“I think all human bodies have beauty in them.” A friend of mine, singer Adam Bird, once said to me after I inanely asked him what “kind” of girl he usually goes for. And in the years since he first uttered it to me, it is this exact phrase that I’ve clung to for truth, comfort, and admittedly, even correction. I’ve scrutinized my appearance and that of others through the sick, but widely accepted lens of body shaming.
That a man made this rare body-positive comment is surprising enough, but that he’s a man with a pulpit in pop culture gives this already powerful sentiment a healing undertone.
What irks me most about the NYT article isn’t the fact that its author Ben Rothenberg refers to Serena as having a “muscular frame”—that is news to no one. It’s the subsequent barrage of body-critical quotes, from five female tennis players, that is excessive. One of the many he quoted was tennis player Maria Sharapova who said, “I always want to be skinnier with less cellulite; I think that’s every girl’s wish.” He tries to balance the deprecation by peppering the article with nods to Serena’s “self-acceptance” and athletic prowess, but the lopsided view of “unfeminine” bodies overshadows all other points. Even his meager attempt at ending on a positive note—quoting a waning athlete who wants to be strong enough to “lift trophies”—falls flat.
I mean, why does it always have to be about athletes fitting into a certain body stereotype? At least ESPN magazine got it right. If we’re just going to talk about bodies—heck, even dedicate a full issue to the form—we might as well talk about how we love them in their diversity.
Of course, I believe it’s important to have open discussions about the troubling, prevalent issues we have such as poor self-image and its effects. But isn’t there a way to respond to it without propagating the tired language we’ve been using too long to insult each other and ourselves?
In Plump, a magazine that luxuriates in the often-criticized curves of Filipina women, its publishers—sisters and self-titledPlump PinaysDanah and Stacy Gutierrez—are setting the tone for the fight against local body shaming culture. Promoting plus-sized fashion and lifestyle, these bloggers-turned-publishers are not only gaining a following, but also “redefining beauty and empowering women” as they do so. In a country that has distinctly unattainable standards of beauty (uh, whitening products?), Plump’s authentic, confident voice stands out.
Body positivity is the Tumblr-sanctioned term for celebrating one’s health and happiness regardless—or rather, especially because—of what his or her body looks like. It’s about being free of body shame, self-imposed or otherwise. It’s about conjuring Jennifer Lawrence’s “go fuck yourself” attitude towards diet mongering. It’s about dismantling the culture of comparison. And it’s about acknowledging, once and for all, the simple truth that everybody and every body is beautiful.