I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “bravery” recently – particularly about the ways in which the term is used as a compliment in the body positive community. I’ll be honest, I’m conflicted. There’s an implicit assumption that comments like “you’re so brave!” are supposed to be received as a gesture of praise – a regard for courage, an admiration of bold spirit. For firefighters running into burning buildings, I get this. For people who pack up and leave abusive relationships, this seems appropriate. But for existing? For just presenting myself as I live in the body that I have? What kind of message does it send when the word “bravery” is autographed across visual exposures of “unconventional” bodies? This is where my ambivalence sets in – on the one hand, yes, I conceptually understand how using visibility to fight shame and “eff our beauty standards” can be seen as a bold move – how a fat woman baring her body with pride can be deemed as a fearlessly unapologetic display of “confidence.” In many ways, this feels true. If we understand the definition of “bravery” as “a readiness to face and endure danger or pain” – then yes, I’d argue that the choice any marginalized body makes to demand visibility in public space is “brave” to the extent that social, psychological, and physical risks loom around that choice in a revolving cycle of harrowing possibility (trolling, violence, rejection, bullying, social exile, denial of civic rights, etc). But here’s where my viewpoint starts to diverge: at what point do we stop complimenting fat bodies for their “bravery” and start PROTESTING the reality that we NEED bravery in order to validate our existence at all? In many ways, telling a fat person they’re “brave” just reinforces how much fucking LABOR fat people need to undertake simply to receive respect in this world. When will fat people be able to stop being brave, stop NEEDING courage to survive, stop DARING to live and depleting our mental energies on the toll "being brave" requires? I want a world where fat people are able to show up, write, express ideas, wear clothes, go to school, form relationships, experience love - without any fucking bravery at all.
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