Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Three (plus) Positve Messages

One of the things that I really noticed in the response to my post about battling insecurities, was that all of you who commented either on the blog, facebook, etc represented a real range of body types (those of you I know, anyway) and yet unsurprisingly we all struggle with the same body issues.

Like I mentioned in that post, I've been familiarising myself with the fat acceptance movement* over the past year or so. As a feminist I was pretty well aware of things like The Beauty Myth and general body positivity, but the idea of fat acceptance seemed so contrary to every message and everything we're taught about fashion, health and who is (or isn't) beautiful. I'll be honest and say that it was a real paradigm shift for me at first, (and in terms of my own self image something I still struggle with, there are days I just want to be skinny and to be able to shop at 'regular' stores) as while I guess I could academically say 'This is who I am, it is ok to look this way', the idea that I shouldn't still want to diet and lose weight was totally foreign to me. The reality is though, I have never really been happy with my weight or how I look. Not when I was 60kg, 80kg or whatever. Which is crazy, because I'll look at photos of myself as a 15yr old and get nostalgic for being that slim, when the reality is I wasn't happy with my body then anyway. I still thought I was fat.

I think the reason that I've been drawn to the fat acceptance movement is because that is how I and most other people would view my body. Not everyone would though, and I realise that I am still privileged enough to be able to by some clothing from straight sized stores and the way my body seems to hold its weight is in such a way that I might not look as big as the scales would say. Like most people, my weight, body size and shape also fluctuate and so where some might consider me fat, others would see me as curvy** or in between, or whatever. So while I think the fat acceptance movement is vitally important on a personal level, and on a broader level because the way fat folks are viewed and treated by society, the realisation that my own body size and shape represents different things to different people (including myself) and seeing the range of people (representing a range of bodies) on my last post, reinforced the idea that it is not our bodies that are the problem but the messages that we're given.

Awhile back I came across the results of this experiment on Plus Eyes that was really eye opening (and depressing) for me. I mean, I guess I always knew it to some extent but I honestly didn't expect things to be that bad. Of a total 1061 messages in the media about her body each week, she found that only 3 were positive. While she was looking specifically at plus size or 'overweight' bodies, I'm pretty sure we could apply the same or a similar message to all of us. Especially in light of the idea that what constitutes fat seems to be so subjective. 1058 negative messages. And that was just in the mainstream everyday media, not dieting sites or get fit for summer type magazine articles. Is it any wonder we're not happy with our bodies? How do you compete with that?

Well, like Plus Eyes mentions in her post, one way is counter attack. Providing more and more positive messages and images of varied bodies. One of the things I've noticed most when reading fat fashion and body acceptance blogs, is how empowering it is to see women who have bodies that look like mine in positive, fashionable and sexy lights. I enjoy fashion, but have often felt a little strange about blogging about it when there is very little room for anyone over a size 6. Im hoping that this can become a space where the images and messages I post about represent a range of bodies, challenge what is usually accepted as beautiful and empowers us all to see ourselves in a whole new light.

*Definatalie just posted a really great Fat Acceptance 101 if you're looking for more info or clarification on this, with some great links too.

**I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this word as I find it is often used as a euphemism for fat, a more sanitised and sexy version if you will. I also really dislike the oft quoted 'real women have curves' that comes with it because, what is a real woman anyway? I understand wanting to build up and deem fat, curvy, plus size women sexy, but to say that women without curves are somehow not just defeats the overall purpose.
blog comments powered by Disqus