Politically correct feminists are now offended by body positivity.
At Refinery 29, writer Kelsey Miller summarizes an email she received from outraged reader about the publication’s Anti-Diet Project series: “Stop telling people to love their bodies. Not everyone can. You’re being an a**hole.”
Miller says that it’s problematic to use the word “should,” as in “you should just love your body!” For many women, a healthier first step is just feeling not horrible about their body—but not super enthused, either, she says.
“Expecting [people] to make the switch from self-loathing to total, unadulterated self-love was unreasonable—perfection in a different form,” she writes. “’Should’ was an unhelpful word here.”
Worse yet, Miller writes, body positivity isn’t an inclusive message.
People with anorexia, bulimia or other eating disorders might be mentally incapable of loving their bodies. And what about disabled people, Miller asks. Their bodies actually do fail them and hold them back from time to time.
“Many in these groups spend their whole lives struggling toward a stable sense of neutrality,” Miller concludes. “Carelessly ordering them to be positive adds insult to a complex and often invisible injury.”
And what about genderqueer, non-binary or transgender people, whose bodies sometimes feel mismatched to their identity? Miller quotes an expert who says that body positivity “can reinforce a lot of gender binary and sexist formulations.”
Miller isn’t the first to contemplate whether body positivity is actually offensive.
A report in The Cut quotes a feminist writer, who says, “My problem with body love, beside the fact that it’s a high standard, is it’s asking women to regulate their emotions, not just their bodies.”
Green Mountain at Fox Run, a retreat that helps women change their relationship with food and their bodies, tried to trademark the phrase “body neutrality” in 2016.
The article describes exercises the retreat uses to push women toward this mindset. Green Mountain attendees keep a “womanifesto,” where they can write and reflect about their feelings and perceptions about their bodies over the years.
Romy Oltuski of The Man Repeller—yes, that’s the online publication’s real name—found the idea of neutrality not at a retreat but on a bathroom stall door. Someone had written “love your body,” and below that, someone else wrote, “but it’s OK if you find that hard to do.”
Oltuski describes her bathroom-stall epiphany: “It seems like a bait-and-switch: I may feel less shame for having cellulite, but instead I feel shame for not liking my cellulite. Are we simply replacing our dos and don’ts and shoulds with others?”
From this perspective, actively trying to love your body is an internalized form of oppression. Instead, the thinking goes, women should pursue “the acknowledgement that your body exists in its current state and your reaction to that is more factual than it is emotional,” as the Revelist recently put it.
That’s a banality masquerading as profundity.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.