I’ve been writing this blog for three months. At least. It’s not that the words have been hard to find; it’s more that the message is a tricky, complex one. Communicating it leaves me open to criticism (which I’m totally fine with) but it also leaves me open to upsetting people I know and love (which I’m totally NOT fine with).I’ve thought long and hard about how to say this in a way that is so completely clear that there’s no room for misunderstanding. I hope I’ve managed that but if not, if my words make you mad and angry, please ask me to clarify. Please give me the benefit of the doubt rather than assume that I’m a gobby twat that doesn’t give much of a shit about anything other than getting on a soapbox.
So this is a blog about the #bodypositivity campaign. Actually, it’s more of a movement – one that I think has done AMAZING things. It’s a campaign that I’ve personally supported. It’s a campaign that my very special friends have championed and worked incredibly hard to promote and it’s had the most amazing effect on women the ‘gram over.
Here’s what I think of the #bodypositivity movement. I think it’s empowering and inspiring. I think it’s the perfect counter-attack to a world where women have been defined by the size of their tits and ass for too long. I think seeing women who don’t fit the socially acceptable mould get their kit off and stand there looking glorious and beautiful in full view defiantly saying, ‘This is me. I love me and I don’t care what you think,’ has been a game changer for a lot of women and that can only be a good thing.
I actually wrote a previous blog about it which you can read here and I’ll be honest, it was a bit shit. It was so shit actually that the lovely Nat from Style Me Sunday pulled me up on it and gave me a stern talking to over a glass of wine and a nice lunch. She wasn’t wrong when she told me that my blog implied that the #bodypositivity movement was validating unhealthy life choices. Reading it back, I realise that the tone was off; it came across as a bit dismissive and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what was niggling me about this whole thing. I’d tried to write a blog that conveyed it but I’d failed. Why had I got it so wrong? And then I realised – my blog was defensive.
It was defensive for two reasons. Firstly, for 36 years I’ve been subjected to a barrage of propaganda that has made me think that I have to look a certain way to be accepted, to be beautiful, to be successful. While my rational, adult brand knows all of this is a stinking pile of sweaty bollocks, it’s not easy for me to convince those deepest, darkest parts of my psyche that still believe that I need to be thinner, more toned, taller (I’m not sure how I achieve that one), fitter, stronger. The blog, in part, came from a sneaky, unwelcome but still pretty persuasive, voice that needed to defend my desire to be all those things – I couldn’t see it at the time but as I re-read it and reflected I realised that Nat had seen that and she was simply trying to point that out.
Secondly, I felt a bit at odds with the #bodypositivity message because I wanted to exercise and get myself back to my shape. I didn’t want to spend hours in the gym or in the yoga studio because I wanted to look like Cara Delevigne. I wanted to do it because it was how I recognised myself, how I knew myself. I wanted to do it because those hours I spend in the gym or doing yoga are also my time. Those hours are essential for my mind, my soul and my body. I sleep, work, love, laugh, mother better when I exercise, and yes, I also feel better when I’m the size that I have always known myself to be; the size that fits into all the clothes that I spent a fortune buying. Whether or not you can accept this or whether you see my as just another victim of the soulless media image of what women should look like, is entirely up to you. Know this though – I’m not miserable the size I am. It doesn’t affect my ability to live and love to the full…it just doesn’t quite feel like me. I have a preference to be a size that I’ve always been and that I feel comfortable as.
So, here’s the flip side to the movement that I can’t help but recognise and acknowledge and start a conversation about. I see an emerging group of women that feel the #bodypositivity movement, as it is, doesn’t leave any room for them. These could be women who are naturally very slim despite having shoved out thirty three children. These are women who may fit into size 8 clothes but still have issues with their body. These are women who may spend time and energy maintaining a healthy body at the gym, or in the yoga studio, or hiking, or trampolining or nutritionally for whatever reason. These are women that are told that they don’t have ‘real’ mum bodies. These are women who have been told that the #bodypositivity campaign isn’t their campaign.
Here’s the thing: the real point of the #bodypositivity movement is about empowering women, it’s about confidence, self-esteem and self-belief, right? Its about knowing your true, magnificent worth. It’s about abolishing judgement. Surely our body shape only makes up a part of that?
I fear that, while the movement started as a reaction against being defined solely by our bodies and what they looked like in and out of clothes, here we are, still defining our confidence, self-esteem, self-belief and self-worth by just our bodies, by whether we’re able to be comfortable wearing a bikini despite the stretch marks, the cellulite, the scars. Sure, it’s a different body that we’re accepting and celebrating; it’s a less ‘perfect’ body; it’s an honest body…but it’s still all about the body and it’s still about celebrating a specific type of body. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a body type that we all need to see more of because it’s been shamefully hidden for too long – but it can’t be at the expense of other ‘real’ women who don’t have that body, or those marks, or those wobbly bits.
I could be completely wrong – maybe I’m missing all the points – I’m perfectly willing to hear you out and be proved wrong on this. But, if I can see this and I feel this happening on social media, and if I have to gird my loins before posting a pic of me at the gym for fear that I’ll get labelled a traitor to the cause then I know I’m not the only one thinking it and feeling it.
So, let’s celebrate the #bodypositivity movement because it’s doing some amazing things, but let’s also be mindful that, if it is what it says it is: an empowering campaign that sticks two fingers up at a status quo established by a patriarchy and makes women feel confident in a world that’s determined to beat them down, then let’s make sure it’s wholly inclusive. Let’s be clear to include every woman – regardless of whether they sport cellulite or stretch marks. Let’s not dismiss those women who used January as a fresh start to get back to the gym or to eat more healthily, as fools who have been suckered into the propaganda system. Let’s allow women to make their own choices regarding their body without judgement or criticism because when it comes down to it THAT is what it has to be about. It has to be about giving women control of their bodies and allowing them to do whatever the hell they like with them because when they can do that with no repercussions or comment or judgement, then, then we can call them empowered.