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14 April 2004 @ 08:47 am
A brief rant: Body Negativity  
There are these amazing people in the world who are entirely comfortable with their bodies. They seem a minority in our culture.

They're underweight and toned and overweight and boney and variously pigmented and tall and short and of medium build, deformed, four-limbed, freckled, hairy, hairless. They've accepted their bodies, and they take their shirts or perhaps their clothes off in publicly and privately consenting places, places where they break no "decency" laws, and what does the majority do?

Critique their bodies. Make snarky comments.

Them accepting their bodies is beautiful. Accepting our bodies is beautiful. Cutting them down is totally fucking lame.

I accept my body but I won't face the vulnerability of public nudity. That's my choice. Cheers to the folks who don't have that fear.

I'm tired of being silent when people are body negative. Here's your new spin. Look past the body, regardless of your preference, and see the acceptance of their bodies. Admire that self-respect. Learn.

This is the warning shot for the benefit of my nearest and dearest. I dare you to say something body negative about someone who accepts their body in front of me. I'm fierce with a soap box, and good at fitting large splintery objects in tight spots. Grr. Arrr. Hiss.

Cross-posting to SeaGoth.
kriskrisnake on April 14th, 2004 03:59 pm (UTC)

Yay! You go!
You get up early in the morning when you don't have to. I don't get it.
Kburgunder on April 14th, 2004 04:01 pm (UTC)
I was startled by that, too, laugh. So I'm a morning person if I don't have to be? WTF?! Of course, if I'm working, I can barely wake up before 10. It's amazing what not being batshit stressed has revealed to me about my natural tendencies...
(Deleted comment)
Douglaschiaspod on April 14th, 2004 05:07 pm (UTC)
Self-respect is fine and dandy, as long as it's accompanied by respect of others. I'm quite firmly in Daniel's camp on this.

On the other hand, you probably won't hear me say "oh, she's WAY too fat for that," or "she's way too skinny to be trying to show that much cleavage." I'm more of a "that *has* to chafe" or "I bet he's really cold" or "obviously *not* Jewish" comments kind of guy.
Artemis Jones: Maenadrimrunner on April 14th, 2004 05:26 pm (UTC)
I think the mention of "consenting places" covers that. I expect to encounter nudity at certain festivals, for instance, and I don't have a problem with that.

I'm not visiting the board at the moment, but I would speculate that yet another iteration of the nudity-at-the-Merc argument (or something similar) has manifested? Personally, I don't have a problem with that either, but I think it's a question of the club's policy and the expectations of its patrons in that particular case.

I agree with the spirit of burgunder's argument, though.
Kburgunder on April 14th, 2004 05:31 pm (UTC)
In this case, I was inspired (or incensed, perhaps) by my experience at Norwescon over the weekend and some comments on some menfolk who took their shirts off, and some recent comments I've heard people make about their experiences at the WetSpot (which is definitely in the "consenting places" category!). Enough so that I wanted to take this to a broader forum than my LJ.
Artemis Jones: Girlfightrimrunner on April 14th, 2004 05:54 pm (UTC)
That makes sense. And I'd put cons in the "consenting places" category, at least the areas of the con location that require a badge for entry. (I'm also a fond believer in not pissing off the locals. We had some problems at SMF this year because it has come to the attention of some of the more raucous residents in the area that there's a whole bunch of heathens spending the weekend at the local park. Fortunately, said residents dislike being photographed, so waving a camera at them was enough to persuade them to leave.)
Douglaschiaspod on April 14th, 2004 05:46 pm (UTC)
Actually, it's not a manifestation of crackboard gone awry ... :)

I agree with K's assessment that folks who are learning to express their bodies shouldn't necessarily be punished for it; I've honestly said more than a few times "I wish I had so-n-so's body confidence," referring to someone who didn't fit the traditional "beauty" mold and didn't care.

