Stef (firecat) wrote,

WisCon panel: Body Acceptance: From All Sides

Body Acceptance: From All Sides
Track: Feminism and Other Social Change Movements

Panel description
Body love movements have been gaining momentum recently, but for many people on the margins, the discourse needs to be expanded. The current movement of body love fails to account for persons with disabilities, people of color, trans and gender nonconforming people, pregnant and postpartum people, and fat people, among many others. We aim to discuss how (and in some cases, whether) body love and acceptance apply beyond a purely gendered analysis and expand to nonnormative bodies.

Julie Hayes
s.e. smith
Tanya D.
E. Cabell Hankinson Gathman
Mary Ann Mohanraj
Moderator - Annie D Chen

Twitter hash tag: #BodyAcceptance

I have a paraphrased transcript of this panel, and will post it on request, but that doesn't seem like the most helpful way to present the good stuff about this panel. 

I also tried to write it up by making a list of all the inappropriate assumptions mentioned that people make about each other's bodies and attitudes, but that just depressed me after I had gotten to 22 items (which wasn't all of them). 

So here are my general thoughts and notes.

I got several useful things out of this panel: 

Names for two models of disability.
—Medical model : something is wrong with a person and they should fix it or at least feel broken and think that they want to fix it and/or it's their responsibility to deal with. 
—Social model : disability is when a person's environment doesn't accommodate their participating in society. The problem is society's to address. 

This great quote by Julie Hayes : 'Judging is America's new favorite pastime.' (I don't think it's a new pastime or limited to the US, but we do seem to go about it with a special...vigor.)

I liked the conversation criticizing the "love your body" notion. I like that the notion exists, but it's problematic if presented as a demand or judgement rather than an alternative to society's message "if your body isn't normative, it's wrong and you shouldn't like it." People with disabilities might have more reasons to find "love your body" too simplistic, insofar as it might not make room for feeling frustrated with one's body and the differences between what one can do and what one wants to do and what a 'normative' body is assumed to be able to do. 

I like the suggested alternative "respect your body." (I like it as an alternative, not a replacement, and acknowledge it could be coopted by body-judging forces.)

Personally i have not heard "love your body" presented as a demand, but I'm sure it happens, and I'm also sure that when someone hears it over and over as a suggestion, and they have body issues that don't respond to that suggestion, it starts seeming oppressive. I don't love my body most of the time, and never paid much attention to insistence that it's a requirement, but when I am having emotional difficulties, the result is that I feel like I don't really belong in the body acceptance movement. 

A general notion that this panel did a good job of addressing is: It's a problem if there's only one way to look at things, or one way plus one other way, and both are too simplistic.

It is hard to address this. The way this society is set up, or the way we are taught to think, it's assumed on some fundamental level that there can be only one choice. So that when we push back on the choice society tries to dictate (eg, "if your body is non-normative, you should hate it"), it's very hard to avoid looking like you are saying "you must choose this ('you have to love your body')  instead of that!" If your message is perceived that way, it is not necessarily your fault or your movement's fault. 

This "one true way" thinking habit ends up supporting the status quo, because if you propose a different viewpoint, it is hard to have conversation about it that's more nuanced than arguing about whether it should replace the other single allowed viewpoint. And if your alternate viewpoint gains some traction, it's perceived as silencing any other alternate viewpoint.

So one way to address the problem would seem to be promoting the philosophy and habit of non unitary and non binary thinking. Is any work being done specifically on this, I wonder?

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