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Are Skinny White Girls Appropriating Body Positivity?

Body Positivity is such a loaded topic! I’ve been putting off recording this episode for a few weeks now because I really didn’t know how to approach it.

I figured the best way to approach this is to be sincere and explore perspectives besides just my own in the conversation, so that’s exactly what we’ll do.

I’ll talk a little about…
– My own experience with body image & “positivity”
– My personal interpretation of what the body positivity movement stands for
– The Instagram interaction that inspired this episode
– And I’ll share some of YOUR responses & opinions (anonymously, of course) I received on social media about this topic

Enjoy!

Body positivity bad yogi podcast quote cardMy goal is to open this discussion and have everyone’s thoughts be heard. So please be respectful before chiming in down in the comments below. Be aware that there are VERY real triggers associated with weight, body image, and the BoPo movement itself, so whether you agree with it or not, rule #1 is to BE KIND.

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16 Comments

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    Brigid

    August 31, 2018 at 7:12 am

    Body Positivity! It’s gotta be for everyone or within the movement we become the perpetrators of the aggression we so deplore against bodies–our own and others. Body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and lack of self-confidence are prevalent across ALL minds and ALL bodies. This conversation is SO IMPORTANT FOR ALL. :] Thanks for sharing your thoughts and getting the ball rolling.

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      Erin Motz

      August 31, 2018 at 9:57 am

      AH yes, SOO true!! Love this perspective– thank you for chiming in! <3

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    Scarlett

    August 31, 2018 at 9:20 am

    Thank you for posting this podcast, Erin! It is important to talk about such an important issue! I would like to think that the body positivity movement, above all else, is about kindness, support, and acceptance. I don’t think there’s any place for judgement of other women’s bodies or experiences. I don’t think any of us can ever really know what someone else’s experience or situation in life truly is – we only know our own. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t show kindness, compassion, and respect for all women’s bodies and experiences. They are all real, and they are all valid. I believe there is a way to include everyone that listens to, acknowledges, and respects the acute challenges experienced and faced by women of diverse backgrounds and skin colors when it comes to representation, beauty, and positivity. We all have a role to play in changing shared socio-cultural norms and values to be more kind, supportive, and accepting of the beauty and diversity that is “womanhood”.

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      Erin Motz

      August 31, 2018 at 9:56 am

      so well said! i agree with you <3

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    Kate

    August 31, 2018 at 11:20 am

    Loved the podcast, but have mixed feelings about the topic. I guess for me body positivity is inviting all the people to accept that we are all different and that it’s fine. I get a lot of comments about how skinny I am (and also how I have “no right” to talk about some stuff) and I am honestly shocked by how insensitive people can be projecting their own fantasies on us, I guess. Like, how does it work that you feel entitled to comment on me and my body but I can’t be body positive? I think we are actually more accepting for the haters than for the people that do not agree with us.

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      Erin Motz

      August 31, 2018 at 11:57 am

      So true. I think it’s hard for people to let go of the ownership they feel for a movement or an idea… which I get, but it definitely excludes people when communicated that way.

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    Jill Tarnoff

    August 31, 2018 at 11:35 am

    I don’t feel like I can’t even comment in a meaningful way because I feel like everyone internalizes these movements with their own perspectives and “appropriation” is often in the eye of the beholder. Judging someone else’s perspective is, quite often, directly oppositional to the original purpose of the movement. Do I think everyone should be included in “BoPo”? Yes. Do I think everyone participates in thoughtful, mindful, respectful and meaningful ways? No. Does it really matter what I think? No.

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      Erin Motz

      August 31, 2018 at 11:55 am

      I often feel similarly. I ask myself why i’m talking about certain things and if it really matters… I guess ultimately no, it doesn’t, BUT I do think there’s value in being heard and creating a safe space for others to feel heard too. So in that way, maybe it matters 🙂 But you’re 100% right– most people are not super aware and respectful and kind about the ways in which they communicate.

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    Cassondra

    August 31, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    I just keep coming back to the obese is unhealthy and we shouldn’t celebrate it arguement. That’s where I get stuck. Everyone knows the that excessive weight leads to numerous health risks. BOPO isn’t about that. It’s about not feeling hate towards yourself. Not actively tearing yourself down and the depression that can arise because of it. I feel like an Overweight person doesn’t need to feel worthless because of it. Health and emotional health as two separate things and BOPO as an emotional health movement.

