Sam responds: Why body neutrality isn’t enough (for me)

Tracy and I enjoy our disagreements. We agree about many things and there’s lots of trust and love and a long history of friendship and collegiality. The result is that disagreeing can be fun and informative.

We part ways over tracking, over road cycling, aiming for more versus doing less, and recently over scales in university fitness centre change rooms. And now it’s body positivity. I’m a fan of learning to love your body. She’s a fan of body neutrality. See Still a fan of body neutrality.

Why am I fan of body positivity instead?

First, let me start with an observation. It’s no surprise to me that most of the proponents of body positivity are fat women. Not all. But most. Why’s that?

It’s radical and empowering to say to the world that you love this body that they hate. And you need love, not neutrality to balance out all that hate.

I feel like if neutrality was the best I could aim for, in the face of all that anger, fear, and loathing, I’d wither away. Loving my body is work. It’s a challenge.

It’s also for me a kind of attitude, like love in general. In my post about loving the body you’ve got I wrote.

What does it mean to ‘love’ this body? I don’t think it’s perfect aesthetically speaking. That’s not what I mean at all. I could list its flaws–I spend enough time with other women to know how to do that–but I won’t. I’m nearing fifty years old. If perfection were ever in my sights, that was a long time ago.

I love my kids. I don’t think they are perfect. (Sorry kids.) I’m not talking about aesthetics and I’m not talking about perfection. I don’t associate either of those values with love.

I associate loving my body with the activity of caring for my body. It’s both a sense of awe and wonder (Wow, I rode my bike 160 km!) and a responding to that awe and wonder with concrete action (Great ride, now let’s go for a massage!).

One difference between Tracy and me is that I don’t feel or experience “love your body” as an imperative, as one more thing that good feminists must do. What I learned from her post is that (obviously) different people experience messages in different ways. 

I’ve never heard “love your body” as a command or order. It’s not for me, one more way to fail as a feminist. Instead, I’ve always heard “love your body” as a permission. Yes, you. Yes, that body. Love that body now.

And I do.

And I plan on continuing to do so for many more years to come.

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