The “Love Your Body” Message: Simplistic and Condescending?

In today’s media, we seem to have gone a bit bipolar in the weight loss stakes; while magazines display anorexic models to make you die a little bit inside, you also have Gok Wan getting women to take off their clothes and show off how much they love their bodies. However, for blogger Amanda Chatel, being told to love her body is just as damaging to her mental wellbeing as looking at skinny models.

‘I do not like my thighs,’ says Amanda. ‘They’re huge and riddled with stretch marks thanks to a growth spurt at 12, and my stomach refuses to be flat – but I guess I have Lombardi’s pizza to blame for that one. I wish my ass was perkier; my boobs are too big and too saggy, my lips should be less thin and pout on command, and my teeth are too small – straight, but small…In other words, I’m not very keen on my body, and I certainly don’t accept it. If one more person tells me I have to, I’m going to lose my shit and throw something really heavy and dangerous.’

So is Amanda against body acceptance? Not at all, she says. ‘As a woman who doesn’t fit the ideal of what’s considered conventionally beautiful, I embrace and support the body acceptance movement. It’s important that we encourage people, especially young women who are especially susceptible to society’s unrealistic standards of beauty more than most, to love and accept their bodies.’

However, Amanda argues, ‘Self-esteem is complex and telling a person that they must accept the way they look, to demand that of them, is simplistic and condescending. It is my right to not accept my body and the way I think it fails at fulfilling my personal standard of beauty. I know how I would like to look, but I also know that I may never get there. I accept that I may never have the body I desire; I also accept that I may never accept my body the way it is.’

She adds, ‘And while I want everyone to reach a level of peace when it comes to the way they look, and as much as I want it for myself, too, I would never tell anyone they must accept their body. Demands to “love the skin your in” can feel at times just as oppressive as the onslaught of reminders about all the ways that skin unloveable. Failing at “accepting” my body is just another thing to feel like shit about.’

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