It seems like every time a woman larger than a size 2 posts a picture of her body she is commended for her bravery. Recently, Amy Schumer spoke out about how "it isn't brave to have a little belly fat" after she was described as being brave for her semi-nude photo by Annie Leibovitz in the Pirelli Calendar.
I've shared pictures of myself in a bikini on social media before to celebrate my journey to body acceptance and have been told that I'm brave for doing so. I found this comment to be rather insulting to the women who are truly exhibiting bravery in this world. There are women who are fighting cancer, standing up to civil unrest and risking their safety to protest the harassment and assault of women--those are acts of bravery. Posting a picture of myself in a bikini? Not so much...is what I used to think.
I thought that using the term "brave" to describe a woman showing off her "imperfect" body perpetuated the notion that only women of a certain size should show skin. I thought we were doing a disservice to body positivity by considering it daring to accept it. I wanted more from the body positive movement.
I realize now that we cannot leap to the normalization of diversity and size acceptance without first encouraging women to take their power back. And until we reach that point, it will be considered a courageous act for women to embrace their individuality and showcase their acceptance.
There are billions of dollars tied up in the industries that benefit from women feeling like there is something wrong with them. Not to mention the millions of Internet trolls hurling insults in comment threads that get off on shaming women back into hiding. So while it's certainly not brave in the traditional sense for a woman to display admiration for her body, this is a way to express to these industries that they will not have power over you and that your body is your business.
I now see it as a form of activism in a culture where we are inundated with images of a "female ideal" and consistently told there is something wrong with us. I realize it does take courage to stand up and say "I don't meet your standards and I'm OK with it" in a time where body diversity is still fairly absent. I believe body-acceptance paves the way for more heroic acts by women, so if this helps to turn the tides then I'm all for it.
I want to live in a world where it's not radical for a woman to like her body. Where it's not brave for a woman to wear a bikini. Where it's not newsworthy to be fat and happy or fit or healthy. But, unfortunately we're not there yet.
The only way to get there is to normalize it. Make it so mainstream that it becomes boring and average. So if we need to proclaim these moments as brave to encourage more women to like their bodies, then so be it.