I want to talk today about why I think the body positivity movement does more harm than good, but even before I type these words, I know this is not going to be a popular opinion. I know that there will be some people who freak out at what I have to say, but I'm going to say it anyway because I'm sick of hearing the praises of this movement that, for me, is counterproductive and toxic. I know you may not agree, but I'd ask you to at least hear me out before you jump to conclusions about me.
Before we get into this, I want to acknowledge up front that as 5'1" 105lb woman, I have a different perspective on this and a different experience in the world from many other women. I fully understand that there are people who benefit from this movement, and I in no way begrudge them! I believe that each and every person should do what makes them feel empowered, strong, and beautiful, but that's exactly why I want to address this issue. Because the body positivity movement is not as inclusive and embracing of all bodies as it claims to be. In fact, as many movements of this nature tend to do, it simply shifts the negativity to a different group. And it just so happens that's where I fit in.
I am a small woman, I fully admit it. I prioritize health, but truly, I've always been small. My entire life, I was always the shortest one in the class, always significantly smaller than my completely average sized friends. I value health and fitness, but I also just have the good fortune of good genetics, which have allowed me to remain pretty much the same size I was in high school, even a decade after graduation - and maybe even a little lighter now that I prioritize frequenting the gym. I'm lucky, and I know this.
But the so called "body positivity movement" does not have room for me. They do not want me. You know how I know this? Because every article, every video, every TED talk and blog post will tell you how "big is beautiful" and "we need to stop showing our girls that size 0 is the standard of beauty." But this is the way I am. I have not starved myself to a size 00P, it's simply just the size my body wants to be. Instead of helping women to feel included and beautiful exactly the way they are, it simply shifts the hateful words to a different group.
Before you start to tell me that I don't understand how it feels to be a bigger woman, and that being small can't be that hard, let me explain. I know that I will likely never understand what it feels like to be on the other side of the spectrum. You're right, I don't know what it feels like. But I also don't try to make others feel bad for feeling beautiful in exactly the skin they are in. And while I might not understand that side of it, those same people probably wouldn't understand mine either. Do you know how many times someone has told me that I'm too skinny, or that I look like a little kid? Do you know how hard it is to be taken seriously, or to feel sexy when people look at you and tell you it looks like you're a kid playing dress up in adult's clothing? I've had co-workers and friends say things in front of me such as "Who wears a size 0? That's not even a real size. How can a person be a 0? They must not be a real person, just fake and unhealthy" without even realizing that sometimes even a 0 is too big for me. Another common misconception is that skinny women have no issues finding a man. Many men have rejected me because my chest size was too small, or I was too bony or thin. I've been turned down for looking too young, too childlike, etc. And my self-confidence has taken more hits than I care to admit because of these reasons.
All my life I've had this struggle, so when I first heard about this body positivity movement, I thought it would be a step toward acceptance for ALL, but instead, it proved to be just another voice telling me that I'm somehow wrong. I think it may have started with the right intention, because a size 0 that is only attained through starvation and excessive exercise is not healthy, either physically or emotionally, and I in no way advocate for that. But for those of us who are naturally smaller women, this movement is just as hurtful as fat-shaming, and I don't think it's okay. It's become a rallying cry for women who have been shamed and hurt in the past to try to make themselves feel better by putting a different group down. That's the honest truth about how I view it. I would never dream of telling another woman that she shouldn't be the size she is. It is absolutely none of my business, and I firmly believe that every woman should feel confident and beautiful. It's not my place to tell her how that should look. But, I would hope that I would be given that same respect in return.
This opinion is in NO WAY meant to shame anyone. On the contrary, I just want to bring attention to the fact that sometimes the things we say inadvertently shame others. And this is the most damaging part of this so-called positive movement: instead of bringing us together and helping us support one another, it is yet another means of driving a wedge into our community of sisterhood. We do not need to further contribute to the comparisons and judgments already placed upon us by society. We need a new view on body positivity that truly inspires positive change, without judgment. So, instead of jumping on a positivity bandwagon that might be hurtful to other groups, try these ideas instead:
1. Reframe the problem - instead of discussing sizes, let's discuss the societal issues which cause the negative feelings in the first place. Help yourself and others to see how even seemingly positive messages can sometimes still tear us down - and then change the way you use your own voice to contribute a message that is truly positive, inclusive, and uplifting.
2. Better yet, instead of talking about the way the other side is unhealthy and doing things wrong, let's shift the discussion entirely to celebrate the things we LOVE about ourselves, whichever camp we fall into. Let's truly make this body positivity movement center on health - mental health included. A movement that centers on calling out "unhealthy behaviors" of groups we don't fall into, will only create deeper emotional problems, that no diet or physical changes can fix. And if it's true that we receive what we actively put out into the world, ask yourself - am I spreading the message of self-love and acceptance that I want to feel in my own life? If you catch yourself using negative or polarizing comparisons or language, try to shift your focus to the ways in which you shine.
3. The best solution of all - work on remembering that EVERYONE has more to offer than just their looks. We all have so many other traits and skills that make us who we truly are. We have to stop perpetuating stereotypes - on BOTH sides. If we want to see a genuine shift in the cultural perception of beauty and the way we value ourselves and others, it starts small, with each and every one of us doing our part to change the conversation and living our values.
Let's all work on loving ourselves AND each other. We are stronger and better when we work together. Love to you ALL!
WARNING: While I'm all for hearing out other opinions, hateful comments will be removed from this post. We are trying to foster positive body image and confidence, and cultivate positive energy here, so anything that does not contribute to this goal will not be tolerated. Thank you!