Here we go with the controversial titles again! I genuinely think y’all are going to start boycotting me purely based off of my titles but give me a hot minute to explain myself…
A while ago I wrote about why I wasn’t body positive, and attached to that same sentiment is the culture breeding within our body acceptance community that includes sometimes calling out, or the policing of, things that are hindering what it means to be ‘body positive’ or to have self acceptance and true inclusiveness.
Whether it be brands or people, we are becoming more and more aware of when something – or someone – is problematic, outright damaging, and harmful to the community as well as to people’s journeys as individuals.
Now in a way this is awesome: we are taking responsibility for not just ourselves but for each other. We are standing up for and protecting one another, and speaking out against negative content manipulating us into harmful practices, mindsets and attitudes… but here’s my question.
Aren’t we all problematic? And how helpful is this calling out culture?
Hear me out.
I am not exempt from it, which is why in the title I say I am problematic. I absolutely am. I know that not every thing I think or do fits into someone’s definition of what it means to be a good and ‘healthy’ example of self acceptance. I strive to educate myself, correct myself, and be as sensitive as possible to others while still maintaining balance in my own life; but that doesn’t mean I am perfect.
Nor is any other blogger, vlogger or influencer you look up to.
We are disappointed when we discover our favourite artist or actor does something that is bad. We look up to them, they inspire us, and in a way because of that we expect to see something close to perfection. We even do the same to our parents. So when someone fails us or themselves we feel instant betrayal.
Though, how can we expect this example of perfection from others that we are unable to give?
Now don’t get me wrong, this does not excuse bad or manipulative behaviour in any way. It doesn’t excuse bad practice. It doesn’t excuse harmful language either, especially when people stand to profit financially from others.
A few weeks ago in my own Insta stories I tagged a plus brand about a campaign they were running – during an event happening in London – and asked why the influencers / models included weren’t more diverse and representative of race, gender and why every person was able bodied. I also tagged some of my absolute favourite bloggers and influencers who would have been great in the campaign.
I did that, not to be super petty or inappropriate, but simply because as a woman of colour I get so frustrated seeing the big plus brands making the same mistakes and not being as inclusive as possible.
You see, even body acceptance and positivity is a marketable business now and sometimes it feels the only people included are those who are seen as marketable. This means a lot of the time the people involved and the content presented is incredibly excluding.
Now, one of the amazing influencers I tagged got back to me to say that she actually was part of the campaign but in a different way, and I was so happy to hear that her important and relevant voice was being added to the campaign because we need more strong and powerful women ready to speak up for what is true and right.
Talking to her made me think though. I had, in my frustration, taken it to my social media platform and, unafraid, tagged this brand in hopes they would see it and there would be an instant reaction to do something: but how helpful is it for me to actually do something like that?
How helpful is it for me to approach seeing something problematic with more problematic behaviour wrapped up in what I feel is actually helpful.
What is the balance?
Can we be social justice warriors, stand up for each other, representation, and equality without sliding into a negative place?
I know that I am thinking twice now about whether I need to speak out and more importantly HOW I speak out.
We receive what we put out.
So if I am putting out something as negative and vicious as what is being put out elsewhere, am I not also the problem?
If the way I highlight or challenge a problem is actually steeped in my past wounds and experiences and / or an extension of my ego, am I not the problem?
How do we educate and inform one another without tearing each other down or attacking the essence of who someone is?
Honestly I don’t have all the answers. I don’t.
All I can hope is that asking these questions of myself, and others, will help us move in a direction where we find solutions together without using tools of anger, shaming, or digital abuse to get to the desired outcome.
Perhaps it’s naive of me to think we can achieve this. Perhaps it’s too idealistic, but we don’t all have to agree and get along or have the exact same definitions of self acceptance in order to help ourselves or each other on this journey.
We don’t need to be perfect.
We need to be mindful.
So that’s that. My name is Michelle, I am perfectly imperfect. I have my own limited wisdoms and I am problematic, but I hope for great things for you. I will be mindful of you and I will be a champion for you, regardless of if we are on a similar or different path.