Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bodies and Victim Blaming

I follow healthy living blogs. I also follow healthy-at-ever-size, or fat acceptance blogs. In reading these blogs I saw an interesting reaction to emotional triggers related to bodies.

One HAES blogger wrote a post the other day about an emotional trigger for her, bad pictures. I think this is very relatable.

Her response was to realize most bodies she sees do not look like hers. In addition, she does not spend much time on a regular basis looking at her own body. She notes that unless people spend time looking at their bodies in full length mirrors regularly, they might forget what they look like, and start to think their bodies look like ones they are visually exposed to. The bodies we are mainly exposed to come through mainstream media – ads, TV, magazines and so on. These bodies are not real, and they are usually unattainable and non-representative of the majority of people.

Some bloggers in the healthy living community also had recent experiences with triggers. One of the bloggers is pregnancy and talked about the difficulty of accepting that her clothes no longer fit. She expressed feeling upset loosing a body that she worked so hard to achieve and maintain. When she reached her pre-baby weight she vowed never to gain weight again. Obviously this isn’t possible during pregnancy. Another blogger wrote about feeling upset and shocked after stepping on a scale.

In these examples, women felt the blame or cause was not unrealistic images in the media, but instead themselves. The thought was that either they needed to just feel better about their bodies, or actively do something to change their bodies till they were happy with them.

Here is what I understood:

HAES blogger

  • cause of anxiety – a culture that only finds certain bodies acceptable, causes individuals to become disconnected from ]their own body.
  • solutions – normalize all bodies. This can mean taking time to actually look at your own body, or see other images of real bodies.

Healthy Living Bloggers

  • cause of anxiety – I am unhappy with my body.
  • Solution – learn to love my body, or change my body.

I feel blaming a person for feeling anxiety about their bodies is victim blaming. An individual is given a warped sense of what bodies should look like from being over exposed to certain bodies, and under exposed to others (ones that actually look more like theirs). Wrongfully, some argue being affected by these environmental factors makes an individual weak. They need to rise above these influences.

I can already hear voices saying – only a weak person would let images in the media impact their sense of self. Then the individual is told, be strong, foster body image and so on, but the root cause of the anxiety, societal pressures, unrealistic images, are never addressed.

Kind of sounds like this other example of victim blaming – you knew dressing that way made people think you wanted to have sex, you were “asking” to be sexually assaulted. That is victim blaming, and telling someone they are weak because they have body anxiety caused by a culture that promotes unrealistic bodies is also victim blaming.

The real solution to these problems is societal-level change in how we view and express bodies. Our society does not accept bodies unless they look a certain way. To create cultural change I need to normalize my body. There needs to be MORE pictures of my body, and people, including myself, need to look at them. One example of normalizing different bodies was Fa(t)shion February.

Ok, I am getting on a ramble – night folks.

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