I just think there's a large difference between "I like my body" and "I wear clothes so tight you can tell my religion."
Artemis Jones: Lunarrimrunner on April 14th, 2004 05:51 pm (UTC)
Ah. My bad. Thank you for providing context.

I just think there's a large difference between "I like my body" and "I wear clothes so tight you can tell my religion."

Well, that I can understand. This may sound bizarre coming from someone whose day-to-day wardrobe consists largely of jeans and t-shirts, but I do appreciate dressing well--and that includes someone who might not conventionally be considered attractive, who uses clothes or costumes to his/her advantage. (My favorite example is an acquaintance in the Pagan community who is quite heavyset, but has beautiful hair and a regal profile. I saw her in a fitted, somewhat Elizabethan-style gown a couple of years ago and she was GORGEOUS.)
Christine Kennedytashaclk on April 14th, 2004 05:29 pm (UTC)
Why is it that skinny people look at fat people and think some derogatory comment, while fat people look at skinny people and are just plain envious? The world is made up of all kinds, we all have our demons but that doesn't make us in denial, or disgusting. In fact, maybe it makes us stronger, more confident.

My thighs may chafe when I walk in the summer, but at least i'm WARM in the winter. Anyhow, I won't let people make me feel bad about myself, I can do that all by myself, thankyou ;) Good thing I have people in my life that see me as beautiful and sexy and that build me up instead of tear me down. Who needs friends like those?
Kburgunder on April 14th, 2004 05:37 pm (UTC)
I wish I knew. From anecdotal experience, I'm in a minority of skinny people who either don't think the deragatory thought or actively troll after the sexy curves of larger women and the sanctity of larger men, making carnivorous cat noises.


Indeed, who needs friends like those? Until this weekend, I was pretty tolerant of people who behave like that because, as a skinny busty chick with fashion-standard (snort) measurements, I'm rarely the brunt of anyone's joke, fully clothed or in slightly more revealing club gear (well, for my prude ass anyway). This is my pivot point. I've lost my tolerance.
Jonny Corkscrewattictroll on April 15th, 2004 03:14 am (UTC)
"Why is it that skinny people look at fat people and think some derogatory comment, while fat people look at skinny people and are just plain envious?"

I don't know about that, so much. I'm am from scrawny stock. Some people may mock those they see at fat. However, most know they are doing wrong and feel at least /somewhat/ bad about it. From a young age, we hear it is wrong to tease the class 'fat kid'. Few teach their children it is wrong to mock the 'bean pole'. It is often off-handed and remorseless in it's brutality. Most people try to be careful in their concern for unhealthily overweight friends. While strangers and aquaintences are quite glib about telling the scrawny they are too skinny or asking about eating disorders.

It has taken me years to put on weight. I covet every pound. I have relatives in the same boat.

*ahem* Pardon my going off? It is a topic that gets my goat. Back on topic:

Ms. Burgundy, you are absolutely right. True pride and self worth are a rare and most sexy commodity.
Kburgunder on April 15th, 2004 04:55 am (UTC)
Totally offtopic: Todd, we saw your brilliant and wonderful smile tonight on, of all the things, one of the *thumbs* in THUMB WARS. ;)
Jonny Corkscrewattictroll on April 17th, 2004 12:35 am (UTC)
Rad. Was I a hero or villain? Who is we?
Kburgunder on April 17th, 2004 04:28 pm (UTC)
I think you were a villain.

We = leenerella and the Star Wars parody party.
Kburgunder on April 14th, 2004 05:39 pm (UTC)
I hereby turn in my fashion-standard-measurements privelege card that protects me from much of the above-mentioned BS and invoke my Intrinsic Sense of Right. Silence is for lightweights.
King Ratgkr on April 14th, 2004 05:46 pm (UTC)
I'm going to play devil's advocate here a bit cause I don't completely agree that people who make occasional snide comments about other people's looks should be shunned. You are advocating that people accept everything about someone else's body and also that we don't accept everything about someone else's mind (their words). If neither affects me, then I don't care what they do. But keep in mind that saying that someone's looks don't affect others isn't exactly true. It affects about as much as listening to their ugly words. I can choose to not look. I can choose to not listen.

