For years, being thin and having a flat stomach were coveted beauty ideals.
We all bought into the newest diet fad, we bought home gym equipment and we forced ourselves to eat the tiniest of portions.
Being thin was in!
Then, in more recent years, the curvier figure has become more celebrated, and women worldwide rejoiced to see more fuller-figured ladies gracing the covers of popular magazines.
Then, yet another war was waged -- that of body image and body positivity.
The body image movement is one that encourages people to love and accept themselves and others at any and every size, to be kinder to themselves and not compare their bodies to their friends or images they see in magazines. It is a movement that aims to help women (and men) to stop looking at their bodies with daggers, but instead with love and confidence. Truly, the body love movement is groundbreaking, and it has helped so many individuals.
Again, women rejoiced. Feminism was reborn and we began accepting ourselves and not giving a fig about what others thought about us. A lot of us still had our reservations, but masses of different-sized and shaped bodies took to the Internet, donning bikinis, lingerie, mini skirts and shorts. No longer were we ashamed of those stretch marks on our breasts, or the cellulite that graced our thighs. We embraced our tummies and our bottoms and we encouraged others to do the same. The body love movement moved off the Internet and before we knew it, that body diversity had spilled gloriously onto beaches and streets worldwide!
We took back our bodies and we wore what we wanted, we showed skin that hadn't seen the light of day in years (if ever), snatched up swimwear and we indulged in beautiful lingerie.
But then, almost as soon as it had begun, things started to turn sour.
Yes, curves were finally in and body diversity and love was flourishing, but somehow, it seemed to gloss over the thinner members of the body love community.
Articles bashing the so-called "thigh gap" were released, stating that having negative space between your thighs was unhealthy, without even considering the women who already had these gaps to begin with.
Using a thigh gap as inspiration to lose weight is irrational. Some women have them, some don't. Women who do have this much-gabbed-about gap were infuriated, and rightly so -- they were being labelled anorexic, and being made out to be the monster.
Some women are naturally thin and possess a very fast metabolism, some women can't put on weight, try as they might. Are these women unhealthy? Probably not, but who can say but them and their doctor, really?
Memes started to emerge of blatant 'thin-shaming.' One such example was an image of a girl from the waist down in only underwear, she had a thigh gap, over that was emblazoned 'Fact: If you have a thigh gap, your vagina is loose.'
What a load of garbage.
While this sort of thing is sadly, almost a norm for most bigger people, it's starting to become more and more prominent amongst the thinner individuals of the body positive community.
And it's mostly coming from within the body positive community.
For some reason, we've turned on each other, when we have fought so hard to get body diversity and body acceptance. Slender women are being deemed unhealthy because of their size and their thigh gap from others who claim to be completely involved in helping others to love their bodies!
Bigger people are getting attacked for being obese and unhealthy and that they "don't love their bodies" because of their size.
All of this is coming from inside our once safe and supportive community!
I'll put it simply: THE BODY POSITIVE MOVEMENT DOES NOT HAVE A SIZE LIMIT!
There is no right or wrong way to have a body, and within the body positive movement, all bodies of all sizes, shapes, colors, genders, sexes etc. etc. are all welcome. It is a safe space for people to be comfortable with the body they have, to gain encouragement and support from other like-minded people.
We need to put a stop to body shaming within the body positive community. And we need to do it now.
Now, I'm a bigger gal. It's no secret. I have no thigh gap, but I do have hips for days, and I have copped my fair share of fat and body shaming. Because I'm chubby, I'm automatically unhealthy, according to some of the most knowledgeable sources on Facebook and Tumblr. Do these people know me at all? Not in the slightest. Do they know my medical history. Negative. But because I have a big butt, I'm a hardcore eating machine who is lazy and will die of diabetes.
This sort of ignorant body shaming is damaging and perpetuates the cycle of body hatred.
For some reason, the mention of a person loving their body always brings out the worst in other people, who, strangely transform in to medical practitioners who have a penchant for being able to judge a person's health just by looking at them from behind their keyboard.
Figs to that, I say.
Loving your body is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself. Don't ever let anyone shame you for the body you have. It's yours. Your own. You call the shots with what happens with it, it's your decision.
We are all entitled to love our bodies, no matter how we look, no matter our size or shape. No one should be denied the powerful love we can bear ourselves.
Jessica Lovejoy is a Positive Body Image Advocate and writer.
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