How telling women to "love" their bodies all the time is actually body-shaming
If there’s one upside to living in the world as a woman these days, it’s that more and more of us are actually having a conversation about body positivity, and we’re having it loudly. But that doesn’t mean we’ve worked out the “right” way to talk about our bodies. One common refrain in the body positivity movement is that everyone should love their bodies no matter what. But telling women to love their bodies also feels like body shaming a lot of the time.
The relentless orders from celebs, brands, and your well-intentioned co-worker to be proud of your body at all times and “not give a damn” about what anyone thinks can be just as traumatic for people with body image issues. And it’s also just annoying AF.
Don’t get us wrong here: Calling out body shaming when you hear it, goading brands into celebrating all shapes, and giving out all the prayer hands emojis to your friends on social media for being #FLAWLESS is a good thing. It feels like we’re all heading in the right direction to some utopian future where fitting room lighting is always perfect and internet trolls (or your grandmother) never use your waist size as an insult.
But we’re a long way away from that and so many of us still have a lot of residual body image issues we deal with on the daily. Although the sentiment sounds innocent, being told to “always love your body” can get in the way of doing that important work.
First of all, stop telling us what to do.
Seriously! When you tell a woman to love her body, it’s just one more instance of the world telling her what to do with said body. Just like the world used to tell us that we had to be super thin, flawlessly curvy, and that being fat meant no would ever love us and we didn’t deserve cute clothes anyway, the insistence to always love our bodies feels a lot like one more command from society. Be proud! Workout because it feels good! And whatever you do, never have even one criticism of yourself or point out something that you want to change. Who can keep up with that?
It’s almost more exhausting than the all the old, patriarchal crap we’re trying to dismantle by embracing our cellulite and going makeup free on social media, especially because this time, it’s mostly coming from other women whose intentions are seriously on our side. The body shaming is now coming from inside the house.
Like, are we bad feminists if we don’t like the way we look some mornings? Ugh.
Aside from it being one more thing to add to your to-do list, the way brands and the media are telling women to love their bodies still seems to hinge on traditional beauty standards. It’s important to listen and pay attention to who is speaking to whom when you hear someone say that *all* women should love their bodies. It has to be inclusive. It can’t be that women can only love their bodies up to a certain number on the scale or a certain shade of skin.
Stephanie Yeboah, a fat positivity activist and blogger told BuzzFeed News last month:
Yeboah’s onto something. There’s still something strangely fat-phobic about the way women are told to love their bodies. Remember when Amy Schumer said she was taken aback when people called her “brave” for posing naked in the 2016 Pirelli calendar? A lot of times it feels like being told to love your body is a little condescending in that same way.
Like, you should love that you’re not “perfect” and embrace your “imperfections.” Which means that somewhere out there, there is an ideal body out there, but we don’t have to beat up ourselves up anymore for not embodying that ideal. Nah, we’re not buying it.
Just because you might not love your body all the time doesn’t mean that you hate it either. You can be totally neutral about your body or maybe just love it sometimes. Maybe you’re still trying to figure out how you feel about your tummy rolls and are just trying to get through each day. Whatever your relationship is with your body is totally fine, as long as it’s not hurting you emotionally or physically.
Body positivity shouldn’t have to center around you “loving” your body. We would be better served by focusing on silencing the haters and not having to hear ~literally~ the entire world’s opinion about our bodies all the time. A study came out last year that found that men were more likely to love their bodies (duh) and only ever really start to become aware of their bodies after middle age, when they get that “Dad Bod.” But 80 percent of girls under 10 years old have already all dieted at least once. Psychologist Sari Shepphird explained the findings of her study to Yahoo Health last year, “It’s still more acceptable to comment on a woman’s body.” But we already knew that, right?
Obviously, you should love your body and be confident. But you don’t have to beat yourself up if you just can’t sometimes, and you should definitely feel free to tell anyone to STFU if they have any advice at all about how you should feel. Don’t let anyone explain yourself to you.