And I can and will be repulsed by my old boss who has grown so large he can't buckle his seatbelt anymore. I've watched the man eat. Just as I can and will be repulsed by someone who makes anti-Catholic remarks on the crack bored (or in person).
Kburgunder on April 14th, 2004 05:51 pm (UTC)
You are advocating that people accept everything about someone else's body

I'm not advocating that. I'm advocating that people see other people's acceptance of their bodies instead of focusing strictly on their own perception of asthetics. A lot of people are missing the big picture, IMNeverHO.
Vulturevulture23 on April 14th, 2004 07:46 pm (UTC)
There's also the issue that, in at least some of these cases, it's not so much that these people are accepting of their own bodies, as it is a desperate codependent cry for attention.

I'm certainly not going to advocate slagging people off, but I'm a bit hesitant to ascribe purely positive motivations to some of these people...
Kburgunder on April 14th, 2004 08:20 pm (UTC)
Codependent is the wrong word. Cry for attention, perhaps. Exhibitionist, perhaps. Body acceptance, likely. Codependent, no. If it was codependent, they would stop doing it when they received no response for it, and a lack of response is generally how it works at places like the Wet Spot, and people are still doing it.

Help me out here - how do I rephrase this response so it doesn't sound sort of hostile? It's not intended that way, but I'm guessing "you're wrong" is a great way to put anyone on their defensive... (except that you know me well enough, but I don't always have that cop out).
Vulturevulture23 on April 14th, 2004 09:21 pm (UTC)
Well, I didn't see this response as sounding hostile at all. We disagree on this, but without hostility. :) The only suggestion I'd could think of to make it sound less confrontational would be to prepend something like "As I see it..."

You're right that there are many people who do this and receive no particular response. OTOH, I've known people (mostly women, it seems) who are exhibitionist not because they're comfortable with themselves, but because it gets them attention (mostly from desperate males). I'm not saying that this is true in all cases, or even in the majority of cases, but it is certainly true in some.

I'd also point out that, even if there's usually no response at someplace like the Wet Spot, intermittent reinforcement often has a more profound effect on behavior than consistent reinforcement.

There's also the possibility that, in the minds of some of these people, the lack of negative reaction is equivalent to a positive reaction. The fact that nobody at the Wet Spot (or at a convention) points at them and says "Eeewww!" assuages their own negative feelings about their bodies. Not that this is a bad thing, by any means, but it's a different situation than them being really accepting of their own bodies -- rather, they're looking for outside acceptance to replace the internal acceptance that they lack.

I'm not necessarily saying that I think you're wrong, here. ;) I think that some (a significant proportion, even) of the people who display themselves in such a fashion do so for the reason that you're suggesting (that they're comfortable enough with themselves to not care what others' opinions may be). What I'm trying to point out is that there's a lot more possible variety of motivation.
Kburgunder on April 14th, 2004 10:33 pm (UTC)
there's a lot more possible variety of motivation

Absolutely agree.
Mila: spiderm_cobweb on April 14th, 2004 06:00 pm (UTC)
I have to agree with you, K. I detest conversations that consist of slagging other people, and slagging on the topic you're describing seems especially petty. I was defending someone's right to his choice of costume at NWC this past weekend, in fact.

I don't know why people can't think of something better to discuss, in this whole big world of ideas and happenings.
Stray Catocicat on April 14th, 2004 06:29 pm (UTC)
Here here!

I know the various sizes and shapes of bodies on display at the Wetspot keeps a lot of people away. I don't miss them.

