Sunday, October 23, 2011

Language promotes positive -- or negative -- body image

Local activist says loving your body is all about the words you use

Amanda Levitt embraces the word "fat" when she talks about her body.

"I find it to be powerful, but not everyone might see it that way," Levitt said.

Levitt recently spoke at a Love Your Body Day event sponsored by Oakland and Macomb County, Mich. chapters of  the National Organization for Women in conjunction with the NOW Foundation's Love Your Body Day campaign.  The foundation began the campaign in 1998 in an effort to counteract negative and unrealistic body images of women used in the media.

Levitt, 26, shares that mission, and takes it personally.  "... what the media is actually doing is patriarchy," Levitt said. "It's the objectification of women through gendered ideals of what women are supposed to look like."

 In 2010, Levitt  founded Love Your Body Detroit -- a "grassroots, nonprofit activism organization dedicated to bringing awareness of weight bias and fat stigma to our community"

She calls herself a "fat activist" and says that words such as "obese" and "overweight, " in her mind, imply disease and can counteract a positive body image.

" ... most people think (the word fat) is negative, they think it's bad,  a person needs to change, they need to be thin," Levitt said.  "I use the word "fat" as a descriptive term free of any negative connotations." 

And, although some people might prefer those "O" words, they don't understand their meaning as "medicalized" terms that can imply disease or defect where none exist.

"There are numerous fat people who are healthy," she said.

"Overweight?  Over what weight?" Levitt said to the audience. "What are we saying is normal?"

She urges others to examine the language they use, not only when we talk about ourselves, but about other people as well.

It's all connected, Levitt says.   Women's bodies -- and fat bodies -- are often seen as "public property that can be commented on."

Yet, "When you stop allowing yourself to speak negatively about yourself, when you stop speaking negatively about other people, it changes the way you think about yourself and other people because it stops that interaction where you think your body, or someone else's body, is is property to be commented on.

Hear more from Amanda Levitt:

Related Links:

NOW Foundation's Love Your Body Day Campaign 

Amanda Levitt's blog, "Communications of a Fat Waitress"

Love Your Body Detroit Website
(The group is also on Facebook)

"Love Your Body Day Encourages Acceptance" from the Daily Athenaeum of West Virginia University

Body image double standard?  From Bitch Media: "Isn't He Lovely: Male Body Image Standards Are "Virtually Non-Existent." Q&A with Yashar Ali

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