Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Free advice for beginners in Body Acceptance.

Today my darlings I bring you and anyone who happens by a few bits of advice for those just starting out in Fat Acceptance or just accepting themselves.

I will be using Fuck Yeah Chubby Girls from Tumblr as part of an object lesson. Just so we're on the same page here this is not at all a personal level indictment of the person who was running that tumblr nor of any of the posters. This is as Webster defines it:

Definition of OBJECT LESSON
: something that serves as a practical example of a principle or abstract idea

Got it?

For our purposes today I want to broaden this from being about fat. It's not really about fat it's about bodies. If you are a 5'10" size 00, fat, thin, inbetween, able bodied, disabled, somewhere between and no matter where you fall on the gender spectrum I'm talking about everyone here.

The first thing I want to say is this. Acceptance is not about any of the following:

  • Who will or won't fuck you.
  • Who you will or won't fuck.
  • Promoting or advocating any particular lifestyle, diet (as in way of eating), level of ability, health status etc.
  • Rejecting all other ways of being in a body. As in "Real women have curves" type shit.
  • Acceptance "in spite of" insert phrases like-"no boobs" "fat ass" "flappy arms" "big feet" etc here
  • You approving of anyone.
  • Anyone approving of you.

This is acceptance. A statement of acceptance is in my mind negated if you add but.

For instance if you say, fuck yeah I'm awesome even though I'm fat and kind of limp and wear ugly shoes.

(Yes, I'm using some hyperbole because it can't be all srs business up in here.)

So the first part of that is fantastic. Adding conditions indicates that the speaker is not in fact accepting at all.

This is one of the things I saw the Fuck Yeah Chubby Girls tumblr called on a lot and rightfully so if that was being presented as a body positive/accepting place.

Personally when it comes to a body acceptance space, conditional acceptance does not fly with me. Let me give you an unrelated analogy.

Let's say you and I meet on the street and we talk and I am suddenly smitten and say to you,

"Holy SHIT I fucking love you even though your left toe is ugly and I don't like your bag."

Now if I said that to you I imagine you might feel like my love of you was not really what I said it was no?

I believe that part of learning to accept your body and the bodies of other people is to learn to knock off the conditions. It's hard work. It's hard especially when you are just starting out to look at yourself and say, yeah this is okay.

It's a serious feat to learn to reject this kind of teaching especially for women.

As I have pointed out time and again women are taught that while we can be confident we can't be too confident, we can't just say fuck yeah my ass is awesome without adding something that sounds more self deprecating.

We're taught that women who do say fuck yeah my ass is awesome are either lying, deluding themselves somehow, trying to get attention or are for some reason no one can ever fully realize an enemy and someone we must compete with.

It's important to teach ourselves (men women etc) that it's not unhealthy or weird to be content. It is not unhealthy or weird to look at our bodies in the state they are in and say, yeah okay.

There is a huge and lucrative business in teaching people to not accept themselves. Go into any bookstore and find hundreds of thousands of self help books. There is always some guru or some other person to tell you, okay you might like yourself but-

If you are going to begin to accept your body I believe you must begin with rejecting the notion that you must still have issues with your body.

The dichotomy of the culture of being obsessed with that one other (or fifteen other) thing that makes you not as awesome as you could be is that after you've paid your money, read the book and gone to the seminars there's someone else right there to tell you that it's time to do it all over again.

Fuck that.

Now when talking about Fuck Yeah Chubby Girls in particular I stopped reading because I personally am really fucking annoyed with conditional statements of acceptance. I don't blame anyone it's just not to my taste. I don't like empowerment language being twisted into "I'm awesome but.."

I believe that if you are going to run something like FYCG and you present it as a space about body acceptance it is important to ask your contributors to abide by that. And if you are going to present this thing you're doing as one thing, please remember that people pointing out the flaws in your presentation is not generally an attack on you individually.

I've said this time and again but if you care about something like body acceptance or Fat Acceptance, you are likely to make your voice heard when you think this thing you hold dear is being screwed with or misrepresented.

If you want to contribute to something like that, before you take it to heart when someone says statements like, "I'm awesome even though I have back fat" are problematic in an Fat acceptance or Body Positive environment it is not an indictment of you as a person.

It is the voice of someone who probably cares about that environment and wants to make it better.

To wrap up this teel deer, acceptance is not something made out out of exceptions, exclusions and reasons why you or someone else isn't actually awesome. It's just not. The quicker you teach yourself that the quicker you will figure out that is a huge leap beyond the average person and you're on your way.

