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3 Ways to Expand Your Body-Acceptance Advocacy

By Kira Rakova--Usually, when people speak about body-acceptance and positivity, they are talking about body size and shape. Given the prevalence of fatphobia and the lack of diverse representation even within plus-size modeling and clothing chains, this is a very valid conversation to have.

It is important to radically challenge these issues within our media, our everyday interactions, and even our internal dialogues. After all, if we want individuals of every body size and shape to be able to unapologetically wear and do whatever they would like, this conversation must happen.

Recently, the make-up artist and blogger, Em Ford, released a video about the way her appearance has been criticized both with and without make-up (which you can watch here. Trigger warning for body-shaming and misogynistic language).  Paired with the hashtag #YOULOOKDISGUSTING, it has gone viral with thousands sharing stories of shaming they have experienced for wearing makeup, not wearing makeup, having acne, etc.

This conversation on the politics of acne, makeup, and facial appearance is of course nothing new within certain circles. Many makeup artists have long discussed and dealt with the ways society policies our facial appearances. Nonetheless, the sudden explosiveness of Ford’s video is a lesson in itself for the general population; it reminds us that body-acceptance is a larger narrative. If we are striving for societal inclusivity and representation, we must look at all the ways our bodies are scrutinized and policed. If we are aiming to love ourselves, we should be doing so in entirety.

So, here are three ways, aside from discussing acne/makeup, which I believe any body-acceptance advocate can make their analysis stronger and more intersectionally inclusive.

Joining the conversation on politics of hair.

Of course, there are several strong narratives already existent about the politics of hair. The natural hair movement has been in existence for generations, particularly within communities of color. Similarly, body hair acceptance has been significant not only historically in the United States, but also within many other communities, such as the Sikh community. Unfortunately, these movements are often treated within the mainstream discourse as separate from the mainstream body-positive movement.

Yet, these movements are about body-acceptance and positivity. An individual’s hair should not be critiqued or policed, just as their body-shape and size should not. So it is important to include all these narratives within the discourse of body-acceptance and positivity, and recognize those at the front-lines of these movements.

Aiming to be inclusive of the trans community.

For those who identify as cisgendered, it is important to be inclusive of the transgender community. Gender and gender expression are some of the most policed notions in our society. Not only are the bodies of trans individuals policed, they are at an extremely high risk of violence due to people’s perception of gender. Thus, being cognizant of the ways systematic, social oppression, and one’s own individual actions influence the lives of trans individuals and working to support their movements, is a necessary step for cisgendered body-acceptance advocates to take.

Recognizing the voices of advocates living with disabilities.

Individuals living with disabilities, especially visible disabilities, are often highlighted in the mainstream body-positive movement in problematic ways. Although possibly done with good intentions, most individuals with disabilities who are body-positive advocates and/or disability justice advocates are mentioned in media from an inspirational-porn angle.

Given that inspiration-porn objectifies and erases the agency of individuals with disabilities, it is important (for able-bodied individuals) to learn to recognize their voices in alternate ways. This means listening to the narratives of individuals with disabilities and working to highlight these narratives in a way that doesn’t exude self-praise or “heroism”. After all, promoting body-positivity is about inclusive acceptance and not about self-congratulation or voyeurism.

There are of course many other narratives and movements that should be recognized and included within the mainstream body-acceptance movement. I chose these particular movements in an effort to recognize some of the most erased movements. The inclusion of these movements in one’s politics is not conclusive of the work that needs to be done, but perhaps it can help expand the mainstream movement.

About this blogger: Kira is a senior studying at Macaulay Honors College at the City College of New York, majoring in International Studies and Media Communication Art, with a minor in Anthropology.  Her research interests include: gender justice, mental health justice, and community organizing.  Apart from school work, Kira is also a part of various community based advocacy organizations at City College of New York, including the Gender Resource Center Campaign and the Student Mental Health Initiative. In the future, Kira hopes to pursue a graduate degree in Anthropology. In particular, she hopes to explore how development organizations include and exclude mental health, in a culturally sensitive and intersectional manner.

Also by Kira:

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