accessibility · body image · disability · fitness · inclusiveness

Better language for inclusion needed: Not “all bodies can…”

As most of you know while this blog is very much a group project, I pretty much run our Facebook page solo. (I do get some help with moderation. Thanks blogging team!) But in general I read things that I think will interest our followers and I throw them on the page pretty quickly. I make mistakes. I learn things from our readers. I apologize.

Why have the page? It’s a great way to reach a broad audience and build community. Posts that aren’t shared there aren’t nearly as well read as posts that are. Also, there are a ton of stories that come across my newsfeed that I don’t necessarily want to write about but that I think will interest our readers and followers.

Yesterday I shared this story about plus sized outside adventurers. I commented “all bodies are outside bodies.”

But of course there’s reason to be wary of “all bodies” language. Our bodies vary a lot in shape and size and ability. One reader commented, helpfully, that we need better language around inclusion. She has ankle injuries and instability and can no longer hike and misses it.

Hey, me too! I can’t walk very far these days without my knee brace and even with the brace hiking on uneven ground is out of the picture. Now I didn’t say “all bodies are hiking bodies” I deliberately said “all bodies are outdoors bodies” because I was thinking of recent attempts here in Ontario to make provincial parks and beaches wheel chair accessible.

But I get the general point. I feel it when people say “it’s never too late.” Yes, as a matter of fact sometimes it is too late. I’ll never run or play soccer again.

So we want to make sure plus sized bodies are included so we say “all bodies” but not all bodies can do all things. What’s your thoughts about better language for inclusion? Do you mind all bodies talk? How about “all bodies are good bodies?”

2 thoughts on “Better language for inclusion needed: Not “all bodies can…”

  1. I would’ve said the same thing you did– “all bodies are outdoor bodies”– but I see what the commenter is saying. Do we want or need to clarify when we are talking about size and when we are talking about differing abilities and disabilities? This is hard. In the plus-sized adventurers post, one of the adventurers commented about size accommodations but also about speed (or development curve). The second applies to both contexts, but the first is mostly about different sized people. I think that all sizes and shapes of bodies are outdoor bodies, and also that all bodies are outdoor bodies. These statements mean different things when we look more closely. Do we need to separate them to make clear the different kinds of accessibility that’s needed? Your post seemed to make clear that we do often clarify that, which I really liked. Still thinking on this. thanks for the post.

  2. I wonder if it is somewhat akin to the use of LGBTQ+ language over the adoption of a possibly inclusive term like “queer.” For me, saying queer is inclusive and nonproblematic, as it was the terminology of the community in which that self-awareness formed for me–we intentionally kept it very open-ended, basically accepting anyone into our “queer community” who identified themselves with it. However, I recognize that the word is deeply problematic for some folks, especially those for whom it was used as a slur, and so folks often use more specific terminology (LGBTQ+, etc), in order to give those who are more comfortable with those identifiers a way to be included and to feel safe.

    I have been a person with a larger body and felt excluded from activities and spaces with that body size, and I’m ok clarifying that specific kind of inclusion/exclusion. I am also a person with “altered abilities” due to chronic illnesses and the consequences therein. In my case, these differences aren’t apparent when you meet me, and sometimes I feel the need to remind folks that not everyone will always get to do everything, and as you say, Sam, sometimes there isn’t still time. I think there’s a place for specifying body sizes vs. physical abilities, and I’m also ok being included in “everybody.”

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