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      Hannah

      August 31, 2018 at 4:07 pm

      Oh yes, well said! I was going to say that I think mental health is at least as important as physical health, if not more so. If you are able to feed your body lovingly and keep it active as a part of a holistic approach to health, that’s wonderful. But a body that appears to be physically healthy at the expense of your mental/emotional health is not truly healthy! In those cases, maybe overweight is the healthier version of that person, at least for now.

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    Jenn

    August 31, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    Good food for thought. The next direction this has me thinking in is why is bo-po focused only on women? There are men who struggle to feel comfortable in their own bodies too. I know it’s often thought that women are more self-conscious about this stuff, and maybe that is true, but I think bo-po carries an important message and should be broadcasted to more than just the women!

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    Leah

    August 31, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    I had always assumed that as a woman, body positivity belonged to me because women as a group are targeted for the way their bodies look in virtue of being a woman (not just because of their size). In this society, no woman is ever safe and your body is still often not enough (even if you are skinny). We are nit picked and cannot win. If you are thin, you might be too skinny. But if you gain weight, you aren’t skinny enough. It’s just one of the many ways we try to control women, and no woman is safe. I’m skinny, but you can bet that’s not enough for the world. I have cellulite because it’s genetic. I feel ugly in the face and have crooked teeth. I had an obsessive disorder that might be BDD, and I suffered immensely and self-harmed because I feel ugly. All of that is about my body, but not so much about being objectively thin. I am betting that feeling bad about this is related to being a woman and being expected to be perfect in virtue of being a woman, no matter what size. I grew up feeling like I needed to be a Disney princess like so many people our age (almost 30). I am skinny and I still don’t feel valued for it, because my body still isn’t “perfect”. So I have always found value in the body positive movement. I assumed it pertained to me, because I felt terrible about my body to a point that was extremely destructive regardless of the scale. Thin women have eating disorders too, and I almost did. I had unhealthy eating behaviors, and I was always *THIN*. To suddenly have the idea of “body positivity” not belong to me is offensive to me as a marginalized person – a woman- who needs it to survive in this society.

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      Leah

      August 31, 2018 at 7:36 pm

      *I did not mean to exclude men or other genders from the movement. I am speaking for me as a woman how hatred of my body has affected my life and it’s relationship to my gender

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    Jessica

    August 31, 2018 at 9:03 pm

    I find it hard to articulate all of my thoughts on this, there are so many angles like you touched on in the podcast . BoPo should absolutely be about everyone feeling better about their bodies.
    I think we have all internalised feelings that we should strive to be perfect, all people, though it seems like it was pushed more on women initially. I am 30 as well, and remember as a teenager every girl had something they didn’t like and wanted to change – every girl, no matter what size, wanted to lose weight and dieted, or they had bad skin, their eyebrows were too bushy, their nose was too big… an endless list of physical imperfections (as an aside there is an interesting feminist idea that just as women were joining the workforce and gaining a little bit of power is when the cosmetic industry and focus on beauty boomed). I think BoPo should also be about moving beyond how you look and focusing on other areas of your life that deserve more time and attention. In an ideal world, what you look like should really be irrelevant as it’s so small a part of who you are as a person and what you do.
    All that said, I believe the reason the BoPo movement seems to be more about overweight or obese individuals is because not only do we have the same intenalised issues about our body, but society and culture actively has the same issues and has voiced them for so long; it has become a very acceptable form of prejudice to dislike fat people, whether that’s out of a misplaced or supposed concern for health or otherwise. People who say they are body positive and everyone should love their body will easily turn around and also say that being overweight is unhealthy – but why does that matter in a conversation about loving your body? That simple statement comes with a lot of judgement, whether intentional or not.
    I don’t think the majority are trying to glorify or worship being overweight or morbidly obese or unhealthy, It is about accepting that these people and bodies exist and deserve as much respect and to be treated the same as others. That it’s okay to be overweight or obese and actually not be trying to lose weight or dieting. Yes the movement should be inclusive, but can you be body positive and still think that anyone over X weight or BMI should also lose weight to be more healthy?
    “What does it say about our culture that the desire for weight loss is considered a default feature of womanhood?”
    ― Roxane Gay, Hunger

