My sexual accessibility has never been up to me, and this was a crucial and painful epiphany to have. Content Warning: this essay mentions depression and instances of sexual coercion. It’s not that I haven’t been celibate before. As someone who lives in the gray area of the asexual and aromantic spectrums, I’ve gone long […]
Dear Virgie: My Mom Hates Her Body
To be honest, self-love — like, the real kind, not the slogan kind — threatens literally EVERYTHING that white supremacist heteropatriarchy is about.
Do you have advice for someone whose mom really hates herself? I often feel super guilty that I just happened to be born into the generation that got to be exposed to fat positivity and she wasn’t. I have shared a lot of the stuff I have learned with her. I have shared books and videos and I am starting to feel overwhelmed. Like I am not even making a dent in the mountain of her self-hatred. I know it’s society’s fault, but sometimes I find myself getting mad at her for not getting it faster. Any advice?
It’s super rad that you are doing that for your mom. That is a gift, honestly, and a manifestation of generosity.
As much as it feels like you accidentally fell into fat politics, don’t belittle or forget that we still live in a culture where it’s taboo to be fat and where it is hard to choose the path of self-love. Because, to be honest, self-love — like, the real kind, not the slogan kind — threatens literally EVERYTHING that white supremacist heteropatriarchy is about. You threaten consumer-based capitalism (which is entirely run off insecurity) and all the million other things that require compliance.
So, yes, it might be easier to be fat-positive right now — but make no misconception that it’s easy.
It sounds like you have done a lot of work with your mom, and maybe it’s time to take a step back and let her try to take a baby step on her own. Sometimes it’s really hard for women from older generations not to automatically fall into acute codependency, because women have been taught for generations to look outward for a sense of wellness and approval. It’s OK that you feel overwhelmed, and it’s also OK to respond to that feeling with boundaries, rather than with guilt or feeling like you haven’t done enough.
Often, people think boundaries are about being mean. They’re not. They’re about honoring what you need, which I think is a loving act. Love without boundaries isn’t actually love. It’s just codependency.
I often advise people who have a loved one who needs a lot of support to prepare a short fat-poz script.
Like, “Mom, I love you. I want you to know that all bodies are worthy, beautiful and important. My favorite book about this topic is _______. You can order it or get it at a bookstore and when you’re done we can discuss it.” I mean, come up with whatever feels right for you but it’s good to put the onus of the next step (e.g. reading a book) onto them, so that they’re not just coming to you over and over without doing any work themselves.
I highly recommend taking the time to come up with the script and offering, it broken-record style, each time the conversation comes up. The broken record offers three amazing things: 1. It sets a boundary — they know this is all they’re getting, 2. Each time you say it, you offer them an affirmation about universal worthiness, which will help them. Often having one short line you memorize can do wonders for people who are just starting out in body love, and 3. You don’t have to come up with new stuff every time you talk to your mom. This will save you precious emotional energy which you — and, potentially, even she — will benefit from in the long run.
I hope this helps!
Virgie Tovar is an author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp, a 4-week online course designed to help those who are ready to break up with diet culture, and started the hashtag campaign #LoseHateNotWeight.