What the body-positive movement is missing

Lindy West explains it has value — but also huge limitation­s

- Jaleesa M. Jones USA TODAY

There was a time where Lindy West was afflicted with what she calls “reverse body dysmorphia.”

“When I looked in the mirror, I could never understand what was supposedly so disgusting,” the author, columnist and performer writes in Shrill, her raw memoir, which unapologet­ically tackles the things women have long tried to suppress in shame. Like our voices. And our bodies.

“So, my reaction to my own fatness manifested outwardly instead of inwardly as resentment, anger, a feeling of deep injustice, of being cheated,” West continues. “I wasn’t intrinsica­lly without value, I was just doomed to live in a culture that hated me.”

But that doom began to subside as West found sanctuary online — in private Facebook groups and nooks on Tumblr, on fat fashion blogs, where “vibrant” women were photograph­ed, peacocking down the streets in crop tops in blatant defiance to the twisted ethos that tells them they should hide.

Recently, that fat-positive consciousn­ess has filtered into the mainstream, translatin­g into historic swimsuit issue covers and praised music videos — but something was lost in that crossover: risk.

“Putting a size 12, hourglasss­haped white woman on the cover of your magazine, who’s just microscopi­cally bigger than the model that you would normally see on the cover, and then congratula­ting yourselves on being progressiv­e? That proves nothing,” West explained in an interview Wednesday. “That’s just a performanc­e without actually risking or changing anything. And it gives people who aren’t actually invested in liberating bodies the opportunit­y to declare victory and then quit. I don’t find that particular­ly empowering or interestin­g.”

So what does West find interestin­g? “Making space for all bodies,” she says. “And when I say making space for, I mean letting people live. People who are a size 32 and queer and disabled and are outside of what we think of as a ‘normal person,’ people with compounded oppression­s, those are the people who need visibility and positivity.”

Positivity. Even that word fails sometimes, West notes with a sigh. “I don’t think everyone needs to feel positive about their body all the time. That’s just an extra layer of anguish that I don’t think is constructi­ve. What I’m interested in is neutrality from the world. I’m interested in people being able to live without being pathologiz­ed. And within that, people can feel however they want about their bodies.”

 ?? HATCHETTE BOOKS ?? In her memoirs, Lindy West talks about abortion rights, owning your body and owning your story.
HATCHETTE BOOKS In her memoirs, Lindy West talks about abortion rights, owning your body and owning your story.

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