Jan 30, 2023Liked by sympathetic opposition

You’re spot on about image positivity = moral imperative. I hadn’t quite made that connection consciously before. I remember when my skin was bad as a teen and not getting help for it as I worried this would show me to be a vain person but I really wanted it fixed!! Makes sense now. Took a long time to not feel guilty/immoral about wanting to look my best.

I wonder if this whole idea is tied into the ‘equality’ movement - no one can be better than anyone else lest offence be given. It’s kind of hard with beauty though, as there are broad norms across all societies(facial symmetry etc) that you just can’t help but notice. It feels like you have to lie to others (and maybe yourself) to acknowledge that you find some people beautiful but not others.

Agree that the aim was probably to just help girls/women not feel so bad about themselves but I feel like there are unintended consequences. As you say, will be very interesting to see the cohort raised on this principle age into 50s/60s and see how this plays out.

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"sometimes i imagine trying to explain all of this to like, queen guenevere or st teresa of avila or something"

And I thought I was the only one who does this!!

I often imagine trying to explain contemporary stuff to historical persons. I thought it meant I haven't yet fully upgraded my mental code to the newest available version, or something similarly unflattering. Do you know if this is an autistic people thing? I haven't seen it mentioned elsewhere but now I'm really curious

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I’m not old enough to have watched in real time, but I’d guess that the original spirit of the body image positivity thing was something like “Your conformity to aesthetic standards and/or your sexual attractiveness should not be important, unless you choose to care about them” and the message somehow turned into “you should feel beautiful/attractive regardless of your actual physique” because that was more divisive/controversial/… and therefore had greater potential to turn into a viral message, or something.

The second implies to redefine beauty/attractiveness in a way that matches however you currently are, which would be great if you want to feel good about how you are, but only works in a very limited manner. E.g. you can alter your aesthetic preferences a bit through exposure. But attractiveness is usually about how other people feel towards you, and I think this is where this body image positivity thing is doing the most harm. People won’t be attracted to you because you want them to, or because everybody agrees they’re virtuous if they are.

What I suggest we should all do instead is differentiate more clearly between 1) aesthetic beauty, 2)sexual attractiveness and 3) physical health/fitness.

1) and 2) are not the same, though many people will have an aesthetic centered around their idea of sexual attractiveness. Asexual people’s votes are also part of the societal beauty pageant :) It’s also possible and valid to optimise for beauty (e.g through clothing choices or hair styling or body modifications or…) without also optimising for sexual attractiveness. Fashion often does this. I don’t know anything about High Fashion but I think it might do this especially frequently.

Writing this, it seems to me that beauty is something people sometimes talk about when they actually mean attractiveness, but want plausible deniability that they’re not talking about attractiveness. Maybe because they think it would be crude or they don’t want to be the one to explicitly acknowledge the sexual dimension. I’m not very confident in this observation though.

Wrt 2):

Sexual attractiveness is one of the things that people show through their actions to value in other people. I don’t think this is an appropriate metric to use in many contexts, e.g the workplace, but this opinion of mine won’t stop people from judging me by it, and sometimes behaving in a hurtful manner if they don’t consider me attractive. I don’t think they should, so I can choose to not give a damn, or self-modify to become less of a target, or do a combination of both. I accidentally ended up doing both by, the latter by focusing on 3).

I also think that a really important message the “you are beautiful (=attractive, see above)” people should be sending instead is “if you want to compete in the sexual market, you don’t have to choose the general market. You can compete in a niche market instead”.

Actually, I should have included a fourth category, 4) sense of self-worth. Maybe the original message was also along the lines of “you shouldn’t let your sense of self-worth be affected if people don’t find you attractive”. I’m not sure.

I guess I should also elaborate on the niche market thing, but I don’t actually know that much about what I’m calling “sexual markets”, I’m just aware that people tend to massively underestimate the variance in people’s sexual preferences.

3) health: on average healthy people are considered more attractive, which influences all the above. It can be freeing to focus on getting healthier, using objective metrics like blood test results or the time it takes to get back to normal heart rate after running up stairs, and not worry about the other stuff. Especially if you are conditioned to the effect that you shouldn’t care about your attractiveness/be content with your looks, whatever they may be. It can make it feel like you’re failing at being good at self-worth when you do something to improve your looks, and because you don’t want to fail at self-worth (or listen to nasty things other people say, etc) you end up not improving your health. I think that is the greatest tragedy in all of this.

Ok wow, I had much more to say about all of this than I thought. I swear I didn’t expect to write more than two paragraphs.

Anyway, thank you for your post, you have encouraged me to actually think this stuff through for once. I might have put it off indefinitely otherwise.

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Feb 3, 2023Liked by sympathetic opposition

Could it be that a green shrub ornaments itself with one or two pink flowers in exactly the opposite way a girl adorns herself with colorful earrings?

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Jan 31, 2023Liked by sympathetic opposition

As a guy, body positivity felt disingenuous because I’d see women preach body positivity for women while insulting men for their bodies.

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i hope it makes you feel somewhat better to hear that you werent being left out of something that works :)

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