Idea blatantly stolen from Michelle Merrit’s similar post here but modified to include my own learnings.
- Body love, like a lot of real, worthwhile types of love, is complicated and often difficult.
For instance, I love my dog. (I mean, I really love my dog, as evidenced by the fact that she is, like, the wallpaper on my cell phone and my blog and things.) I even love her when she craps on the floor — but I don’t necessarily love the fact that she has crapped on the floor.
Some of my family members — like my husband, my mother, or my sister — I love a great deal. I’m close to them. I’m also rather quick to feel — and express — frustration with them that I might not otherwise experience through a less intimate interaction.
Intimacy leads to vulnerability and a lot of room for small wounds.
So it is with my body, a part of me from whom I am never separate. Sometimes I am saddened, frustrated, angry, exacerbated by something related to my body. This is not necessarily a separate experience from — or at odds with — loving my body. Even when I have negative moments, I can still approach my overall relationship with my body from a place of respect and caring.
Most intimate interpersonal relationships — with family, close friends, partners — are complicated. It is only reasonable to expect that this intimate intrapersonal relationship would be much the same.
- We need to do a better job with our language and understanding of inclusion.
Throughout the conference — particularly in the large group sessions — I was struck by how many references there were to “women” and body love.
Yes, most of the conference attendees seemed to present as women.
But not all.
Some folks shared a self-presentation that I couldn’t code as identifying with a particular gender (and maybe wasn’t meant to), and some attendees pretty clearly presented as men.
While there are certainly ways in which folks who experience oppression as women have body hate systemically ingrained into them, codifying “body love” = “women” into the rhetoric does a disservice to a great many groups of people with various gender identities, expressions, and societal experiences. We can do better, and we need to do better.
- Community is important.
There were multiple times throughout the conference — particularly in the various breakout sessions I attended — where I had the realization that I already received a great deal of support from various communities of which I was a part. Not that every community — in person or online — has all the answers (we don’t!), but folks shouldn’t underestimate how important it is to hear that you are not alone. In whatever body shame, body hate, body dysmorphia, body uncertainty you’re experiencing — you are not alone.
Because when so many people tell you this — “I feel this too, sometimes” — you might start to get the idea that maybe there is some outside influence on this body hate. Maybe it isn’t all me. Maybe there is some element of society that is fucked up and is therefore set on trying to convince us that we are fucked up. Hearing, “You are not alone,” so many times is a powerful countermeasure to that.
- Body love is not just for fat people.
Okay, not gonna lie: I knew this already. But I do think there’s a fair amount of Internet perception that terms like “body love” and “body acceptance” are intended to be synonymous — and exclusively so — with fat folk.
Seriously, people who are about to leave troll comments or send abusive emails — Fuck the hell off, right the fuck now. Not because I don’t love me some fat friendliness but because this is not an accurate representation of the conference overall.
During the conference, I attended sessions and participated in conversations that invoked some of my various identities: teacher, woman, consumer of mass media, yogi, athlete, sexual assault survivor, domestic abuse survivor, community member, listener, advocate, person with PTSD, sister, daughter, health care patient, person with endmetriosis, fat person, partner, sexual being, person with chronic pain.
All of these — and more — identities require body love. Because, really, what good has ever come of body hate?