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  • Like many feminists, I am frustrated with what seems to be the continued co-opting of 'second wave' body acceptance by the patriarchal mainstream. I cringe at the reinterpretation of female self determination. These days it seems that one is either ashamed of her body or they are exploiting it. Everyone has forgotten that exploiting ones self is not the same as self-acceptance. And conversely, a lack of shame does not constitute self-exploitation. Shame or exploitation are not our only choices.

    This struggle has many familiar layers. Movements are forever being co-opted to reduce their impact. Virtually everyone is exploited in some way because we live in a capitalist society. Women are constantly fighting to define themselves and their sexuality despite our patriarchal culture. All of this is frustrating, yet expected. What I have a hard time accepting is that the radical scene has subconsciously accepted the same false choice touted by the mainstream (shame or exploitation). An issue that deals with patriarchy, sexuality, binary gender, economics, class and social conformity (among other things) cannot be reduced to such a simple concept.

    Most people agree that self acceptance and self determination are essential aspects of a healthy individual. For years the radical scene has claimed to be working towards these goals for people of all shapes, colors and gender identities. Yet, anyone who has been involved in this work has witnessed the prejudice against female bodied people who embrace their voluptuous shape. These women are routinely (subtly) discouraged from wearing anything that celebrates their natural curves or exposes too much(?) flesh. Why should a female bodied person only be able to have an unselfconscious relationship with her body if it is androgynous? Male bodied radicals are not required to deny their physical selves as a condition of participating in a community. Aren't we supposed to be learning/teaching the acceptance of ourselves/each other? The goal is to change the perceptions of society, not find more groups to ostracize.

    Certain female body shapes are associated with mainstream definitions of sexual attractiveness and availability. We all know this. But, this should not lead to the shunning of women who choose to value those (their own) bodies. Female bodied people are not responsible for the sexual desire of those attracted to us. In other words, your hard-on is not my problem! By assuming that a woman who appreciates her shape is buying in to capitalist sexploitation, we are perpetuating the lies of the patriarchy. It is possible to have a healthy self image, an active sex life, revel in ones 'feminine' shape and not exploit yourself. If this seems unlikely to you, perhaps you should examine your own prejudices.

    Everyone has a right to be at peace in their own body. Shaming female bodied people for loving themselves has no place in a truly radical movement. There is nothing radical about shame.
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