Is Body Justice a Thing?

Are you thinking, “Is body justice even a thing?” To which I say, “kinda.” Body justice is about reclamation to me, and I want to explore that.

Usually, we see these terms, and each offers great help to those of us with body image struggles:

  • Body positivity: Feeling good about our bodies no matter what
  • Body neutrality: Feeling neither good nor bad about our bodies
  • Body acceptance: Understanding our bodies and letting them be what they are
  • Body tolerance: Accepting that our bodies are what they are, and while we may not feel enthusiastic, we’ve at least made peace

The body positivity movement started with Black women, but it has become co-opted by White women, specifically, influencers who are often silent about racism or do not credit the origins of the movement. The body positive posts of Black and Brown women are often overrun with hateful comments. There’s also something infuriating about watching thin women arch their backs to look fat or posting photos of their rolls when they’re sitting and so on. It’s not that these women lack their own, legitimate body issues, and my goal is not to shame them. Instead, it’s to point out how the movement is used to ignore the Black women and fat women who started it. It’s more a condemnation of the way social media works, pits women against one another, and encourages those who meet a certain aesthetic to misappropriate others’ bodies. After all, I don’t have to arch my back to get a belly or bend over for rolls. But if I post those truths, I always run the risk of getting fatphobic hatred.

My actual, unedited, poorly lit fatness without any editing or touch-up to my spotty, flawed skin.

I don’t know how we got to the point where we have to reclaim body positivity, an effort designed to reclaim our bodies, but we’re now reclaiming the reclaimed in the name of body justice.

What are your thoughts on this?

I’ll be exploring more of what body justice means to me tomorrow, and I’ll look at the sociology behind it all.

What Is Body Justice?

I’m taking this week to talk about my business pivot into body justice, so it’s a little less formal and more writing to think out loud content. That said, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE your feedback on this!

Body Justice

Social justice is a massive topic, and I knew going into it that it was too big a scope for my business. But I wasn’t sure what part of social justice was right for me. I want to leave the door open for discussing race, but I don’t want to be pigeonholed into that because too many people are quick to relegate Brown and Black folks to only talking about race. I want to be an advocate for people with disabilities, but I’m not qualified to teach others on it, and I don’t think it’s my place or story to tell. I have a lot to say about religion, education, politics, and economics and how they influence social expectations, but obviously, there’s a lot there.

What I noticed was a consistent interest in bodies for me. I don’t like how religion drives social demands over our bodies. I loathe how politicians think they have any right to supersede our relationships with our physicians, and I hate how physicians refuse to understand how we know our bodies better than they do. We need our bodies to work in this capitalism economy, but that doesn’t mean employers have say over our bodies even if they provide us health insurance, yet that doesn’t stop them. We have bodily autonomy, and I want to fight for reminding everyone of that.

Hence, body justice.

However . . . the biggest use of body justice I’ve seen so far is, of course, diet culture-loving fitness junkies. So, I’m taking it for my uses.

I’ll take the week to explore some ideas within body justice, so I hope you’ll join me in thinking out loud!

How to Rethink Body Movement

Exercise is body movement. Our bodies need not conform to the fitness industry or diet culture. We can keep it simple:

  • Dance: Nothing formal. Put on that song that makes you move, and move to it even if you’re sitting. My choice: Area by Magnus the Magnus from the iPhone ad.
  • Wiggle: Sometimes, I just wiggle like the Shaq gif.
  • Wave: My friend moves in waves, and it’s beautiful. I had an anxiety attack the other night, got out of bed, sat on my ottoman, and just moved my arms in a Michelle-inspired way.
  • Stretch: I don’t mean follow that list of stretches trainers show you. Hell, even those graphics are centered on fit White dudes. I mean stretch whatever part of your body feels tight.
  • Rest: Maybe your body needs rest over movement. We undervalue rest.

How will you move when you’re ready? Let me know in the comments!

Exercise Is Easy and Other Lies

Exercise makes me cry. I don’t mean that in a funny way. I’m serious. It specifically makes me cry to think about my relationship with my body and the pain associated with moving. It’s the primary reason I sought out therapy.

Society: That’s just because you haven’t found the right thing for you yet!

People make working out sound so simple.

Society: Just move! Just go for a walk! Just 30 minutes a day! Just!

I used to do that. I used to run three days a week in my late 30s. People said it would get easier, that I’d experience a runner’s high. It never got easier. I never got the high. I always ended up with numb feet, and I wanted to sleep for the rest of the day.

Society: You should go see your doctor! That’s not normal!

Now, walking up and down my stairs brings me pain because my hip flexors–no matter how much I stretch–are always tight. Going up my stairs takes ten seconds. You want me to go through agony for 30 minutes a day like it’s no big deal?

Society: It’s because you don’t move enough! It’ll get better!

I’m not physically disabled as far as I know, yet the fitness industry seems to think we all have the same bodies that are capable of anything society deems normal. Mine isn’t geared for normal. Beyond that, I have deep, emotional and mental blocks about movement and my body, as evidenced by my intro.

Society: Oh, it’s not that bad! Maybe you’re too fat.

I remember hating physical education as far back as second grade. They wanted us to play basketball with all the other kids in the class. These are the same kids who wouldn’t hesitate to throw a ball at me because they thought it was funny. I wasn’t coordinated (I’m still not), and catching a ball caused a sudden rise of anxiety. I wasn’t athletic. I’ve never been athletic. Both of my parents were active in their younger years, and my dad still is, so I don’t know what happened to me. It always feels like a shortcoming. It always feels like a failure.

Society: Are you sure you aren’t just lazy?

So, this week, I’m going to explore body movement, exercise, working out, and some of the myths surrounding it. Because I’m tired of being treated as broken all because my body doesn’t operate the way our fatphobic society thinks it should.

Society: Geez, you’re full of excuses, aren’t you?

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