By Nadine, Already Pretty Contributor
A while back I was having a Twitter discussion with some folks about Maria Kang (of “What’s your excuse” infamy) and her recent criticism of Curvy Girl Lingerie, a store here in California. CG’s Facebook page includes selfies of their size 14-plus customers looking sexified in their scanty wares. Apparently Kang has no problem with loving your body, as long as that love is conditional. “I feel like it’s OK to love and accept your body, I think that we’re normalizing obesity in our society,” she says.
I read this, did the Twitter back and forth with some equally indignant pals and then I had go lie down because I had an anger-induced headache. When I got up, I decided a blog post was in order because sometimes there’s just too much indignation for 140 characters.
I’ve noticed over the past several years that the mainstream media obsession with women’s size seems to have given way to an obsession with our “health.” Those quotation marks are meant to denote my sarcasm, because I think the word “health” is often used as a red herring. There’s still a whole lot of fat-shaming and size-bashing happening in the media dressed up as concern for women’s health. Feeling good about yourself is an idea whose time has come. And for the most part, I’m down with that. Authentic self-esteem, self-acceptance, and body-positivity are pretty rad in my opinion. But there’s also a version of “feeling good” that companies and publications use to target women. They capitalize on the appeal of self-acceptance by using concepts like health as a barometer to measure how much self-esteem we have. If a woman truly feels good about herself, she will take care of her health. And we’ll know she’s taking care of her health because her body will be “fit” a.k.a. thin a.k.a. the same narrow ideas about acceptable bodies we’ve been hearing about for years.
I’m not criticizing anyone making a sincere bid to improve her actual health. But an individual’s health isn’t something you can discern from the size or shape of her body. My healthy body may not look like your healthy body. The person who is n pounds, may or may not be healthier than the person who is n + 50 pounds. Weight and size are not an accurate barometer of how healthy a person is.
Which brings me to my second point. Health is not a barometer of how worthy a person is. Yes, health affects our quality of life. I certainly don’t fault anyone who wants improve their health, develop healthy habits, or adopt a healthful lifestyle. By that same token I’m not super-comfortable with the idea that if you’re healthier than someone, you’re better than them. Frankly, a lot of health is luck. Going to a gym, jogging, walking, doing yoga, eating certain foods are only choices you can make if you enjoy certain economic and able-bodied privileges. Even when we have those advantages, circumstances beyond our control may change that. Our bodies get sick. Our bodies get hurt. Our bodies experience chronic pain, loss of mobility, and aging. We encounter life challenges that make health maintenance a less urgent priority. These things may happen and none of them make us bad people. Even if our health is imperfect because we choose to kick-back and watch TV more than we workout, that doesn’t mean we aren’t entitled to feel OK about who we are. None of us is perfect. Whether we’re athletes, couch potatoes or somewhere in between, ultimately I believe it’s what we say, how we behave, and how we treat others that truly determines our worth.
So can we maybe say it’s OK to love and accept our bodies, period? That no matter what size or shape, any body is worth being seen, accepted, and admired.
Image courtesy of Pond 5
Already Pretty contributor Nadine Thornhill is a sex educator and blogger at Adorkable Undies. She is a new resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, having recently moved from Ottawa, Ontario to pursue a Doctor of Education in Human Sexuality. Her writing tends toward subjects such as clitorises, feminism, vibrators, body image, gender politics and non-monogamy. She is a passionately committed Scrabble player and lifelong klutz, having sustained 16 concussions to date.