Why I’m Not Body Positive

Michelle Hopewell

Michelle Hopewell

Actor/Writer at Funemployment
Black British, faith filled, curvy actress with a love for food, great music, good movies, life changing literature and awkward moments.
Michelle Hopewell

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Firstly, Happy New Year you wondrous and glorious spirits. Let’s start this year off with something positive!

Secondly, sorry for the controversial and clickbaity title but it seemed like the perfect way to sum up something I have been pondering for a while. I no longer want to describe myself as body positive.

Before you come running at me with pitchforks and torches and screaming for me to be thrown from the bell tower, let me just step back and explain myself.

It goes without saying but…wait no, you’re right. It does need to be said and clarified on the regular because it’s important to check in, but I accept and love my body. I am on a perfectly imperfect journey with my vessel and I have feel gratitude and adoration for the gift of living.

Now that being said let’s get down to business. Mulan pun fully intended.

You see for the last few months in the plus size and body positive community there seems to have been quite a bit of debate about who the body positive movement belongs to. If you’re not aware, then this is a great opportunity to do some homework. The movement and the subsequent culture stemmed from the need for marganilsed bodies, especially those of colour, to create a safe space for themselves to reclaim their own selves, which for so long has been used as a way of shaming, stereotyping and abusing those who live in fat bodies of colour. Bodies that don’t fit into the standards set up for us by society and my the media. Bodies that are not regularly celebrated but are regularly subjugated for whatever the convenience might be.

Bearing that in mind the movement swept across the globe and of course for so many of us who have felt “other” and experience exclusion frequently, there was suddenly something that meant we would without a doubt be included and accepted.

A community where you could unapologetically exist without the fear of not being good enough or fitting in or the breeding ground for continuous self loathing.

Suddenly there were empowered bodies on mass and the platform was social media. People all over the world were bearing their souls and accepting themselves – not only that but uplifting and encouraging each other to find their own similar freedom.

In a world where conglomerate businesses make their biggest revenue from our insecurities, surely this would have been some of the most terrifying and threatening shows of the human spirit incarnate.

With that in mind, body positivity doesn’t really belong to anyone. The idea of being positive about your body and loving your body is something that should be universal.

It shouldn’t be that some people get to love themselves and others don’t. So please regardless of who you are and even if it’s uncomfortable, love yourself.

Now what is important is to acknowledge that there has not always been an equal ground for all people to love themselves regardless of who they are.

For a long time it’s been okay to love yourself if you slot into the bracket of what is ideal western beauty. This means that the majority of the world is then being told they are not to love themselves. They are being told to do everything they can to change themselves until they can fit because nothing will change to accommodate them.

I don’t have to ask many to imagine a world where they don’t have a space to exist because it’s the reality in which most of us lived a good chunk of their lives.

So enter body positivity for marginalised bodies. “Other” bodies. Bodies that do not necessarily fit into the norm. Enter a world in which those bodies can dismantle every dangerous, unhealthy and damaging lie and self hating tactic they have learned over the years.

It’s a thing of beauty. Self aware, courageous, fierce, strong people coming together to create something that means they can not only survive in their bodies and lives but thrive. I get all tingly thinking about it!

By now we’ve all heard of the idea of privilege and being aware of your individual privileges and not using them to bully or shame your way into gaining even more opportunities than many do not have. That’s what has been happening recently. The capturing and colonizing of a movement that’s purpose was once sacred becoming currency. A money maker. A fad. A trend.

No longer about acceptance but entirely about changes that do not benefit the mind, heart and soul, but are soley are about the body fitting into a different but still purchased version of western beauty disguised as body positivity. This comes around because of the abuse of our privileges; and so consequently I have spent many weeks thinking about whether I am contributing to the destruction of something that helped be the remaking of my mindset.

I spent nights in my bed fretting about whether if any blame lay with me.¬†Sensitive to the end I shed tears wondering if I was part of hindering anyone’s journey as a trigger, comparison counterpart or taking up space that someone else might sorely need. So I started thinking about how to leave room for those who might truly need it to have a safe space to exist within this community.

I decided that I won’t ever say I’m further on in my journey than I am. I won’t speak for anyone other than myself but I will pray for and encourage as many others as possible. I will encourage anyone that finds me hindering in their own journey to feel no guilt in choosing to not follow me. I will be aware of my privileges in the community and I will speak for those of us who are minorities and I will champion others doing the same.

So I am self accepting. I am body loving. But I am not a body positivity leader; and for those who are, I salute you, I thank you and I am with you!

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Michelle Hopewell
Michelle Hopewell

Black British, faith filled, curvy actress with a love for food, great music, good movies, life changing literature and awkward moments.

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