THIS is why I am a body positive activist, rather than ONLY a fat acceptance activist. I want every person (yes, including every gender) to be able to see themselves as people, and their bodies as a gift from the Divine.
I have friends who are thin, some would say “too thin.” But they too have struggled all of their lives with a body that doesn’t necessarily react to food and exercise in the same way that a so-called normal body does. Whether it is because they have a hyperactive metabolism or because of some other reason (one or more of the body parts that are involved in the production of fat cells), they just can’t gain weight.
They too are shamed for their bodies. And they are hated because their bodies are different than their own.
Sound familiar? It should!
My ex has what is supposedly a normal body. Yet, I spent 20 years watching him eat like a racehorse just to be able to not end up as skin and bones. If he didn’t eat enough, his body started consuming muscle. Of course, when he hit his 40s, suddenly his metabolism started slowing down – which meant he started to develop a little bit of pudge. You’d think he’d be happy his body was starting to act normally. But no, he hated the thought he was gaining ANY fat whatsoever, and STILL hated his body.
My boyfriend has what is supposedly an “obese” body, even though a significant portion of it is muscle. He’s faster, stronger and more capable of physical activity than my ex – even with body parts that are not working as well as they used to because he broke body parts when he was younger (he’s in his 40s, what do you expect? Body parts wear out just like any other thing when they get older). But, just like my ex, he hates his body.
So many people hate themselves because they define themselves by their body and by what society thinks about bodies similar to their own.
You CANNOT encourage body acceptance if you are too busy shaming OTHER body shapes than your own.
I have a song on my Mental Support playlist that I don’t actively consider to be a body supportive song. Why? Because it implies that thinner girls aren’t beautiful while it says “Big Girls Are Beautiful.”
But, every once in a while I need to hear this song. Well, this and Christine Aguilera’s Beautiful.
Sounds and looks positive, doesn’t it? But, look at the chorus:
So, no, while it may be a fat-acceptance anthem, it is NOT a body positive one.
Sadly, many women are caught up in this binary thinking. Somehow if you are positive about one body shape, it means you MUST be negative about all other body shapes.
That’s just not true.
As an artist, I look at people and see beauty. Doesn’t matter their size, shape or color. I see the shapes that make them unique. I see the shapes that make them beautiful.
The ONLY thing that destroys that innate beauty and uniqueness? Who that person is on the inside. The average person looking at my ex sees beauty, because he’s got the “right” body shape. But, I finally saw the monster looking out of his eyes, and I can no longer consider him beautiful. I can look at the sculptures of Rodin, particularly ‘Celle Qui Fut La Belle Heaulmière’ (She Who Was The Helmet-Maker’s Once Beautiful Wife) and ‘The Fallen Caryatid Carrying a Stone’.
These sculptures are supposedly ugly to the average person’s eye. But, they are so much more than the image they portray.
The first sculpture challenges us to see the beautiful girl inside the aged body, and challenges us to see that even though she does not have the same kind of beauty that she did before, she has a beauty and grace all of her own. The beauty and grace that wisdom and experience brings shines out of this sculpture for all to see.
The second sculpture is a more blatant challenge. A “Caryatid” is a female figure found on architecture that stands in place of a column or as a column holding up a roof or a balcony.
What is most often said about this sculpture is that Rodin is trying to point out that the female figure is striving to carry a load far too heavy for her. She doesn’t give up, although she is crushed under the load. For him, this represented every woman who has ever been forced to carry the unending load of family and fortune with no help. The single mother who must work 3 jobs to make just enough money to keep her children in food, clothes and shelter. The wife who struggles to keep the family together while the husband throws their money away in drinking, gambling, or even just on frivolous things. It’s to show that these women, although they know their actions are sisyphean (of, relating to, or suggestive of the labors of Sisyphus) continue to strive to make the best of a bad situation. It’s not that Rodin is ignoring the fact that often men carry far too much of a load, and are also crushed beneath the weight of it, it’s that he’s pointing out that there are those expected to do the impossible.
We, today, laugh at these women for sticking to their tasks. We consider the wife struggling against a useless husband to be a fool for continuing to stick by him. We load more on the backs of the single mothers, and then abuse them for asking for help.
Sisyphus earned his punishment for acting as if he were better than the Gods. These people – because I include men in this group, even if Rodin didn’t – didn’t earn these impossible tasks. They just received them, and are doing their best to succeed, even while being crushed.
THIS is why we need body acceptance, people. EVERY body shape is under attack, because even those whose bodies are the supposed norm are expected to do everything they can to maintain that norm, even if it means destroying themselves in the process.