Body positivity is, and let’s get this out of the way right now, hard to have a discussion about. It is hard because it is a labyrinth of sensitivity, a trigger-happy discourse of animosity and hurt, a discussion that can reduce friendships to ashes, that can see you ostracised, that can cause real, lasting pain.
It is also a discourse with very blurred lines between the ‘for’ and ‘against’ camps, because I think its fair to say that none of us want to be particularly mean, and nobody thinks there is definite credence in the idea that one body type is the master body, the example to which we should all aspire; indeed, we do in fact all have a completely different idea of perfection entirely individual to ourselves. Beauty is the most subjective concept I think we as humans can conceptualise.
The darker side to this principle, and if we want to have an adult, grown up discussion about body positivity it is a side we must acknowledge and embrace, is that in the same way beauty and what we find beautiful is completely subjective, so too is what we find unattractive, not beautiful, not aesthetically pleasing, undesirable and ugly. It is up to us, our own personal opinion, our own personal tastes.
Sure, the argument can (and indeed has been) be made to suggest that nature attracts men to a large bust, child bearing hips, red voluptuous lips, facial symmetry and long, flowing hair, but again, the perceptions within us as to what constitutes the ‘perfect’ large bust, ‘perfect’ child bearing hips, or any other ‘perfect’ measure of beauty is all completely subjective. Almost everyone is attractive to someone, and in any case, it’s personality that matters most, isn’t it?
No, it’s not, at least not initially and within the paradigm of beauty. You can’t see a personality in a picture, you can’t see a personality in someone you have never spoken to or seen outside of a night club. Beauty – physical beauty – is entirely in the eye of the beholder, and this is where body positivity begins to become farcical, and the difficulties of the debate come to light; the language becomes antagonistic and the points become unavoidably aggressive.
If you don’t think you are attractive (and it can only be your opinion that matters being that, as mentioned, there is no collective consensus on the matter of physical attraction) then change your appearance. Don’t sit and wallow in self-pity trying to change peoples’ idea of attractiveness, trying to militantly combat the idea that you are unattractive purely because society has been ‘conditioned to think so’. It is ridiculous, null, and pathetically weak.
What this speaks to, however, is a dangerous phenomenon, and one which gives this debate such traction; many people (not just women, though the debate is firmly fixated on the sensitivities of the fairer sex) feel that they are over-weight, or unattractive, even if by fashion industry or ‘societally perceived’ standards they would be described as attractive. I know this because it’s everywhere, all over social media, all over modern advertising campaigns. What this does is give the ‘for’ camp in the movement an inflated sense of majority, because many people, due to their own lacking self-confidence, subscribe to the idea that they’re ugly, and that it’s not their fault.
It is, however, entirely your own fault. If you feel too fat, lose weight. If you don’t feel toned enough, go to the gym. If you want to be faster, or stronger, start training. If you don’t like your face, get a hair-cut, start exfoliating, grow a beard, shave your beard. This is the problem, I think: we all adhere to our own standards of beauty, subconsciously or consciously – not those of fashion moguls or swimwear adverts – which is why we do what we do with our morning and evening routines, with our choices of fashion, of style. No one makes us like certain clothes, and no one makes us like eating more than we like going to the gym. We have choices and the ability to change how we look, and the ghastly sentiment of the body positivity campaign refuses to acknowledge this. Why should a grotesquely fat woman, like for example Tess Holiday, be the foundation for inspiration and enthusiasm when literally all she has done is allow herself to become morbidly obese (literally, by medical standards)? She is as unhealthy if not more so than a heavy drinker, or a heavy smoker. She is unattractive in a de facto sense – almost sexually repulsive – to anyone that doesn’t have a fetish for the insanely obese. She is as much of a role model as Johnny Vegas. The difference is Vegas hasn’t commandeered the social justice warship and used it for sympathy or political point scoring. He has embraced the reality of his act and presented it forthrightly.
