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Coffee Talks: Breaking Down the Body Positive Movement

Even if you’re new to my blog or socials, you can tell I’m very supportive of body positivity movement as well as self-love in general. What people don’t always realize is that they are two very different concepts. They can be related obviously, but body positivity isn’t just saying I love my body, the end. It’s so much bigger than that.

Body positivity was started to help people with marginalized bodies such as fat, queer, trans, bodies of color, disabled bodies, and so on feel entitled to self-love. The movement was started by and for those who don’t have the standard beauty ideals or body privilege. Now a days, people throw around the term so loosely. Many of the hashtags like #bodypos should actually be #bodyacceptance.

Bigger than Confidence

I follow body positive hashtags on Instagram and while I see a lot of plus-size, people of color, and disabled people, there are many pictures of thin, white women with a gym background using the same hashtags. I’m all for spreading a body positive message, but I hope those women have educated themselves on the meaning and history.

Body acceptance and self-love would definitely be more accurate for the bodies that aren’t marginalized, but at the same time, you never know someone’s background or struggle.

I often feel guilty as a white woman preaching body positivity, because even though I have a disability and am considered plus-size, I’m only on the edge of discrimination. My disability is also considered invisible unless I’m using my cane. Sure, I’ve been body shamed and bullied, but I have never experienced discrimination to the extent of someone of color, trans, or queer has.

Now, I’m not saying people don’t deserve to support the movement if they haven’t had those negative and discriminatory experiences, but I hope people are educating themselves before throwing around terms.

Messy Messages

I’m not going to lie, it occasionally irks me to see a woman who is seen as ideal by today’s standards using certain hashtags about body positivity, but like I said, I don’t know her story. I don’t know if she’s an eating disorder survivor. I don’t know if she has had body issues. What bothers me is that if a younger me would see someone using those body positive terms for a body that’s already very accepted, it would have added to my insecurities. Seeing that would have supported the idea that those bodies are the “good bodies,” and that’s not what the message is about.

All bodies are different and beautiful, but there are moments where the power is taken from those marginalized bodies. I completely understand that body shaming can happen and does happen to all sizes, but body privilege still exists.

Working Out

I do not equate working out with disliking your body. I workout a few times a week, and I love it. It makes me feel strong, but I don’t do it to lose weight.

Recently, I’ve had fitness coaches send me messages about how they support the body positive movement, and in the next paragraph ask if I want to lose weight so I can be happy with my body. Um, what? Yes, that happens to me at least twice a month.

Losing weight should not be a goal for your happiness. You can be happy regardless of what you weigh, and messages like those are the opposite of body positivity. Yet, businesses are trying to use the terms to make us big girls feel included. That’ll be a hard pass from me.

That’s an example of why I have a hard time with using the phrase body positive from time to time. I know what it means and the history, but that doesn’t change that some people are shouting it blindly and feeling like they are being inclusive and supportive.

Self-Love Difference

The body positive movement is a way of saying fuck you to the expected norms of beauty and bodies. It supports the idea that those marginalized bodies are just as beautiful as anyone else. Self-love isn’t as radical. It’s a practice where you learn to love and accept yourself. It’s bigger than bodies; it’s you in general.

Self-love is exactly what it sounds like. It’s loving yourself but not in an asshole, narcissistic way. It’s being kind to yourself and your body. It’s regularly practicing self-care and just appreciating yourself in general.

I use the terms together, because I am on a self-love journey. I also support the body positive movement, and both the concept of self-love and body positivity are helping me to accept and embrace myself and my curves.

I know it may sound like a big circle. Just know they are very different, and the body positive movement doesn’t just mean you have a positive attitude towards all bodies. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions I notice. People see the words body and positivity and create their own definition. It’s bigger than having a positive attitude towards all sizes. There’s a history there.

Keep Supporting

I saw an Instagram post where a lady was genuinely upset about people using the body positive hashtags even though they weren’t considered to have marginalized bodies. She said that even using them is offensive. I saw the post she was referring to, and that person was genuinely offering support. I don’t think we should tell each other who we can and can’t support because of privilege. I think we should educate first and foremost, because that is one of the best tools to spread awareness.

You can be a thin, white woman and support body positivity. Having privilege and acknowledging that you don’t face the same types of discrimination is a way to spread awareness and support those who are negatively affected.

To me, it all comes down to being a good human. Support each other. Build each other up. Educate and spread awareness. Be kind to each other. Don’t spread the idea that there are “good bodies” and “bad bodies,” because all bodies are beautiful. It boils down to acceptance, so if you’re unsure, use the term body acceptance.

Well, this Monday’s Coffee Talk was intense, so remember you’re beautiful and worthy of self-love at any size.

-Jenni

9 Comments »

  1. I totally agree! I completely appreciate the sentiment of positive body image coming from those who don’t know where this originated but it is important to be informed. We should understand where this movement came from without us (i.e. me – thin, cis-gendered white females) taking space away from those who already struggle to have their voice heard.

  2. Great post! I do struggle with seeing myself in a positive light when it comes to my body, but reading something likes this, to a newbie like me, theres hope. 💙
    I’m not completely comfortable with my body yet, I dont think I have ever been, but this is definitely something to think about.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • I hope that you can become totally comfortable in your body. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it to work at it. Thanks for reading!

  3. I love this! I’m going to be honest, there was a lot I didn’t know about the body positive movement so I really appreciate you educating us and shedding light on it!

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