearing a bikini in our three foot pool, giggling with my brother, running around in sprinklers and feel as if I have lost something somehow.
I think the main benefit of the body confidence movement is that as a society we are starting to focus less on being slimmer and more on being stronger. Some of the benefits of this is that people who normally would think of themselves as less than are starting to understand how awesome they are. According to many studies it is easier to lose weight if you feel good about yourself. Now there is the crux of a lot of arguments in order to subordinate fat people: Carrying extra weight is unhealthy. Weeeeelllllll….not all who carry extra weight are unhealthy. But if the argument is to be hard on fat people to get them to lose weight, then as you can see that argument is flawed. The constant pressure of society and the degradation of large people only make more large people. It doesn’t help anyone.
I have been focusing on how to make myself stronger and more able. If I do that then I can feel good about myself. If I think “Oh, I wanna fit in this bikini or those tight jeans,” that means my body is not right how it is now. That makes me feel horrible. I am a capable human with a body that heals itself, all I have to do it give it a little push to move the healing along. If we as society can start there, from that point of view then I think we will get everything we want: healthy hearts and minds and happy souls.