A while ago I was sat on the couch, reading a book, minding my own business. My 8 year old son sat next to me, poked me in the stomach and said, ‘You need to lose weight, you are fat.’
I was aghast. Aside from the fact that, while I have gained a bit more weight in the last year, I am by no means fat, it’s not his place to say I need to lose weight. And so I told him that he was being judgemental and I didn’t need to lose weight.
This incident prompted me to have a conversation with both of my children about body positivity and about accepting people the way they are. It also prompted me to be more careful what I say about other people’s bodies or appearances and correct my husband if he makes negative comments. I want my sons to grow up to be positive, broad-minded men who can see that society’s ideal man or woman does not exist and that we all come in different sizes and shapes.
It is very important for anyone to keep this lesson in mind. We are taught by the media from a very young age that there is one shape that is ideal for men and one shape that is ideal for women. That shape is something we should all aspire to in ourselves and look for in a potential partner. But we are all different. The ideal shape simply does not exist. Looking for it will only make us miserable.
Body positivity extends to more than just whether a person has a particular shape. The first thing we usually think of when talking about body positivity is weight. We know we shouldn’t shame someone for being fat or being skinny. And of course that is a big part of body positivity, but it goes further than that.
Body positivity is embracing each and every person. Each and every body. Every body is unique and we should celebrate that uniqueness. We should also let people make their own choices with respect to their bodies. Don’t shame a woman for getting breast augmentation. Don’t shame a man for being bald. Don’t shame a woman for having larger inner labia. Don’t shame a man for having a smaller penis. Don’t shame men and women alike for having plastic surgery.
And let’s even take it a step further. Let’s stop judging people on their appearance. I dyed my hair blue recently and bought Doc Martens, which I wear to work. They are really nice, with embroidered flowers along the side. My boss, who is super conservative, remarked ‘You are really becoming rebellious, aren’t you?’ Ehm no, I am still the same person, I am just expressing myself better. Blue hair doesn’t make me a different person. Doc Martens don’t make me a different person. It’s just the way I express myself and if you didn’t realise I was always a rebel, then you haven’t paid attention.
Can’t we all not just be more accepting? I try to teach my children that they don’t need to conform, that it is all right to stand out. Society teaches us that we all need to be the same, but where is the fun in that? We are all unique, and we shouldn’t be afraid of each other’s uniqueness. Think of how much better the world would be if we only embraced each other the way we are.