I'm thin, and in my actual dating preferences, like thin bodies. Wish I wasn't wried that way, 'cause it's aweful limiting. I still love seeing a large person, or a "deformed" person, or anyone else who isn't what's supposed to be pretty who is comfortable with their body. Makes me smile.
RocketGirl: Katchooeonen on April 14th, 2004 09:17 pm (UTC)
I'm...content...with my body. Sure, there are some things I'd change, but nothing that stresses me overly much.
As for public nudity, well...I've gone to nude swims before. S'no biggie. Never really understood the nudity taboo, to be honest.

As for the issue of peoples' opinions and such... I see nothing wrong with critiquing someone else's body; everybody has opinions and preferences, likes and dislikes. Blasting someone for being okay with their own body isn't, I suppose, very considerate, compassionate, or empathic, I'll agree. But I don't see anything wrong with stating, as your own opinion, that someone's body is or isn't appealing to you.
There's a very thin line, however, between stating your opinion in that way, and letting someone have it because they have no shame or body-modesty. Crossing that line is easy to do, too easy.
Victoria: dragon tattoomahariel on April 14th, 2004 09:57 pm (UTC)
What I hate seeing, and what I tend to comment on, is someone wearing that's so not completely right for their body type. There are so many things that can flatter a human shape, no matter what shape that is, that when I see someone who has put on something that just doesn't suit them it can provoke a reaction, especially if it is obvious that they are not comfortable with what they are wearing.

Staxstaxxy on April 15th, 2004 08:10 am (UTC)
:) my thought train as well.
This is where I agree with you as well. I am fairly comfortable with my body, I am also comfortable with what looks good on my body and what doesn't. People that illicit comment from *me* are ones that are obviously uncomfortable with what they are wearing for whatever reason (fidgting where it is not needed, standing in "poor self image" postures, or doing anything that says "don't look at me, don't see me" in actions or words). I will also comment when *asked*.

The biggest problem I have with what people where or don't, in *any* circumstances, is the colors they choose. I find that a lot of people dress for what is popular, in season, or trendy, and not for what actually flatters their hair/skin/eyes. But I have never pretended I wasn't a color snob either. ;) And I am just as likely to comment on makeup as clothing at that point. Lack of clothing in general usually does not fall into that realm, no clothing = no clashing colors to offend me.

But then, if I *do* take issue with someone, I bring it up with them. I am not much for snide whispers. As long as you can pull it off, do so. I am a bit more relaxed about what other people do with themselves than a lot of people are though. It does make me sad to see people making themselves look less attractive instead of more attractive, though.

As for support of positive body images, I am all about that. I have been an icon for many years in that department for a lot of people (especially women at Cons). I am a firm believer in good posture. I am also a firm believer in inner beauty is what shines through most. :D
Kriskfrye on April 15th, 2004 05:43 pm (UTC)
I think a lot of our criticism of others has to do with how comfortable we are with our own bodies. Anyone who makes derogatory comments about others are doing it in some way to make up for their own shortcomings. At least, that's been my experience.

Growing up, I was in the "skinny" category and was even (falsely) accused of being anorexic during the junior high years. I was fairly active in sports, but I think mostly I was gifted with a high metabolism rate. Anyway, I was totally comfortable with my own body, and never really paid attention to the weight of other people except to get annoyed when my friends bemoaned the shape of their own bodies, which I just didn't really see. I really just didn't understand what all the fuss was about because my own body fit well into the "acceptable" category.

Around the age of 21, my metabolism rate went down, and I started having to pay attention to what I consumed because suddenly my clothes didn't fit me anymore. The weird thing was that, as I became more aware of my own body's shape, I also started being more aware of the body shapes of the people around me.

I have arguments with myself about this all the time, because I'd really rather go back to not noticing, but part of it is that as I became less comfortable with my own body, I focused more of my attention on it, and then the whole concept of body shapes became more important to me in general.
Pegaxpegax on April 18th, 2004 01:33 pm (UTC)
Oh, So I should cancel the Sauna reservation for June? ;)