Are Body Positive Blogs Really All That Positive?

Or will looking at pictures of other women always mess with our heads?

Two weeks ago, I pretty much decided that breaking up with your secret weight shame was the best thing you could do for your body image. Enough of these furtive bathroom scale trysts. Let's just all say what we weigh all the time and tell the stigma where to go.

In an ideal world, the stigma would vanish. We'd realize that those numbers that seem so twisted and scary when you're alone in your head are really no big thing and in fact, just one relatively minor detail about your life, which is filled with about a million more interesting facts. Even in the not-quite-ideal real world, this idea has legs. I tried it out as an experiment over here and am still swimming around in the awesomeness of everyone's comments. And I hopped over to My Body Gallery, where it seems like all kinds of women are feeling equally liberated by the sharing of stats.   

But I'm also worrying because I read Katie J.M. Baker's great piece on Refinery 29 where she poses an important question: Are body positive blogs (like My Body Gallery, Stop Hating Your Body, Curve Appeal and many more) really the new pro-ana blogs? 

Pro-ana blogs are online communities where people with eating disorders swap tips and "thinspiration" photos. Sad and scary. Body positive blogs -- in theory -- are the exact opposite. People post photos (and sometimes, their weight or measurements) of their normal, non-airbrushed bodies in order to celebrate the idea that healthy women come in all shapes and sizes.

Except, when you read the fine print, as Baker has done, that celebration often rings hollow. Some girls and women on body positive blogs have traded the pro-ana focus on thinness for a new obsession with whether they're curvy enough. “It can be dangerous and triggering to people with eating disorders and body-image issues to see any kind of body measurements and weight posted,” notes Dr. Susan Albers, a psychologist that specializes in eating disorders. “This may foster comparison.” Plus, as The Beheld notes, "body image cannot begin and end with" feeling good about how you look in a photo. Or being comfortable sharing your weight.  

It's freaking me out to think I might have triggered any of my beloved readers' body trauma by pushing the "whee! just say your weight and everything gets better!" agenda. If you found yourself comparing and feeling pressured in any way, I'm so sorry.

But I don't think the body positive blog community deserves too much finger-wagging. It's still one of the very few places in today's media where you can go to see a diverse range of women's bodies -- and as our cultural beauty standards get ever-stricter, those are images and numbers that need preservation.

And the fact that many women participating are still struggling with a spectrum of body issues only underscores this community's importance. We need this space to face fears, hear other perspectives, debate, and work these issues out. And by "we," I don't just mean women who have perfectly resolved all of their body baggage and wake up loving their bodies every day of their lives. I mean anyone who has ever looked at a photo of herself and oscillated back and forth about whether she likes what she sees. Feeling comfortable in photos or with the number on the scale isn't the be all and end all of a good body image. But if you can nail one of those things, it's a pretty good start.

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