I'm taking off my Mama hat. This (see this entry for this whole Mama thing) is important to me because not everyone is past 101 yet and because I want more people to come to acceptance. Again, this is not a diss on FYCG, not a diss on the people who contributed but an object lesson.

Homo Out.
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8 comments:

Amber Rhea said...

I agree w/ what you are saying, but the other side of it is that women also need to be allowed to speak their feelings, regardless of whether those feelings fit nicely into a box of empowerment or social justice. Our feelings just ARE, and we owe it to ourselves to be honest about them because it's only from that place that we can start doing work. I have written many times about how, even though I walk the walk of working to accept and love my body the way it is and not being interested in weight loss, there are days (more often than not) where I really feel very negatively about my body and I WISH I was still the thin girl I had been for 29 years. I'm all for fake it til you make it but I'm not for self-delusion. I have to be able to say, yep, many mornings I look at my naked self in the mirror and I feel disgusted by what I see. And guess what? I am working to change that, but I know it won't be an instantaneous change... what I have to work toward are small changes, so that eventually I have fewer of those days and then one day I have none.

I don't think you were actually saying anythign that contradicts any of this or in any way promoting a "rah rah it's all flowers and rainbows" approach - but I just wanted to throw my 2 cents in!

Meryl said...

Well, yeah, but as Shannon is saying, this isn't about the contributors. It's about the fact that the people who ran it let in such a deluge of these "I'm pretty even though I'm disgustingly fat and unhealthy" comments without calling them out on it at all that it became the norm. It began to look like FYCG was there for fatphobic girls who had decided it must be okay because their boyfriends liked it. And that just isn't an okay message to give to people. Putting in a little fat-positive sentiment every now and then wouldn't have been that hard, but then, I don't think the founders were ever fat-positive.

Amber Rhea said...

The thing is, I don't think people need to be "called out" on that stuff. If that is how they feel, that's how they feel. Our feelings aren't "politically correct" for lack of a better term. I did not have a problem w/ most of what was on FYCG because it came from the individuals themselves. I see a big problem in the idea that people need to be "called out" on what they can and can't say, think, and feel about their own bodies.

Moose said...

Oh HELL YES!

I am so tired of, "Of course I accept myself as I am -- a fat ugly troll who needs a diet."

I have too many friends who insist they accept themselves "as they are" but oh my god they gained 5 lbs they are so fat and ugly & their SO will leave them and...

or "I'm fine the way I am, no, I can't eat that it will make me even more bloated, I'm already a whale."

I mean, wtf people, do they not hear themselves?

(here from a link to a link to a link to an alien telepathy ray.)

Stef said...

mmhmmm

FuckYeahChubbyGirls is being shut down as we speak. The girls behind it seem to be fed up with the negativity and the criticism they get more and more from people about the way they let anyone post. They do because they believe everyone should be able to express themselves. But if you ever seen one of their own posts, or at least Coreena's personal blog, you'll know that they, at least, don't have issues with their bodies.

Amber Rhea said...

Moose -
Again, I have a big problem w/ that, because it silences women. There are ways to gently encourage people toward acceptance - e.g., when someone makes a statement like "I'm awesome but..." encourage them to use "and" instead of "but" - and none of those involve scoffing at them or turning our noses up at them for being so unenlightened and wondering whether they "hear themselves." Those things, in fact, are a good way to turn people OFF to whatever message you may have. Very counterproductive. Self-acceptance is a PROCESS, as I think we all know. None of us spring into it fully-formed. We owe it to ourselves and others to meet people where they are and gently encourage them to replace negative messages w/ positive ones, at the same time encouraging them to give voice to what they are feeling instead of trying to bury the "wrong" feelings.

Moose said...

Amber, you are 100% right. I apologize. I should have seen this from another POV.

To make a long story short [TOO LATE! :-)], an organization I volunteer with has a similar problem. Many of the people involved say, "Only people who do things our way are doing it right." A friend and I instead encourage people to see that sometimes you have to get new folks to dip their foot in the pool before they dive in.

I should have seen that this is the same thing. As much as I am annoyed, personally, by people who do the "but" and "except" about themselves, I need to step back and see that they are trying to stick their foot in the pool. They need to learn that the water is safe, and eventually, hopefully, they will dive in.

lilacsigil said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I'm not a beginner at body acceptance but sometimes (like today) I feel so very set back and disappointed with the world.

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