I'm Getting Into Body Positivity, But I Have Questions

Image Credit: Andrew Richard, Buzzfeed

I've been reading about the body positivity movement lately. It all started when I came across She's All Fat, an awesome podcast about living life while being fat, body positive, and feminist.

I am getting pretty into it.

Body positivity believes that all bodies are equally valuable and worthy of acceptance, that everyone deserves to be able to live in their body without receiving prejudice or discrimination, and to feel good about who they are.

On its face, it seems pretty straightforward, right?

As I dig into it, I am realizing that it's sort of like how feminism "simply" believes that everyone is equal in value, no matter their gender. At first everyone (except for the overtly prejudiced) will agree that, of course, everyone is equal! It would be terrible to think otherwise! Then as soon as you start trying to live into it, you run into all sorts of internal and external barriers that were programmed into you since you were a little baby telling you the opposite.

Body positivity (or "body posi" as the insiders call it, but I just feel like an awkward square when I say it) quickly goes from being an obvious statement of the inherent worth of human beings, to a radical philosophy that upends how you view everything.

After all, the fat = bad message is embedded in pretty much every aspect of life, so much so that fatness, and everything associated with it, is basically a moral failing.

Here are some basic principles of body positivity that I have been learning:

It is for everyone, not just plus-sized women. The whole point is that every body, no matter its size, colour, ability, sex, or gender expression, is worthy of acceptance and celebration. This isn't an invitation to more "strong is the new skinny" fitspo where skinny people talk about how strong they are. It is an invitation for everyone to appreciate their own bodies AND other people's bodies. Without conditions.

It's not about promoting obesity. That isn't really a thing, so let's not go down that particular path-of-protest. It's literally just saying that people shouldn't have to have a particular body type in order to enjoy themselves and their lives and have unfettered access to the world. Nobody needs to hide or change to experience and share in the beauty of life.

It doesn't have to be loud and proud. You don't have to be singing showstoppers about how much you love your body to be body positive. Appreciation and acceptance can be quiet. (Although there is also body neutrality for those who don't feel up for the celebration.)

It is about health - sort of. Believe it or not, thin and healthy are not synonyms. There are healthy people who eat well and lead active lives at every size. In The Land of Body Positivity being "worried about someone's health" is never used as a not-so-secret way to criticize someone's appearance. It is even recognized that a person with a health problem (however that manifests) shouldn't have to become healthy before they love themselves.

It does not presume to know the reason why someone's body is the way it is. People's bodies are different for a lot of different reasons. Maybe it's genetics. Maybe it was the environment they grew up in. Maybe something happened that changed the way their body works. Maybe it's Maybelline. Maybe it's not our business.

It never, ever tears down, shames, or criticizes other bodies. This is kind of the whole point of the thing. While it's convenient and easy to insult someone's body, it undermines all your wonderful self-love AND reveals your lazy brand of humour.

It is about diversity. Yes, there is a focus specifically on body size-related positivity, but it also recognizes that race, gender, ability, sexuality, height, and even the size of someone's nose are things that receive judgement and discrimination. All are included!

It is about decoupling moral goodness with body appearance and diet. This includes recognizing the underlying attitudes behind saying things like "I am being bad" when you eat junk food.

I have a question:

If body positivity is about appreciating your body for what it is, what is the relationship between body positivity and wanting to change your body? Whether it's weight loss, plastic surgery, or even dying your hair - if we truly, unconditionally celebrate our bodies, then are we allowed to want to change them?

I presume it's okay to change your body based on actual health needs or as a side effect of an activity you want to do -- if you get into Olympic-style weightlifting because it makes you feel like a superhero, your body is going to change in the process, and I don't think anyone can criticize that. (I mean, people will criticize it, because that's what people do, but they probably aren't representing the body positivity movement, or even the reasonable person movement.)

But what if you just want to look different? How does that fit? What if you want to change the shape of your nose or get rid of some of the fat on your body, because you think it will look better? Can you still be body positive if you just don't like something about how you look?

According to Google, body positivity advocates disagree on where dieting and weight loss fit on the body positivity scale (although separating the reasons people are doing it from the inherent fatphobia in most diet language is key), but I can't find anything about the overall question of just wanting to change your body's appearance because you don't like it. Is that inherently anti-body positivity? A girl wants to know!


Here are some of the things I have been reading as I learn more about the body positivity movement.

The Body Positive

We Must Stop Making These Mistakes About Health and Body Positivity

An Imperfect Human's Guide to Body Positivity

The #bodypositivebut hashtag for the ways people betray their not-really-body-positive attitudes

Is the Body Positivity Movement Going Too Far?

Nerd About Town: Rediscovering Self Love

Why Dieting Can Rarely (if Ever) Be Body Positive

To Hell With Fatphobia? Working Through the Contradictions of Weight Loss and Body Positivity

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