I have let Mia Rodriguez’s opinion piece, "The body positivity movement is one-sided and defends obesity," sit with me over the past week, and I feel someone needs to stand up for the Body Positivity Movement. While she calls the movement one-sided, it is unfair to let the argument run in this paper as one-sided because I guarantee others in the student-body do not agree.
Mia quotes the Body Positivity Movement’s mission statement, which she called "problematic," and I will quote the same mission statement here:
The Body Positivity’s mission is "to end the harmful consequences of negative body image: eating disorders, depression, anxiety, cutting, suicide, substance abuse, and relationship violence."
What Mia feels is problematic about this statement is its lack of mentioning "promoting or providing resources for maintaining a healthy weight." Here is the thing though. This is not the goal of the Body Positivity Movement, and they do not have to change just because you feel that way.
Hear me out for a minute. I am not nor do I think the Body Positivity Movement, is advocating everyone should gain a bunch of weight because it is the ideal mark of beauty or that it is the healthiest or the happiest way of being. Quite frankly, it is not.
But, it is not the job of the Body Positivity Movement to talk about how to lose weight or the necessity to lose weight because those messages are all over our social media, news media and medical advertisements, not to mention the ugly messages random people send to overweight individuals calling them ugly, telling them to lose weight, telling them they are disgusting and telling them they are lazy.
While Mia and other critics discuss the importance of your physical health and how it should be a priority, I feel they do not read into the mission statement closely enough. It specifically mentions trying to undo the harm our societal pressures have thrust upon people who do not fit the perfect ideal of beauty, health or size. They specifically mention eating disorders, suicide and self-harm. Do you think vulnerable people who are already hating and hurting themselves really need someone to step into a space where they are not verbally assaulted or pressured just for existing, and be told that space is inherently flawed and they need more pressure to fit weight standards?
Mia, you were absolutely right when you said, "It is possible to have self-love and the desire to better yourself," but I think you miss that some people need to find a healthy sense of self mentally first and foremost. They have to learn to love the body they have, and then from that sense of self-love, can they work on being physically healthier. The Body Positivity Movement does encourage both of the things you desire when they said, “Practicing true body positivity […] allows you to find what you need to live with as much self-love and balanced self-care as possible.”
You said, Mia, your critique of the Body Positivity Movement, "has nothing to do with self-loathing but everything to do with your quality of life," yet judging this validating and motivating movement can and does encourage self-loathing.
Not to mention the fact that you act as if obesity is merely the product of self-induced overeating. What about the people who were fed less than ideal food as children because it was all their parents could afford? What about the people who were never taught better eating habits? What about the people with genetic and epigenetic pre-dispositions to being overweight? What about the people with undiagnosed hormone imbalances that make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight? Or the people on necessary medication that causes weight gain? Many people’s bodies fluctuate due to their health. Sometimes obesity is a sign of another health problem and not the health problem itself.
Those people (and all people) do not need to be discouraged for loving their bodies during a time when the world says to hate themselves. They need loving messages to help them through the times when no clothing stores have clothes for them, despite being the median dress size in America. They need support when their doctors will not listen to their symptoms of underlying problems because "oh, lose weight first, then we will talk." They need support when they have been exercising and eating well, and still have not lost weight.
I understand critics are only saying these things out of concern for people’s health and ultimate happiness. But, let us be honest about the goal of the body positivity movement: undoing trauma, reversing negative thinking, erasing self-loathing and stopping self-harm. Those things are vital to good health. It is not problematic.