I love the the message of body positivity-- that the true physical beauty of people comes from the natural diversity that exists in the world. But sometimes the body positive community itself bothers me. There are two phrases that get bandied about that I wish would just stop existing.
This whole "real women" rhetoric is really getting old. It's an artifice that sets up a false dichotomy between straight size women and plus size women. Identifying with either group doesn't automatically grant superiority status over another.
And I think fundamentally, we all know that. We all know that having a little bit more or less of you doesn't make you more worthy than the women next to you. But it's so easy to indulge in this rivalry. Real women have xyz. Real women have curves. Real women have #thighgap. Real women are blondes. Real women read books. Real men like real women. But every time we do, it has an impact on us, and for anyone who is listening. It creates a social norm that it's okay to segregate and apply value to women based on arbitrary rules; that's it's okay to project insecurities on groups of other women; that it's okay to internalise the message that you're always going to be judged if you measure up. It's not okay.
And frankly, it's a little bit patronising. Who decides on what parameters to on which to judge my validity as a "real woman"? I can assure you that I am sitting here on this side of the screen being very real, just as I'm assured that you on the other side of the screen are very real. It's the core of why I'm so passionate about the body positivity movement. I believe that by virtue of being a woman, a human, that we have the right to feel worthy of our existence.
The word flattering when it comes to body-positivity is a bit of a double-edged sword. Wearing something "flattering" implies that you look "a little less fat", or "a little more hour-glassed shaped" than you usually do. Don't believe me? Think about all the times that flattering is used in marketing, or in style advice. Pear-shapes should wear A-Line skirts to flatter their hips. Apples should wear empire waists to flatter their mid-section.
Wearing "flattering" clothes means highlighting the "good" parts, and hiding the "flaws", but I take offence to the idea of flaws. Sure, I understand that acceptance and love of your own body is a journey, and we can't love how we look all the time and that sometimes there are parts of our bodies that we are uncomfortable with -- I'd go so far to say that's a universal truth. But using the word "flaws" to arbitrarily describe a set of physical body parts and rank them as so defective that they must be hidden to the world, that the possession of these flaws must be denied and hated, is something that I fervently wish to eradicate from our mindset.
Use flattering in a way that describes how truthful an outfit resonates with a person's personality or style aesthetic. Make flattering be a remark on how well the clothes fit their body -- is it too tight? Too loose? Too long? Make flattering mean how well the colours light up their complexion, or how happy they seem. Better yet, let's forget the word flattering. How about a simple "That is so you"?
Thanks so much Alex!
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