Monday, April 21, 2014

Feminism and Size Acceptance

When I talk or write about size acceptance, I usually jump right into the topic at hand, often some kind of self-help idea for improving self-esteem and body image. Right now I'd like to give a little background on why I see things from a size acceptance perspective to begin with. I'll speak first as a feminist, then as a therapist, then as a fat woman, because each of these identities has something to do with why size acceptance is important to me. 

I came to fat liberation through women's liberation. As a feminist, I believe in human rights and respect for diversity. Therefore, I believe in equal rights for people of all sizes, and respect for diverse bodies. As obvious as that connection seems to me now, there was a time when I was so buried in anti-fat discrimiination and disinformation that I couldn't see it. Susie Orbach's classic "Fat is a Feminist Issue," although somewhat controversial in the present day world of fat politics, was an eye opener for me when it came out in 1984. The title alone was enough to revolutionize my thinking. 

In addition to a general concern for justice, feminism has a more specific connection with fat liberation. In misogynist societies, women's bodies are objectified. They are simultaneously oversexualized, and forbidden to be too sexual. A fat woman is seen as stereotypically unattractive, not fulfilling her obligation to serve as an ornament in the world run by men. At the same time, "curvy" bodies are supposed to be desirable, as long as they're not too big. One way or another, a woman's body is under scrutiny, and there is pressure to keep it thin to avoid either attracting unwanted sexual attention, or becoming asexual and invisible. 

As a feminist, I believe that when we try to shape our bodies, or any aspect of ourselves, to fit external ideals, we capitulate to the system that disempowers us. We give up the power of our diversity. I want us to reclaim and take control of our bodies and our sexuality, and to see ourselves as more than our bodies, and more than our sexuality. Accepting our bodies as they are, at whatever size they are, is a positive step in that direction. 

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