Body Shame and Loving Yourself
I’ve written a lot about my body over the past few months, including my struggles with gender and being fat in a capitalistic society. A lot of this happens to be because my body is something that I think about a lot – especially in the context of societal pressure. I don’t really fit into that narrow view of beauty within the United States and it took me years to understand not only the problematic nature of beauty here but also that I’m kind of okay with not fitting into that “beautiful” demographic.
And it’s been a difficult journey because it seems like society is so determined for fat people to not be happy with themselves. Liz Boltz Ranfeld wrote about what were to happen if we just let fat people be happy, something that really sticks with my own experiences. Jes Baker also wrote about why people hate Tess Munster and other happy fat people. (Jes actually runs the blog The Militant Baker, a site I personally just found but totally love so far.)
I don’t want to shit on those who do fit into the demographic that is considered beautiful – that’s definitely not my point in this post. What I want to address though is the unbelievable pressure we as a society and individuals place on conforming to beauty norms. These norms often reflect the very problematic nature of society itself – ours within the US is heteronormative, white supremacist, fatphobic and fat shaming, ableist, and generally a very narrow demographic of people.
Mary Lambert’s Body Love is a song that I personally find incredibly wonderful and it’s one that just really helped me be more okay with myself. She’s one of the artists that I just adore because she seems so committed to loving yourself and saying fuck you to the pressure to conform.
And to be honest, if I were to listen more to my parents (especially my mother) and follow their advice on my body, I don’t think I would be where I am in terms of loving myself. I’d be in an incredibly dark place in my life because as much as they try, they don’t know the real me. They force those same social norms on me that have often sent me into a deep depression and hatred for my body.
I can tell that my parents want nothing more than for me to be a “normal” woman, one without many piercings or big tattoos, one who has clean shaven legs and arm pits, one who exponentially more feminine and a hell of a lot thinner.
As a society, we’ve gotten exceptionally great at shaming people for numerous things about their bodies. For having too much hair, for not having enough. For having too much fat, for not having enough. For upsetting gender norms and the gender binary. Etc etc.
I’ve long since stopped shaving my legs and armpits (for the most part. Maybe do it once a year?). Partly because I’m just so over spending so much time doing something I barely like doing. But also because I’m so over the incredible amount of shame we give to female assigned and/or female identified people about body hair. And while my gender is all over the place right now, a big part of why I don’t shave is to continue to subvert the societal norms of how much body hair a DAFB and female presenting person should have. Sabah Choudrey wrote about his experiences growing up as a hairy brown girl before coming out as a trans man and how it took quite some time to be okay with his facial hair. Aiden McCormack also wrote a piece about body hair, feminism, and trans identities, saying it quite eloquently that:
Why people find hairy women so threatening continues to bewilder me – and why people believe they have some ownership or right to comment on the state of a female body bewilders and infuriates me even more.
And as someone who is not a trans woman, I can only imagine what it must be like for trans women who deal with body hair and their gender on a regular basis. But that societal desire to having almost completely hairless women is a completely ridiculous myth that continues to help us hate our bodies. (Again though. Not trying to shit on the people who do shave but instead, trying to make it more about having the chance to say no to the societal pressure to be hairless in all the right places.)
But even with all the struggles I have with my body, I have an incredible amount of privilege within our white supremacist society as a white person. My pale skin and others like me are unfortunately valued significantly more than women of color (black women in particular). Sonya Renee wrote an amazing article, talking about how being a fat black woman makes her and others like her invisible in the body love movement. Her article articulates the struggle of dealing with racism, misogyny, and fatphobia all together and how the places that are supposedly offering body love are rarely extending a hand to women like her. Sonya writes that:
Black women’s bodies have always been objects in the social sphere, but never exalted as beautiful. The fat Black woman’s body has been rendered an object of service whether for food, advice, care-taking, and so on, but never has it been a thing to aspire to – at best, perhaps, to fetishize, but not a thing of beauty.
Blackness is, historically, not beautiful. So even while battling weight stigma and reclaiming size diversity as beautiful, the presence of Blackness complicates the narrative.
And all of this is only the tip of the iceberg that is body shaming and body love. There’s so much more that goes into this – like the classist and ableist ways in which we as a society shame those who aren’t able to afford or fit into fashionable trends. My own perspective and experiences are just some of the so many that exist around the topic of body shame and body love.