Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Body Positivity

It is important to emphasize body positivity. We live in a culture where we are constantly bombarded with fake, Photoshopped body images as the ones "truly" desirable and pressured to achieve unattainable beauty standards. I wish more people didn't have to grow up in an environment where they were always reminded how ugly they are or how less attractive they are, and how much more effort they need to put in to alter what they have, just to fit in with the narrow external ideals. I wish people (women in particular) didn't need to have their self-esteem built around every small step they take towards what seemed to be closer to those standards, instead of celebrating what they already have. I wish the mainstream media messages we are surrounded with were more open and inclusive of diversity instead of sticking with only white, cisgendered, able-bodied men and white, cisgendered, thin, able-bodied women as the 'norm'.  And when I say inclusive, I mean positive representations. Not stereotyped or bullying stuff, because there's absolutely no shortage of that.  

The following is a video from ThosePeskyDames on body positivity.
(I've written a transcript, because I realize accessibility is much more than just ramps. And this was possible because it was of short length so that I was able to download it. I apologize for not doing the same for other videos I've shared, its only possible when my slow net lets me.)

Two things I wish I'd known as a teenager, and that are often still hard to remember today:
1) People are going to have all sorts of opinions about how you look, there is nothing you can do to control this, so it's pointless trying to.

2) The only person whose opinion matters about how you look is your own. Don't rely on other people to give you worth, they won't always be there.
Whatever you look like, there's always going to be people who think you're unattractive and misguidedly, think its their business to tell you so. Ignore them. Because there are others who think you're the most beautiful person in the world. And not even in spite of your so-called flaws and imperfections, often because of those things you think are so hideous and awful about you. This is something I was struck with, particularly while filming for the TV show that we're going to be in on Wednesday. We had talked to people about hair and the whole group of people we talked to, I'm not even exaggerating, physically recoiled when we showed them our armpits and leg hair. As far as they were concerned, any woman with body hair was disgusting. It didn't matter what she looked like, if she had body hair that was it, that was the deal breaker. And honestly, that's fine. Don't like women with body hair? Fine, don't date them. There's plenty of other people out there who either don't care, or for whom its a massive turn-on! This is a lie that we've been tricked into believing for our entire lives that beauty is some objective standard that we have to aspire to, when its entirely relative. We're told if you have body hair, no one would want you. Or if you're fat. Or if you're too skinny. Or if you have spots, or scars or stretch marks. Or if you're skin's too light, or too dark... the list is just endless! (My colleague I've always talked about my weight too, and there's a link in the description to my dieting week video which says a lot similar to what Holly said in her body positive video yesterday).
But body positivity is so much more than weight. When I was in secondary school, I got teased for a lot of things. I was a chubby, gingerish kid with braces, and I was a nerd. But one of the things that hold of me was I was teased quite a lot for my nose. Its not particularly huge but its not exactly dancy either, and that made me hate it. And I knew if I ever go for plastic surgery it wouldn't be to lose weight or anything like that, it would be to fix my nose because there was nothing else I could do about that. And then when I met my current partner, one of the first compliments he gave me completely out of the blue was that he really loved my nose. He thought it made me look distinguished. So I promise you, that part of yourself that you hate, that you think no one could ever find attractive, there is someone out there who thinks that's what makes you so incredibly gorgeous. And anyone who tries to convince you otherwise just isn't worth your time. You want to tell me that you think I'm fat, that I'm spotty, that I'm hairy, that I'm disgusting? Fine. I don't particularly want to sleep with you either. You kind of seem like a douche.
That said, you can't rely on other people to make you feel beautiful. They're too effectless. Yes, there's someone out there who thinks your fat rolls, and your stretch marks, and your hairy armpit and your giant nose are gorgeous. But there are seven billion people in the world and only a tiny percentage of those people are going to pass in and out of your life. The only person who's going to be there with you for the rest of your life, is you. And if you hate you, it doesn't matter if someone else thinks you're gorgeous. Because in all likelihood, one day they're not going to be there to tell you so. And you're going to be left with yourself and what you think of yourself, and you're going to be miserable. And that doesn't mean that you shouldn't feel that you can change your body. If you want to be thinner, go for it. If you want to gain weight, go for it. If you want grow your hair, shave your hair, wear make-up, don't wear make-up, whatever. But you need to question why you want to make these changes. And they need to come from a place of acceptance and not from a place of desperation of trying to conform to external ideals that you feel you have to fit in with. Acceptance and change takes time. But that's ok, because the way you look at the moment and the way you look between A and B is fine because there's nothing inherently wrong with the way you look. And accept that there are things about your body which you can't ever change. Or that it may be dangerous or difficult for you to change. And whether in the long run its really worth those risks just to make yourself look different. And it's hard. It's so fucking hard to be surrounded by a sea of messages that tell you the way you look is wrong, to not be represented as beautiful or represented at all, and to be continually reminded that you're not the supposed ideal. Which is where the second effects of this comes in and it relates to what Holly was saying in her video. Because just like you can’t rely on someone else to tell you you’re beautiful, we can’t keep dragging other girls down to try to make ourselves feel better. We need to stop making comparisons, saying “At least I don’t look like her.” Or buy into this ‘real women have curves’ bullshit like what skinny girls are just imaginary fairies.
We need to do everything we can to make it easy for each other, not harder. And more than that, we need to challenge the industry that makes us feel this way. We need to ask why so much of our media features exclusively white, exclusively skinny, exclusively able-bodied girls. We need to demand that we see ourselves and other women represented. And tell them that we are fucking fabulous exactly the way we are regardless of what they think.
I won’t feel this way on Wednesday. I know how loudly the demons in my head will be screaming “I look too fat” “I look too pale” “I look ugly compared to the other dames”.. But I’m going to keep fighting those demons, because I have to. Because we all have to. And the hopefully one day, we won’t have to anymore.

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