Dear Body Positivity
May 22, 2020
Before I dive into your flaws, let me address your strengths. I love your message that skinny isn’t the only shape that’s beautiful, that curves and rolls and cellulite are beautiful. I believe you — beauty comes in all shapes and sizes — tall, short, dark, light, round, skinny, muscular, fleshy, the list goes on. I want everyone to know that their worth isn’t defined by a certain physique.
I want to love you, Body Positivity. I want to support you. But as much as I appreciate the fact that you say someone’s worth isn’t defined by inches or numbers on a scale, I don’t think you should care.
I don’t fault you for saying it’s okay to love. I fault you for saying it’s okay for everyone to catalogue the way people look. You’ve set a precedent that teaches people that as long as they’re not making “negative” comments, it’s acceptable to talk about someone’s body.
If you look at comments on Instagram — and even in real life — you’ll see people saying, “Your legs are incredible!” “Embrace your curves!” They’re positive, sure, but isn’t that still defining someone’s worth by the shape of their body? No matter the person’s shape and size, aren’t you still saying that it’s okay to stare and catalogue someone’s body?
To have someone outright tell you their unsolicited opinion of your body — and feel justified in doing so because it’s “nice” — is outrageous. Even well-intentioned, it only reinforces the notion that people are looking. People are judging.
Why should everyone have an opinion about how you look? Tell me, why are we talking about other people’s bodies at all?
Instead of Body Positivity, I propose Body Neutrality. Stop telling people what you think about their body. It’s their skin and their skin only. They decide, not you.
The problem comes when you break a whole person into the sum of their parts: their arms, legs, waist, butt, chest, neck, face.
I’ll advise you this: if you’re going to pass judgment on the way that someone else looks, pass judgment on something they can change in 10 minutes or less. Otherwise, you’ll leave them agonizing over their inability to change whatever it is that you said.
Body Neutrality doesn’t mean a lack of acceptance or a lack of support, it means a lack of judgment, good or bad.
Imagine slaving away in the gym to build muscle, only to have someone say “Wow, you look so slim!” How defeating must that feel?
I publish this anonymously because I don’t want you to focus on me, I want you to focus on yourself — the feelings your words incite in other people, and the feelings their comments incite in you. Even if you don’t mind the comments, are you certain that your friends feel the same way?
I don’t think I know a single person who likes every part of themselves. Each and every one of us has an insecurity. For some it’s their nose, their waist, their butt, or their legs; the common denominator is that fear. I’ve seen girls cry over not fitting into a pair of pants and boys afraid to take their shirt off at the beach.
For them, for myself, and for virtually everyone with an insecurity, I ask people to stop making it okay to say things about someone’s body. Stop making it a focal point.
Our bodies will wither away; “perfection,” whatever it may be to you, is fleeting. The bodies that we have today will not be the bodies we have tomorrow. The people within them will be what remains. Focus on them. Stop saying people are beautiful regardless of whether they are skinny or fat. Call them intelligent, call them creative, call them funny, just don’t look at their waist before you think of an adjective to describe them — even if it’s supposed to be positive.
A concerned disbeliever