Why Friend Exclusive Body Positivity Is Dangerous Because If You Use Appearance As An Insult, You Can't Call Yourself Body Positive
Body positivity arguably hit the public consciousness in 2014, but 2015 has been the year that the body positive movement has really been shining. From fatshion to an overwhelming sense of support for Caitlyn Jenner, I can’t help feeling like acceptance is at an all-time high (although that’s not to say we’re anywhere near done yet). But for me, I feel like the support and self-love network that is growing on and off social media is something that has always existed. Or tried to exist, at least.
By that I mean a sense of solidarity between women — especially between friends — where we build each other up when the other is feeling down. Where your girlfriends refuse to allow you to feel like shit. Where your friends make you realize your greatest attributes — including those that just last week you were busy worrying about or hating yourself over. Where girls you don’t know in bar bathrooms complement each other over and over, and it never gets "too much" or "too old."
When you have a strong group of female friends, as much as you may take the piss out of each other, your self-love can only grow from the feelings of support. So, through the multitudes of friendships formed on Instagram and the Internet, the same kinds of support was grown. Due to the public nature of these platforms, this solidarity touched not just the cool fat girls with thousands of followers, but the rest of us who analyze the profile of every person who likes one of our selfies. Through sharing and caring about body positivity with followers whose support is more like a friendship, body positivity and body acceptance have finally hit the mainstream.
Although it could be argued that the term is thrown about too easily these days — not everything has to have a hidden feminist agenda — the now public phrase has really impacted my life and the lives of many. It’s changed the way I consider not just my friendship group, but the general public as well. Although I have always refused to find fault in my gal pals, I used to constantly critique everybody around me for what they looked like, what they were wearing, how they were wearing it, etc., etc. A constant stream of negative hatred poured through my brain, as cruelly analytical as any trashy magazine slating the Kardashians yet again.
Admitting that, knowing the person I am now, is hard; but it’s typical of every teenage girl raised in a culture that constantly critiques and rarely praises. It’s typical of more than just teenagers, too; symptomatic of an entire society that’s perfectly comfortable with judging strangers for something but celebrating their friends for the same things.
It’s easily enough done, too. If your bestie is upset about cheating on her boyfriend, then you comfort her, “Of course you’re not a monster!” But if your bestie got cheated on by her boyfriend? He’s a scum-sucking man-pig who never deserves to see the light of day again. It’s just how the human brain works: We care and see the positive in our friends, because why would you be friends with people you hate (at least once you’re outta high school)?
Within that is the main issue of friend-exclusive body positivity, even self-exclusive body positivity. You are not body positive if you’re still using somebody else’s appearance against them. It’s been a typical trend I’ve noticed my entire life as a chubby cutie. Friends who repeat and reinforce the age-old, "You can't possibly be fat" (as though fat is a bad thing), then slate the girl they hate or a celebrity half the size of you as an "effing whale." But if that celebrity is fat, then why aren’t I? Because I’m a nice person? Because you see "fat" as an insult and you don’t want to insult your friends? As long as you still see fat as an insult, then you aren’t body positive. No matter how many Tess Holliday articles you share.
When you change your outlook to a positive one, not just for your social circle but for the society you live in, your life changes. The conscious effort to make your inner monologue full of compliments rather than take downs will eventually become natural, and you’ll notice your loveliness shining out of you constantly. It’s impossible to think everybody you come across is Cool A.F., but it’s easy enough to find something you like about them!
Just like you wouldn’t tell your friend that her new jacket is the "ugliest damn thing you’ve ever seen," you shouldn’t feel obliged to dwell on it when you see a celebrity wearing a dress that you wouldn’t personally pick out. If you truly believe in body positivity, that positivity has to include all bodies. Even the body of the girl who stole your glitter gel pens when you were 12, because there are ways to insult people without bringing their appearance into it! You don’t have to stop hating people (that’s impossible), but you have to stop hating them for things they can’t help. Hate them for their poor life choices and conniving mind, rather than for how their love handles look in that dress.
Body positivity is about inclusivity and that includes people outside of your friend group. RuPaul might tell you, "If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?" But loving yourself becomes a whole lot easier when you can find something to love in everybody else.