As of late, I’ve noticed that some folks in and outside of the fat acceptance movement have some misconceptions about what the movement encourages. Here are some of the myths I’ve come across debunked.
5. Fat acceptance says don’t exercise.
Fat acceptance doesn’t want to control your behavior. It doesn’t want to tell you what to eat, how to eat, what to wear, how to wear it, or what your body should/shouldn’t be doing. Whatever you choose to do with your body is what you choose to do with your body. If you like to exercise, great; do it. If you don’t, great; don’t do it! Your body is yours, and no one should be able to tell you what to do or what not to do. Personally, I exercise. I do for mental health reasons; it gives me a boost of the good chemicals I feel are essential for my mental stability. When I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I worked with my behavioral therapist to look at options other than medication. She suggested exercise because I had mentioned that doing yoga helped me relax and gave me a positive boost. Since then, I have been exercising because I like it. However, any reason is a good reason to do what you want with your body. If you just like it, then you just like. If you don’t like, then you just don’t like it. Fat acceptance wants you to have complete ownership of your body, and whatever that means to you is whatever it means to you.
4. Fat acceptance is a “women only” movement.
It may seem like the conversation is dominated by women, but fat acceptance isn’t trying to keep men out of a women’s only conversation. Men face an increasingly rigid standard of beauty that is being marketed through the media. We have only begun to see the repercussions of a male beauty standard, as it’s something that folks are just starting to research. Women are usually the ones writing about fat acceptance because there has been a lot of in depth research into the harm female beauty standards cause to women and girls. However, men are encouraged to participate in the discussion. If you are interested in reading fat acceptance writings from men, here are a few to blogs with male/gender neutral FA bloggers:
http://unapologeticallyfat.blogspot.com/ (gender neutral blog)
Fat acceptance also seems to be cis centered, meaning it tends to focus on cisgendered bodies. It’s imperative that trans* individuals are part of the discussion about body image. My one big criticism of the fat acceptance movement is its lack of trans* visibility. I suggest that the fat acceptance community involve trans* bodies in their campaigns because, if we don’t, we are guilty of maintaining a power structure that would like to erase trans* individuals.
3. Fat acceptance wants to reverse the power dynamic between thin and fat.
If you belong to the blogging community–hell, if you’ve logged into Facebook lately–you might I have seen images like this:
This message, in effect, undermines the struggle for fat acceptance. Fat acceptance is not about when thin became hotter than curvy women, what straight cis men find attractive, or the policing of bodies. This type of argument only seeks to reverse the power structure of thin/fat so that fat (or curvy) is favored, and therefore privileged, over thin. Regardless of what the beauty standard is, it’s still oppressive in that one must adhere to it, be shamed if one doesn’t adhere to it, and bodies that don’t fit said standard are seen as not real, good, or worthy. True fat acceptance wants to smash the power structure that says one body is “better” than another. Fat acceptance is about people loving their bodies without having to fit into a standard of beauty: it says that all bodies are real bodies; all bodies are good bodies. Pitting bodies against each other should never be the focus fat acceptance activism.
2. Fat acceptance glorifies obesity.
To me, this myth is nearly laughable. The idea that loving your body regardless of who says you are beautiful glorifies obesity really just translates to “but isn’t being fat bad for you??” The short answer is No, being fat is not bad for you. In fact, fat acceptance is linked to better health outcomes. The fact of the matter is that no one should be shamed about their body. No standard of beauty can tell you whether someone is healthy. Most importantly, shaming someone into being who you want to see is not going to help them feel good about themselves. If one doesn’t feel good about one’s self, one is less likely to care for one’s body and mind. It’s important to understand that the only things being glorified by fat acceptance are self care and self love
1. Fat acceptance demands complete confidence and self-love at all times.
Some mornings I wake up and I can’t look at my body in the mirror. Some mornings I wake up and feel fabulously fat and fierce. Some mornings I wake I and don’t feel anything about my body at all. How we feel and what we think about our bodies fluctuates as often as our moods. No one is asking for complete and total self love, no exceptions, no excuses. Self acceptance is a process; there are challenges we face in that process. Most of the challenges come in the form of self-doubt, insecurity, self-hate, and feelings or inferiority/invisibility. The reason why fat acceptance activists are constantly shouting from roof tops, “Love Your Body!” is because we struggle with loving our bodies on a daily basis. When I say Love your body it’s more like a reminder to myself: Hey, you, don’t be so hard on yourself; see your body for what it is; care for it and love it and treat it with kindness and respect.
In addition, self love and acceptance is more difficult for some than others. No one is giving you a time frame to work in; no one expects you to wake up tomorrow from the slumber of self-hate, bursting with a passionate love for your body. Loving any aspect of yourself is a day to day challenge that requires a plethora of strategies to overcome said challenges. Fat acceptance simply asks you to work on undoing years of shame and self hate through compassion, care, and love. Some folks my not be ready to establish that relationship to their bodies yet. Perhaps there are other things a person needs/wants to accept about themselves before they can begin work on fat acceptance. That is great. Work on whatever aspects of self that will challenge how you see yourself and what you can do. Again, there is no timeline, and there is no one cracking a self-love whip. However you experience your journey of fat acceptance is right.