I decided in September, in a lovely Park Slope bathroom, looking in the mirror at a face dotted with acne scars incurred over twelve years (and counting), looking down at the rest of my body—a body that gained twenty pounds throughout college and, in 2011, outgrew clothes for the first time in eight years.
I decided to stop striving to be any different. I decided to stop treating my body as a fixer-upper project. It felt daring. Like, ‘Really, can I just opt out? I mean, I try to opt out; but can I just opt out completely?’ I tried it out. I said, ‘I like my body just the way it is, and I promise to like it no matter how it looks’. It felt really, really good. Since then, I’ve been committed to sustaining that feeling of self-acceptance and body positivity.
That’s not to say it’s easy. Especially as the weather warms. I love warm weather, but man, does it bring on the body policing. Magazine covers are emblazoned with brazenly fat-phobic headlines:
- Drop the weight faster [emphasis in original] (Redbook, May 2012) || Message: The underlying assumption is that the reader already wants to lose weight.
- 5 DAY BODY MAKEOVER + THE CELLULITE TREATMENT THAT WORKS (Harper’s Bazaar, May 2012) || Message: Another underlying assumption that the reader wants to alter her body (wild guess: the makeover is not probably not about gaining weight) + CELLULITE IS GROSS. GET RID OF IT.
- Feel Great Naked! 9 Foods That Burn Fat While You Eat (Cosmopolitan, May 2012) || Message: The only way to feel great naked is not to be fat.
- PERFECT SKIN? YES, IT’S POSSIBLE! +THE ONE-HOUR PAIN-FREE FAT ZAPPER (Elle, May 2012) || Message: There is no excuse for not being thin and having flawless skin. Spend lots of money on unnecessary procedures. + Fat is so awful it should be zapped. (ZAPPED?!?)
These are just some of the body-shaming phrases I’ll read on my daily walk to the subway for the next month. And, in a few weeks, covers like this will start popping up.
Plus, the warmer it gets, the more I overhear things like, ‘Ugh, I should not be eating this right now’, ‘Gross, I feel SO fat’, and ‘I am not ready to go to the beach. I don’t even want to go’.
It can be overwhelming for me. I hope it’s not overwhelming for you. Just in case, here’s a list of the things I tell myself to keep sane in a fat-phobic, image-obsessed society.
My body-positive self-talk
- Don’t hate fat. Hate anything that teaches fat = bad.
- Pay no attention to numbers like weight or clothing size. If you feel bad or weird for buying size [whatever] pants, think of all the people you know who are bigger or smaller than you. Remember how much you love them and how you would feel if anyone told them their bodies were unacceptable. You would be enraged! Your friends and family are perfect just they way they are. So are you.
- Never criticize other people’s appearance. Opt out of body policing.
- Never criticize your body, especially in group settings. It prompts others to feel bad about themselves.
- Only do your hair, shave your legs, put on make-up, tweeze your eyebrows, wear uncomfortable anything if YOU feel like it. Remember, these are silly, meaningless endeavors that you do for fun. If they’re not fun, why do them?
- Consume feminist media and actively critique non-feminist media.
- Don’t call little girls ‘beautiful’ or ‘cute’ or ‘pretty’. Remember, girls begin learning that their appearance is the most important thing about them from an early age.
Don’t feel guilty for eating potato chips. NEVER feel guilty for eating something you enjoy. Feel lucky to be able to afford such a luxury. Feel guilty for buying products with body-shaming messages. Try not to buy products labeled ‘diet’ or ‘light’. Tell the companies that use this sort of advertising that preying on insecurities is not cool. (AHEM, TRADER JOE.)
Do you have any body-positive self-talk?
*The title of this blog post is a line from ‘What’s Wrong with You?’ by Bratmobile. It’s one of my favorite riot grrrl songs.