by Tiina Veer

All bodies are real bodies

I've been asked for my opinion several times today about Monica Deane's End Yoga Porn piece in Yoganonymous recently, here are my thoughts.
I’ll start by saying that articles like this are always going to be contentious because of their language, lens and tone. And, calling out privilege—whether directly or indirectly—is almost always going to raise defenses, especially when served with a side of exclusion. 
Like many others who've commented on the article as it makes its rounds on social media, I think the author's underlying messages are actually valid:
  • that the monomania around "ideal (yoga) body" across media is highly problematic;
  • that aspirational marketing is problematic;
  • that though there are many modern variations of yoga, classical yoga at its root is about dissolution of the (approval-addicted) ego;
  • that there are all kinds of people who feel invalidated and marginalized by “mainstream” yoga;
  • and that yoga is not all about striking a pose.

Even though they're all valid points, the problematic nature of the article obscures and undermines them, which is unfortunate, as they definitely merit attention and discussion.

Sensational language is common in a world that values Likes and virality. Some critiqued the use of the word "porn" as dramatic and uncalled for, but it has become a colloquialism these days for anything obsessively or lustfully consumed (e.g., Food TV and food magazines as “food porn,” or house and home magazines and DIY shows as “shelter porn,” etc.). Of course in this case it also relates specifically to the one-note depiction of slightly clad, young, white, toned, depilated bodies in acrobatic yoga poses, selfies or otherwise. There are occasionally waves of diversity that do pop up in selfie culture with hashtag campaigns like #myrealyogabody and #yogaforall, but the mass media remains the same and many never even get to see any of the more underground culture-jamming imagery that takes on the status quo.

All. Bodies. Are. Real. Period. If you happen to ascribe to the "all matter is an illusion" camp, then maybe no bodies are real bodies, but either way, why exclude any body?

However, it may be of interest to note that the root of the getting-old phrase, "Real women have curves," lies not only in hurt feelings, but indeed in systemic oppression. That doesn't make it right or defensible, but does lend perspective. In the end, it's a reaction to being marginalized and asserts "my body can be beautiful too," but it's one of those assertions that will always lack substance since it lifts up one group by denegrating another, and that can never work as a call to action for any movement. If you have a suggestion for a better declaration or call to action, feel free to leave it in the comments! "My body is beautiful too," or "every body is beautiful," or "all bodies are real bodies" all work without putting anyone down. It is possible.
We need to work together, not against each other. Body-negativity, in all forms, affects US ALL. The sooner we realize this and start supporting each other fully and unconditionally, the sooner this lunatic cycle of body dissatisfaction can end. My hope for anyone still stuck in body-comparing (whatever their reason or "side of the fence" they see themselves on) is that they—and we all—transcend defensive or exclusionary declarations and accept that all bodies are real bodies, that all bodies are deserving of love, dignity, respect, unconditional acceptance, and the people who live in them are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of contentment.
To better understand the roots of sayings like "Real women have curves," and to read about thin privilege, I *strongly* urge you to read Everyday Feminism's piece, Let's Talk About Thin Privilege, a sensitive exploration that also outlines how different forms of oppression and privilege intersect with one another—none of them exist in a vacuum—which is why it's important that we all work together, to end all forms of injustice. 
If you want to learn still more about this, read: 

There are other language issues and assumptions in the article that are problematic—for example, describing fat (or bigger-bodied if you prefer) people as “overweight," which inherently pathologizes a body size rather than simply describing it (for example, “thin” is a better descriptor than “underweight,” same as fat/big is a better descriptor than “overweight” or “obese”)—we could go on and on, perhaps another day.
Moral of the story: we're all in the same leaky boat, we'll only keep from sinking by bailing it out together.

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