Body Positivity and an Intro to My Thesis Work
When I chose my thesis topic of the ways the physical body is used to communicate self identity and the vernacular environments in which they operate with specific empasis/attention on the ways gay male athletes navigagte the hyper-masculinized subculure that is sport. This interest admittedly came from a very personal and self-relevant place. I went back and forth debating whether or not this sort of self-analysis or potential biased topic was even appropriate for an academic thesis project but I found that to be a silly concern. Of course peole have personal interests in the work they do, otherwise they wouldn’t do it!
Even in my artmaking process and my time in undergrad studying to become a health professional (spoiler alert: I’m doing something completely different now) I felt as though I had this self awareness of my body and how it interacted in the dynamics of various social situations. I think being an athlete that wears a small tight triangle of fabric also adds to an awareness but also comfortability with comparing and communicating bodies. Once you swim with people for a while you can just catch a glimpse of a calf or shoulder or even just the wake of water as you swim past someone going the other way. You can identify whose leg, arm, wave, whatever.
There is also something to be said about the athlete’s body seen as the tool in which they do their work. Although this may warrant its own piece of writing because I think there is a great deal to be said as well as room to allow these ideas to develop.
What I would like to begin discussing are the ways in which society views the body especially in the past few months. It seems relevant to examine this obsession society has with body image. It is hard to deny that the physical body is used to communicate some aspect of self-identity. Or at least for many there is the aspiration for it to especially if that identity is deemed disireable by society. The expectations and desires of the body fluctuate just as much as any yo-yo diet.
It goes back and forth between fat shaming, fit-shaming, body acceptance/positivity, or the ideas that someone is more than their body. Athletes in bikinis or shirtless are sluts or full of themselves while overweight individuals in swim suits are “brave”. I think either frame of thinkins is flawed. If someone is seen as brave for wearing what they want then is acknowledges that it is the norm that they cannot, or that they are acting in a way that goes against an expectation. For those that are fit wear what they want they are deemed inappropriate, vein, or provocative. Maybe this issue is also an indicator of some truth there is no universal ideal. Now comes the hard part which is the acceptance aspect. For people to dress and have the bodies they want. I think in some ways we are moving towards that.
Look at all of the trendy body types that have emerged the past few months: thigh gaps, dadbod, mombod, beardsexual…