Today’s blog post is all about body confidence and disability, and it is written by the wonderful Shona, from shonalouise.com. Shona is disabled, and isn’t afraid of talking openly about her disability and the ableism she faces. I hope this blog post sheds a little light on a rarely talked about issue within the body confidence movement.
Body confidence and positivity are things that have been encouraged a lot more in the past few years, especially by bloggers, and it’s something that I’m totally behind especially as I’m a disabled blogger that has struggled with body confidence because of my disability.
But there’s a side of body positivity that I’ve felt uneasy about for a while, a side that excludes disabled people like myself. Liv has kindly let me talk about body confidence and disability today on her blog and I just want to take a moment to say that Liv is one of the most supportive people I know in terms of sharing and speaking up about disability related issues. Before I make her blush though I shall move on! (Liv would like to note that she in no way forced Shona to write such lovely things about her!)
A brief history of body confidence and me
I have a genetic condition called Marfan Syndrome that affects my whole body and has caused me to become disabled. I get around in a powerchair because of my various problems.
My body confidence problems started as a child when kids teased me about my slim body, something that I couldn’t control as it’s part of my condition. It made me look at my body differently and I started to worry about whether I was too skinny because kids would call my anorexic.
It was another condition that really made me self-conscious though, a curve in my spine that left my body looking a little ‘wonky’. I lent to one side and my hips and waist quite obviously didn’t sit as they should. Whilst no one ever commented on it, I personally gave myself a hard time about it and until I had corrective surgery I never really wore anything tight fitting out of choice. I remember dreading swimming at school because of how obvious my spinal curvature was when I was in a swimming costume.
Then came the time when I had to start using a wheelchair/powerchair, and I’ve been on a long journey ever since to get my body confidence back. Thankfully, I’m nearly there I think.
Body confidence and disability
It’s a journey I’m not taking part in alone though. The online community of body positive activists are amazing at encouraging and constantly remind myself and others to love our bodies and ourselves unconditionally.
But there is something that has been bothering me since I got more involved in the body confidence community. Within the body confidence community, there’s a mantra: focus on what your body can do, rather than what it looks like – celebrate your healthy and working body.
Hmm. Thanks for excluding disabled people from your body positivity!
I recently wrote a post on my own blog about activists forgetting disabled people, especially when it comes to diversity conversations – but it seems that the body positivity movement is just as forgetful.
If your body positivity revolves around a person loving what their body can do then please know that you are excluding so many different people. Not everyone has the privilege of having a working body to celebrate.
I’ve seen so many body confidence campaigns by companies, brands and even bloggers that totally exclude disabled people. I’ve seen ones that claim to feature ‘real bodies’ but all those real bodies are able bodied – not really a true representation of society. It’s a shame when great campaigns feature a huge variety of people and yet they still forget disabled people, and sadly it’s happening over and over again.
It is, quite frankly, incredibly frustrating.
If you’d like to read more on the topic of body confidence and disability, I would recommend reading the following articles:
- Where are all the disabled people in the body positive campaigns?
- Body positivity and disability
- What’s with all the ableism?