Which part of you are you going to hide today?
Have you ever considered why you try to conceal parts of your body? Matters of decency aside, why douse that pimple in a tub of concealer? Why give up on sleeveless clothes because your arms don’t “look right”? Body negativity isn’t just about an impassioned hatred for your self. Often, it operates in much subtler shades, hinting at a very deep-rooted problem.
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We have been told to pursue what is widely known as the ‘European standard of beauty’. The right percentage of height, weight, and complexion. Not too much or too less of anything. This literally sounds like you were building a machine. Even cooking recipes are more forgiving for God’s sake!
Suggested read: Girlfriends Guide To – A Positive Body Image
Hating your own self is the worst thing you could do, and can even prove to be fatal. Here are 9 body positivity books to change your outlook:
1. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
“There’s something about swimsuits that make you think you’ve got to earn the right to wear them. And that’s wrong. Really, the criteria is simple. Do you have a body? Put a swimsuit on it.”
The protagonist Willowdean Dickson is somebody all of us aspire to be. She does not care about societal acceptance regarding her figure, and lives life on her own terms. Like popular teen romances, this one too includes a charming male figure whom she is attracted to. Instead of basking in his reciprocation, she falls into a pit of self-doubt. This book is about her fight against how she sees her own body. This is the toughest fight of all, and one that all of us fight on a regular basis. The worst part about any kind of discrimination happens when it manages to convince us that we’re unworthy. Murphy does a brilliant job in her realistic portrayal of our own betrayal to ourselves, and how we emerge as warriors.
2. Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook For Unapologetic Living by Jes Baker
“We become too embarrassed to meet up with the friend we haven’t seen in years because we might have gained weight. We sabotage relationships by thinking we’re unworthy of physical affection. We hide our face when we have breakouts. We opt out of the dance class because we’re worried we’ll look ridiculous. We miss out on sex positions because we’re afraid we’ll crush our partner with our weight. We dread family holidays because someone might say something about how we look. We don’t approach potential friends or lovers because we assume they will immediately judge our appearance negatively. We try to shrink when walking in public spaces in order to take up as little room as possible. We build our lives around the belief that we are undeserving of attention, love, and amazing opportunities, when in reality this couldn’t be further from the truth.”
This book speaks of inner beauty, which, contrary to popular opinion, isn’t just an ‘ugly-people-propaganda’. Baker nails the lack of self devotion, and self-care that we have arrived at today, and breaks the vicious cycle of us constantly criticizing our own bodies.
3. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
“I say no to people who prioritize being cool over being good. I say no to misogynists who want to weaponize my body against me. I say no to men who feel entitled to my attention and reverence, who treat everything the light touches as a resource for them to burn. I say no to religious zealots who insist that I am less important than an embryo. I say no to my own instinct to stay quiet. It’s a way of kicking down the boundaries that society has set up for women – be compliant, be a caregiver, be quiet – and erecting my own. I will do this; I will not do that. You believe in my subjugation; I don’t have to be nice to you. I am busy. My time is not a public commodity.”
I love this book particularly because it transcends the realm of the physical. Of all the body positivity books, this one speaks greatly about what it means to be a woman. Patriarchy has built an image of the perfect woman, and we spend our entire lives trying to live up to that ideal. Irrespective of how sad that makes us, we chase goals that weren’t ours in the first place. We are much more than curves, cooking skills, children-producers, and we won’t shut up about it.
4. Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got A Life by Kelsey Miller
“We don’t get montages or grand finales. We just eat dinner and do the dishes, and absolutely no one’s going to clap their hands about it.”
Miller compares dieting to the status of an Olympic sport, but without even half the glory. This is a realistic portrayal of somebody fighting to achieve beauty standards, but failing miserably. It speaks about Kelsey’s journey into “eating plans”, crash-diets, unhealthy food fads, disordered eating, and then her story of survival. For all of us, it serves as an eye-opener about how “health concerns” have gotten us to obsessively chase an impossible standard of glamour.
5. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
“In yet another commercial, Oprah somberly says, ‘Inside every overweight woman is a woman she knows she can be.’ This is a popular notion, the idea that the fat among us are carrying a thin woman inside. Each time I see this particular commercial, I think, I ate that thin woman and she was delicious but unsatisfying. And then I think about how fucked up it is to promote this idea that our truest selves are thin women hiding in our fat bodies like imposters, usurpers, illegitimates.”
Needless to say, this woman is nothing short of a superstar. She is an inspiration, and the powerhouse that brought us ‘Bad Feminist’. In this book too, she leaves no part of patriarchy unblemished. This is a very important read for men as well, because she simplifies the thought process. In a part of the book, she writes about how cat-callers are just telling her that they do not want to f*ck her, and how their outrage stems from their confused sense of masculinity. It is life-changing on the grounds of discovering and understanding abuser-psychology. At the end of the book, you’ll realize that the greatest abuser you could have, is yourself.
6. What I Like About Me by Allia Zobel Nolan
“We are all different, certainly.
I’m not like you. You’re not like me.
That’s why we think that life is great.
So join us as we celebrate.”
This is a children’s book, and the most beautiful one at that. It includes babies from different races, with braces, unibrows, close-cropped hair, spectacles, etc. It makes people feel good about themselves, and is an essential read for all the young ones around you. The seeds of body positivity should be planted at the earliest age possible.
7. The Beauty Myth: How The Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf
“Men are visually aroused by women’s bodies and less sensitive to their arousal by women’s personalities because they are trained early into that response, while women are less visually aroused and more emotionally aroused because that is their training. This asymmetry in sexual education maintains men’s power in the myth: They look at women’s bodies, evaluate, move on; their own bodies are not looked at, evaluated, and taken or passed over. But there is no ‘rock called gender’ responsible for that; it can change so that real mutuality–an equal gaze, equal vulnerability, equal desire–brings heterosexual men and women together.”
Naomi Wolf strings a very strong attack against how human beings are commonly portrayed. Be it from the perspective of the lover, or a less elusive media organization, Wolf lets nothing pass. In a compilation of what I call ‘uncomfortable truths’, you will finally learn to see the fallacies we accept every day.
8. Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon
“You only have one body and despite how well you live your life, it may never change. Can you afford to hate yourself for the rest of your life?”
This book is essential in debunking the myth of a body type being unhealthy. There are several factors that go into determining the state of our vital statistics. Often, our “well-wishers” and popular media push us towards what they think is the ‘optimum size’, on the pretext of us being ‘too fat’, or ‘too thin’. Truth is, they have no idea. Thankfully, by the end of this book, you will be educated enough to stop judging yourself by false parameters of health.
9. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
This book is particularly close to my heart because it does nothing to hide ‘imperfection’. Eleanor is ‘fat’, and ‘too big’. Park is not the most masculine guy in high school. They both find each other special, and keep wondering why they find reciprocation. It’s an imperfect story of love, acceptance, and how it all leads to something to beautifully realistic. I love Rowell for not choosing stereotypical characters for these roles. It only goes on to show that irrespective of your body type, you’re the protagonist of your own story. So, make it a great one.
Suggested read: 12 Types Of Body Shaming Behaviors That Need To End – NOW
I hope these body positivity books pulls you out of the corner you’ve shut yourself in. To all the lovely people who have been body-shamed, remember that if someone’s judging criteria is limited to pre-historic standards, then the problem is not with you. Most people who spew hatred are fighting a war inside their own mind. Ignore them, bask in the sheer glory that you are, and take care of yourself. You’re worth it.
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