That isn’t to say that Tess Holiday isn’t attractive to someone, nor, importantly, that she is wrong to be the way she is. It is her choice, certainly. What is wrong is that she has managed to engineer the idea that her body is something to aspire to, and that her attitude towards her weight is acceptable, and even desirable. Sure, if you have a body like that and you are happy, more power to you. If you are truly happy in that state of literal obesity, with no figure, no curvature, the health outlook of a 60 a day smoker and lacking the ability to climb a flight of stairs without breaking a sweat, then I truly applaud your identity resolve. Don’t expect anyone else to condone it though, let alone accept it as a standard of “beauty”. You are akin to a smoker trying to tell me to start smoking; yes, be happy with your decisions in life, but don’t confuse being content with being healthy or desirable, and don’t expect people to accept them as good.
More than that, what is wrong with clothing companies using models that actually make their clothes look good? If it offends you so much, don’t buy it. If you want it but it won’t fit, or you don’t think it looks good or costs too much in your size, lose weight. There is a nothing argument here that is presented in such a way as to appeal to the humanity of all those who give it an audience, and as such is allowed to gain traction and be painted as a problem of oppression, discrimination or nastiness, all things which the sensibilities and sensitivities of modern social liberalism have reared us to abhor unilaterally. It is identity politics incarnate, and a perfect example of how social media hyperbole can attract massive attention that grows exponentially into another one of these ever popular and perpetually boring “social justice movements”.
It is also, like so many social justice movements before it, horrendously hypocritical. The focus is firmly affixed on that of women. The age-old Barbie controversy versus the He-Man passivism debate arises here. For those unfamiliar, Barbie has been the focus of countless body positivity and feminist campaigns, stating she represents an unattainable standard of beauty for young girls to aspire to, and is a manifestation of patriarchal control over the female agenda. He-Man is largely left to do He-Manly things, as is Action Man for that matter, without a single whisper from the Barbie-is-literally-Hitler camp as to his exact parallels with the issues they have with Barbie. The extent to which men should accept their bodies is reserved to the short lived dad-bod trend, end of. We don’t see any grotesquely obese male models because firstly, they are aesthetically repulsive and undesirable and secondly, male sensitivities are perceived lesser than those of women and as such there is no need for a ‘Ted Holliday’ figure in public life. Which is fair enough in my opinion, as they probably are. I’m just making the gross hypocrisy known here.
Let me ask you, who should model fitness gear other than an athlete? Who should model strong man gear other than a strong man? Who should model running shoes other than a runner? Who then, should model clothes that are supposed to sell based on their looks other than those they look good on? That is not to say the model looks good with them on, but to say that they look good on the model.
There is a drastic distinction that goes completely overlooked so very often, in so far as actually, if you were to ask most men about most clothing models, or at least the rake thin 6’2” models that are supposedly promoting an atmosphere of body hostility, they would tell you they don’t find them attractive. That is because they aren’t, usually. The clothes, specifically, are being showcased, and it just so happens they sometimes look nice draped over a wire frame. Don’t get me wrong, they more often than not look, in my opinion, much, much better draped over curves, but they aren’t selling to me, nor do they care about my opinion. The fashionistas that be care about how the clothes look and finding the best way to sell them.
This also speaks to a certain futility in debates surrounding any argument condemning an increased cost to larger clothes. Yes, it can be said that clothing companies make clothes to an ‘average’ size and as such should ‘average’ the price, but really, its rubbish. Its up to them. The only people it realistically affects unfairly are taller and much shorter people, because they legitimately have no control over those factors. Not only do they have to pay more for the things they want to wear, they’re often proportioned awfully. They pay more for a sub-par product and have no choice in the matter, unlike issues of weight which are entirely the responsibility of the individual, aside from the microscopic portion of the population with unmanageable medical conditions.
It all boils down, at the end of the day, to your own insecurities, your own hang ups on how you look versus how you’d like to look. I don’t think anyone is particularly content with their appearance; not in its entirety. But we have the power to change almost everything, particularly our weight, we are just generally lacking the motivation or fortitude as a society to get up and do anything about it, because change is much harder to accomplish than ranting online about how hurt your feelings are and how evil clothing companies are charging you more for a decision you have made.
Like the smoker with his cigarettes, you must make peace with it or give up: It is your choice and yours alone: individual responsibility, something social liberalism increasingly refuses to acknowledge.