I Feel…

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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Its always mind blowing to me when a movement that began as a way to celebrate, protect, bring awareness and include a marginalised group eventually becomes so exclusive that many people they are fighting for are no longer included. Inclusiveness leads to exclusivity which then rejects and then a black hole vortex is created leading to an alternate universe where I am the Beyonce of that world. Just before I turned 28 (Happy birthday month to me) my entire immediate family and my partner and I went to see Amy Schumer’s I Feel Pretty in the cinema. My age is important because even within my 20s there was a time where films talking about body image and self esteem were not being made. I did not have any kind of body acceptance of my own self and I would have had genuine anxiety seeing something that highlighted how I might feel about myself within my family and within a romantic relationship.

We forget that just because we are now reaching a turning point in the conversation about self acceptance/body acceptance/self love, doesn’t mean that a short while ago most of us were still stumbling to find our way, let alone see a blockbuster film discussing it successfully or unsuccessfully. Now my expectations for ‘I Feel Pretty’ were nonexistent, because critics have been slating it and a lot of the body positive movement have deemed it problematic because what is so special about a blonde, white, cis, financially secured and abled bodied woman? What has she got to say about the body positive movement that doesn’t involve capitalising on the courage of the people that started the movement.

Good point. Let’s discuss.

You might remember a while ago I wrote a post about no longer identifying as body positive, for many reasons and a lot of them having to do with not wanting to take up space in a community when there might be others who needed it more than me. This was despite the fact that as a marginalised and often culturally colonised black, fat woman I have every right to exist in this sphere. Regardless, I know it’s important that body positivity remains a safe space for those people it was created for and continuous to be a rebellious act of self love despite the narrative we are conditioned to have. The thing is what about self acceptance though, what about body love? Do many of us have sometimes debilitating insecurities? Yes. Do many of us struggle to accept ourselves completely? Yes. Traditionally, is it easier for people with particular body types to learn self acceptance because we live in a world that is catered to admiring them and normalising them. Do some of us struggle and have violent and visceral experiences learning to take up space? Yes.

So then who does self love belong to? Who does body and self acceptance belong to?

As per my last post I might just be posing several questions and have no actual answers to give but I think the asking is often as vital as the finding out. This is by no means a review of the film, this is a reflection on my experience of watching the film and how that relates to my own journey of self and body acceptance. I have reached a place where I believe that while body acceptance is a paramount it is not the end of the journey. Getting to the place where you love your body is important but knowing you are more than just your body is closer to the mountain top. When we discover the moment that we are not defined by our bodies or our insecurities or struggles or circumstances or fears or failures and sometimes even our successes, we get to a place where we are more willing to continue to move forward in our healing. We are more inclined to make it a place that is not just for us. We are compassionate enough to know it is as important to see as many others healed around us.

In the film there are some cliches but then isn’t life often one giant cliche (insert laughing emoji)?! The resounding message is: what if you let yourself love exactly who you are? What if you didn’t wait for a magic moment? What if you didn’t wait for diets and exercise and clothes and makeup and people to validate who you are right now in this very moment? What if you let the transformation be one that happens in the soul, mind, heart and spirit? You see people are naturally problematic because we are people and even with good intentions we can mess things up. I’m problematic. You are. Your fav celeb or singer is. Your favourite body positive inspiration is. And that’s just fine because perfection doesn’t exist in the way we think it does. What helps one can trigger another and what triggers another might be the saving grace for one. What matters is we are sensitive to one another. That we do not bulldoze or capitalise off of the pain of others. We can’t use scales to measure one another’s grief and decide whose is more important. We need to be fighting for each other. We need to be informed. We need to be educated. We need to uplift. Encourage. Raise up. Make changes.

Ultimately being in factions will lead us nowhere. Instead we need to start championing one another. We need to speak up for one another and not try and speak for each other because we can’t always do that. We need to know when to fight and who to fight or we might just end up fighting our own reflections. So just before my birthday I watched a movie about a perfectly normal and acceptable girl’s journey to love herself. She didn’t look or act like me, there were thing1s I couldn’t relate to, but the one thing I could relate to is that learning to love yourself is something we all need to do. It doesn’t matter your race or gender or sexuality or religion, social or economic background. What matters is the ‘love’ bit.

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