There is this conviction out there in society that everything is only a matter of either/or. If one group is acceptable, then other groups are not. It’s high school cliques written on the larger stage.
We keep coming across this in every situation where there is a group advocating for acceptance and a greater voice in their own autonomy. Trans people want to be allowed to be who they are. Women want to be who they are, without worrying if it will cost them their lives or their safety. People of color want to be able to live their lives in peace and dignity. And fat people just want to be accepted as human rather than as subhuman.
It does not take power away from someone else in order to give power to those who are powerless. Power is not a finite resource. But it does cause change. It means that someone is no longer allowed to abuse someone else who is different. It means that yes, you need to accept that the gay, African-American woman sitting next to you on the bus is just as important to the world as you are.
It doesn’t cost you power, it costs you the ability to abuse your power. It costs you the ability to usurp power. It costs you your ability to bully others.
What we are seeing now is not a matter of people wanting to steal power from others, it is people finally choosing to stand up and no longer support people who abuse their power. There are two quotes about this I’d like you to think about:
Those who stay quiet when someone else is bullied in front of them are complicit in the abuse of the victim.
Acceptance of someone doesn’t mean you approve of their choices. It simply means that you acknowledge they are different than you, and they have the right to be different.
Compassion doesn’t mean you approve either. It’s an acknowledgement that there is a problem, and want to help solve that problem.
But what we tell each other in American society is that we must be “acceptable,” not accepting. There’s this expectation that the way WE live is the only “right” way, and someone making different choices must therefore be wrong. The woman who is outspoken and opinionated is “trying to be a man.” The person of color who refuses to be judged by the color of their skin is somehow “uppity” or “deserves to be beaten down.” The gay person who just wants to be themselves is told to hide their sexual orientation, because it makes other people uncomfortable. The poly person who just wants to love and be loved has to hide their feelings, because someone else judges them to be a danger to children or society.
I don’t want to tell people that they’re ugly if they are thin. That’s NOT what the body positivity movement is about. For me, I want EVERY person to be able to love the body they have been given. It’s not about approving of bad health choices. It’s about focusing on health, and NOT on what size or shape your body is in. In high school, I had friends who were fat and friends who were skinny. They were just my friends, even though both ends of the spectrum were bullied for their size and shape. I have friends who have had mastectomies, lost body parts, live in wheelchairs, and so many other differences.
It’s not that I don’t see their differences. It’s that I don’t judge someone by the relative aesthetic view of them, but by their character. The rest is just part of who that person is.