{#TransparentTuesday} How I’ve been fucking up…

I haven’t been particularly involved in social justice or activism, up to this point.

This is mostly because I fight for gender inequality on a personal scale, rather than a political one. I help one person heal at a time, and this kind of work is heavy. It requires me to show up fully charged, and in order to be fully charged I have to stay away from too much exposure to all the shitty things happening in the world.

From my vantage point, activism seemed like steeping yourself in all the shitty things happening in the world, every day.

I am an incredibly sensitive person, and I’m easily overwhelmed. Not like “overwhelmed with a desire to fight for justice,” mind you. More like “overwhelmed with a desire to stay in bed for a week.”

Some people call this kind sensitivity a weakness, and insist that I just need to toughen up. After all, there are shitty things happening in the world and we need to help, right??

But, you see, staying aware of all those shitty things meant that I neither had the energy, nor desire, to help anyone. Instead, I spent my time barely handling the fact that everything in the world is broken and unjust and unfair and fucked up and terrible.

Being sensitive means I need hella strong boundaries, and a lot of those boundaries are about what I do and don’t allow myself to pay attention to.

If I want to have the energy and motivation to do the work I’m here to do, I cannot allow myself to absorb daily information about injustice and violence and pain and fear.

Which is why, until recently, I maintained a distance from the political activism and social-justice element of body positivity.

But that’s changing. I’d like to share a few things I recently learned, including a few mistakes I’ve been making, in the name of– (what else?)– full transparency.

How I’ve been fucking up, #1:

I’ve been using the term “body positive” to describe how a person feels in their body, as though it was something personal.

That’s my mistake.

The term “body positivity” has roots in the fat acceptance movement, and it refers to the political and social movement opposing the marginalization and discrimination against people for their body shape or size.

Thus, as a person who has never been discriminated against for my body shape or size, I’ve been using the wrong term to describe what I teach.

This happened because I didn’t bother get educated about what each term means, or why these terms were important.

And for that, I would like to acknowledge my mistake and apologize.

The term I was looking for (and thought I was using) is “body confidence.” Where “body positivity” is political, “body confidence” is personal. It’s about how you feel in your own body, regardless of social/political context.

I teach body confidence, and from now on I will try to call it by its proper name.

Why?

Because, as a cis-gender able-bodied thin white woman, using the term “body positivity” to describe my work is both inaccurate, and destructive. It continues to center the privileged experience (mine), which automatically continues to marginalize the voices of anyone who doesn’t fit that description.

Which brings me to the next way I’ve been fucking up.

How I’ve been fucking up #2:

I haven’t been acknowledging my own privilege.

Most of us have some kind of privilege. Privilege isn’t personal, and it’s definitely not an insult. It just means that some unearned quality (about who we are or what we have) has opened doors for us.

The idea behind acknowledging privilege is that it also acknowledges the flip side. Meaning, by recognizing that being white has opened doors for you, you’re also recognizing that being black would mean not having those same doors opened.

By acknowledging privilege, you’re also acknowledging the current state of injustice. And I haven’t been doing that.

I mean, I thought I was. I never tried to hide it. I kinda felt like: well duh I’m white and I’m pretty, people get it, who cares. But I’ve never explicitly acknowledged my privilege in writing, and I’d like to start.

Actually, that’s not true.

I would really not like to start.

Writing this feels embarrassing, awkward, forced, and kinda stupid. I honestly don’t even 100% understand how it helps anything.

But I guess that’s why I’m doing it. Because, being privileged as I am, I can write the above sentence and mean every word. Because going through life hardly ever needing to think about privilege– that’s my privilege.

So here we go.

(A note to my activism-educated readers: I’m learning, and I’m sure I’ll make mistakes. I welcome your feedback, and am willing to listen on how to do better.)

I acknowledge my privilege.

I have white privilege, of course.

I also have privilege for being both cis-gender and heterosexual enough to avoid discrimination. Plus I’ve experienced both middle-class and able-bodied privilege, among others.

But most importantly for my line of work: I have experienced privilege for being both thin and pretty.

Certain opportunities have been made available to me, simply because I have the “right” body size and shape, and because I’m attractive.

Opportunities I did not earn.

Opportunities that would not have been afforded to me if I didn’t look the way I do.

Opportunities that I didn’t even realize my privilege played a role in.

Blech. This is my first ever attempt to acknowledge my own privilege, and it’s really uncomfortable. But the way we talk about this stuff matters, and I’ve allowed myself to stay uneducated for too long.

I will not do perfectly, but I will do better.

By the way, please do not take this email as a cue to recommend books or podcasts about all the shitty things happening in the world. I will not consume them; I know my limits.

Have you ever explicitly acknowledged your privilege? If so, how did it feel? I’d love to hear from you– feel free to post your thoughts over in my private facebook group!

Yours, in discomfort and in adoration,

<3

Jessi

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