The rallying call of the body positivity and self-acceptance movement is brave It’s simple: accept and love every part of yourself, and you are instantly free from the restrictive norms that society imposes on you. Sounds too good to be true? That’s because, according to Black Queer Femme activist, writer, spokesperson, and sex educator Ericka Hart, MEd (she / she) it definitely is. Unwrap the body positivity movement and you will find that its goal, paradoxically, is just as limiting and harmful as the fat phobic society it is allegedly fighting against. In fact, conceptually, the problem with body positivity comes from its source – which is not the same as that of the people the movement is directed at. And that ultimately makes the whole movement itself a BS, says Hart.
“The current body positivity movement is a whitewash of a fat activist space that was brought to life by blacks and non-blacks [people of color]Hart said recently on a Well + Good TALKS virtual panel celebrating the release of activist and author Jessamyn Stanley’s new book Yoke: My yoga of self-acceptance. “That is, you say something like ‘you just have to love yourself’ and think that this will somehow pay your bills and get you jobs and bring food to your table, which is just not the reality.”
The actual mindset of the body positivity movement essentially puts the responsibility for the love of your body on you, the individual, Hart said during the TALKS panel – and that’s a problem. “You should just choose to love yourself instead of competing with the institutions and systems that make us hate ourselves all the time.”
“You should just choose to love yourself instead of competing with the institutions and systems that make us hate ourselves all the time.” —Ericka Hart
What kind of institutions and systems are these? To take just a few examples, practitioners in many health, medical, and wellness fields still prefer thin bodies (though Stanley himself is evidence that any body can thrive in a space as fat-phobic as yoga) – be it on the fall by doctors turning to weight loss as a panacea, or fitness trainers suggesting a specific body type or weight loss metric as the end goal of the workout.
And even as someone very aware of these systems, Hart still struggles with internalized fat phobic thoughts, be it at home looking in the mirror or out shopping – which shows how deeply ingrained such thoughts are.
“At this point, I have to reach out to my community and rely on them to remind me that this is just fat phobia working on me,” they say. “It is not the reality that something is wrong with my body or that I have to strive for a body, and there is also no mood that I have to strive for – as in: I don’t have to love my body. It’s really okay if I sit with the feelings that I don’t like my body and feel what comes to my mind. “
This idea is particularly popular with Hart, not only as a sex educator, but also as a breast cancer survivor who underwent a double mastectomy – a fact that initially shed light on their work when they exposed their mastectomy scars while working on the afropunk. Topless music festival participated in 2016. In a way, Hart says it’s an even bigger plea to “love every part of yourself” as the body positivity movement dictates, “if I am still grieving for a body I once had “.
As a former regular yoga practitioner who faced the same limitations as many others in her field –Why doesn’t my body look like yours in a handstand? Why can’t I afford the latest leggings?—Hart had limitations related to her mastectomy even after she was diagnosed. “After the surgery, it was really hard to use my arms for a while and now, seven years in remission, I still have a hard time doing yoga again because it feels very emotional. It is a challenge to process how sad I am that I am not sitting on a mat or that I cannot use my body in the same way. ”And there is no realistic self-acceptance solution for dealing with such a traumatic event that with “Well, I just have to love my body,” said Hart in TALK.
But even if you’ve never experienced these kinds of physical or medical trauma and changes, Hart noted that we all do to do Somehow experience change. And leaving no room for adjustment over time is another important part of what is wrong with the body positivity movement.
“We are told that our bodies should look like we are 15 years old – from the time we are 15 until we practically die,” Hart said. “But bodies change and change naturally as we get older.” Not to mention, added Hart, we just went through a global pandemic – and are still alive: “Why shouldn’t my body change after an event like this?”
And of course that is only one component of what is wrong with the concept of body positivity and where it falls short. “It [also] makes me forget how much my body has endured me and how much it can hold up, “said Hart,” and what he ate, what he could enjoy, what kind of sex he had, what kind of pleasure he had. “One So finding a workable way of self-acceptance is Not To constantly accept or love every part of yourself, but to remind yourself of your humanity, Hart said – and to do that over and over again.
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