Fork in the Road: Bodily politica
Healthy is not a one-size-fits-all definition.
She dedicated herself to getting into shape the right way: she restructured her eating habits, detoxified her lifestyle and followed an exercise regime prescribed by an expert in the field.
Upon sharing her photos, there were numerous expected “woo hoos” and “wows” about how far she has come, but I couldn’t help but notice a stab taken at her appearance by whom I’m sure was a well-meaning friend. This friend cautioned her to be careful because she looked to be too skinny.
I’d like to address a cultural phenomenon known as “skinny shaming” and explore the concept of criticism.
There has been a massive upsurge in self-esteem campaigns on behalf of the full-figured population. As heavier set people have become the norm, so too has their desire for social acceptance.
Now frankly it is neither my business nor anyone else’s how you choose to live your life. If you’re fat and sassy – all the power to you. My issue is that somehow in this mix of trying to promote positive self-image among a group that has been subjected to discrimination, we have lost the very concept of what a healthy body truly is.
I’ve found that instead of doing what campaign pieces aim to do – that is build self-esteem within a socially marginalized group – they’re aimed at attacking those of a slender disposition, which in turn makes these campaign pieces nothing more than reverse discrimination propaganda.
Let me just state for the record in no uncertain terms that: no group is empowered if their empowerment relies upon the belittling of their opposing party.
In other words, all of these “this is what real women look like” attempts are nothing more than a thinly veiled attack on all women, in general. They reflect patriarchal ideals of beauty and femininity. If you subscribe to such campaigns, you are actively subjugating yourself and your fellow sisters.
The second agenda item this experience has inspired me to write on is criticism. As I don’t personally know my friend’s naysayer, it’s difficult for me to fully assess the motivation behind her comment and so I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt. She likely was well intentioned. Well-intentioned as she may be, however, unfortunately her comment was based on misinformation.
Despite our untethered access to knowledge via the web, because of the normalization of obesity combined with the recent craze of slamming anyone with a waist sized under double digits, it would seem that few people, these days, actually have a firm understanding of what a healthy body looks like or for that matter an understanding of the concept of health in general.
I don’t have a PhD in the field but I believe my personal definition of health sums things up nicely without getting into complicated terms: health is living optimally and in harmony with one’s physical, mental, emotional and social needs. This, of course, means there is no one-size-fits-all definition but certainly extremes on either side of the equation are not recommended by me, or health and wellness professionals.
I happen to know for a fact that my friend’s progress was sharply supervised by a nutrition and fitness expert who has over three decades in the business. And so, unless this naysayer has a comparable background, she really shouldn’t feel she’s entitled to an opinion on the matter.
I don’t mean to pick on her but I can’t help but wonder, is she living optimally and in harmony with one’s physical, mental, emotional and social needs? In other words, is she healthy? If not, was her comment actually motivated by the very same impetus behind the “this is what real women” look like campaigns?
So here’s the thing, if you feel insecure, unloved, unattractive, un-anything, that is your problem and therefore only you can produce the solution. While you may derive temporary self-satisfaction from high school bullying tactics, a more permanent way to feel happy is to actually celebrate the successes of those around you.
Should you feel the green-eyed monster starting to rear its ugly head, instead of lashing out against others, look within. Recognize that it’s actually you who is making yourself feel this way. We all have flaws, but being able to recognize them comes only with maturity.