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    Robert

    August 31, 2018 at 10:11 pm

    Thank you. Thank you, thank you.
    I have to say that I appreciate the idea of being willing to have your mind changed, but I also feel like your perspective is almost entirely in-line with mine. Yes, the body positive movement, I feel, should be available to all people who feel like they need, or want, to embrace their own personages. The only place I differ, is in the thought that only a partner, or a doctor may feel concern for a person who is obese to a personally dangerous degree. I feel that a person may have compassion and concern for another, despite not having either of those relationships. That said, I would like to share some of my experience, rather than just my opinion.
    I was “husky” as a child, and grew up with my older brother’s insults about my weight ringing in my ears. At one point, I decided to give in to my heavy, and accept it. At another point, down the road, I realized that, that wasn’t who I was, and took my body into my own hands, still with his slurs ringing in my mind. Many years and many pounds -plus and minus- have passed, and I am now at a point in my life where I am, by most estimations, a very healthy and fit person- the person I feel I want to be. Even still, I have ideals that I would like to achieve, and perhaps those are the products of social media, or popular culture, or just my own adopted ancient Greek mythological interpretations. But in many respects, I am confident in my body.
    I am also half Mexican, and that comes with a body type that doesn’t fit the skinny white mold. No matter how hard I work, I’ll never look like the Brad Pitt of “Fight Club,” or the Daniel Day Lewis of “Last of the Mohicans.”
    Lately, my truck has been “docked for repairs,” and my bicycle as well, so I have been running to work. Because I have a measure of confidence, and because I don’t want to sweat through my shirt before I start work, I have been running topless. I’ve gotten some compliments from women who have seen me, and that feels good. But I have also gotten ridicule from men- heckling me from moving cars as I take the only mode of transportation left to me, to-and-from work, or the gym, or any other errand I may have to, literally, run.
    So I say this, body positivity isn’t just for women, and it isn’t just about being obese, it is, for me, about respecting other people as they embrace where they are, whether or not they have an eye toward where they would like to be. There is no need for people to heckle me from moving cars- or at all. And should I feel shamed for putting forth the dedication to get myself to work every day? Or to make trips for things I need, or want? I would share with you the last heckling, but for the fact that the language may be offensive to some readers. Such ignorance sorrows me for their own sake, more than for mine.
    On a separate note, being the fit person I am, I have been found myself feeling self-conscious at gatherings of primarily overweight people. If I can’t be comfortable being myself in their presence, and trust that they can be comfortable being themselves in my presences, then don’t we all benefit from an inclusive body positive movement?
    So, thank you, Erin. And thank you, everyone who can find the beauty in all flowers, whatever color, shape, or size they may be.

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    Mindy

    September 3, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    There is so much to say about Body Positivity, I will try to keep my points short.
    1) It should absolutely be a movement shared with all. I may not be skinny, but I don’t judge skinny girls thinking they have life easier than I do. Body shame can be internalized by all sexes, colors & shapes, and it’s not always easy to see from the outside. I also agree with your show commenter who said that it should extend to those with skin conditions or any other physical difference that can be a source of separation from the society ideal of normal. I think it’s a great movement and a long time coming.
    2) You had a comment on the show from someone who felt that glamorizing obese women glorifies unhealthy and lazy behavior. If health is the issue, how come no one is screaming about the unhealthy malnourished look of the average model. Healthy has many different looks and they all depend on your own personal body. People all over the world have different levels of normal, and healthy can look very different. Personally, I work out regularly, do daily yoga, have great blood pressure, low cholesterol, low resting heart rate, and I’m obese. The reason people carry around extra weight is so varied, diet, genetics, sometimes yes, lack of activity. I’d just like to add my voice to the chorus shouting that obese does not equal lazy, no more so than skinny equals active & healthy.
    That all being said, I love your podcast. You have great interviews, interesting topics and I hope you keep it up for a long time. Thank you!

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