So I’m just going to launch right in and say it – The whole ‘body confidence’ movement irritates me. But not necessarily for the reasons you might think.
I love that as a society we are getting better at encouraging people to love themselves, and to ignore the pressure from media to look anything other than exactly how we want to, but as a plus-sized woman the second I mention that I am not happy with my body I get berated – “If you aren’t happy, change it” “You don’t get to complain if you aren’t going to do something to fix it” – or get a million recommendations for diet plans and personal trainers.
This would be all well and good, but the assumption that I am unhappy with my body because of my size is exactly what is wrong with this movement. In fact, I’ve even been getting pretty ok at ignoring my VBO – I wore a bikini on stage in front of hundreds of people during Miss Pinup NZ, and in the last few months I’ve worn two full-length mermaid gowns that hug every single damn curve and people haven’t run in terror from the outline of my stomach.
Basically what I’m trying to say is that being plus-sized is fine with me.
The thing about the plus-size focus of the body positivity movement is that, because body-positivity can be so fragile when you’re as marginalised as plus-sized women are, the idea that you might not be happy with your body automatically becomes about weight. People cannot comprehend that you might have anything else to be unhappy about.
I have my areas of insecurity, and no, I’m not always the most confident person in figure-hugging outfits, but I cannot consider myself ‘body positive’ regardless of my size because not only am I a plus-sized woman, I am a disabled plus-sized woman, and how can I be expected to love a body that has betrayed me?
It’s hard to explain to people, especially when there are hundreds of stories of people overcoming disabilities, going out and doing really cool stuff and not letting their disabilities limit them, but that can also be pretty dangerous. Every single time somebody tells me that things could be worse (obviously I’m grateful for the abilities I have, and I know that there are people who have things much worse than me – I’m not disputing that at all) they compare my disability to that of someone else who they’ve heard about, who is doing amazing things, or changing the world, or climbing mountains, and that stings. It’s like suggesting that I’m not good enough because I’m not doing all of these amazing things too. The implication that I am not trying hard enough to be an inspiration is hurtful. I didn’t ask for this, and it should not be a requirement that I use it to teach other people that they can do great things ‘in spite of diversity’.
I have built a career that fits around my limitations (I am not going to stop doing what I love just because it’s harder than it used to be) but at the same time, I’m not doing this for anybody but myself. I work too hard, I over-exert myself on a daily basis, and you’re damn right I spend whole days in bed in tears after big events because I can’t move and everything hurts, and the idea that people might think this is something to strive for is heartbreaking. I am not setting a good example, nor should I be expected to.
Everyone has those things that they’ll never talk about on social media in case their facade comes crumbling down. We’re all guilty of lying through omission, but I’m making a stand – I don’t want anyone to think that I’ve got my shit together. I don’t want people looking at me and using the things I’ve achieved to make themselves feel bad, just like I refuse to compare other people’s achievements to my own; I won’t listen when someone tells me that ‘it could be so much worse’, because I shouldn’t have to submit to hypotheticals intended to make me feel guilty for being angry about my situation; and under no circumstances will I pretend to be body-positive when I’m not.