First off, let me be clear – I am all for the body positivity movement. I am a feminist and I have a body – there’s no way I could be against it. How could I not support a movement that aims to lift people of all sizes into the spotlight and show that not only proportionate size 6 blondes are beautiful? I think it’s wonderful that social media has given people a platform to show off the fact that beauty doesn’t have to come in the narrowly prescribed ideal.
I have a lot of privileges: I’m white, I’m young, I’m able-bodied, I’m middle-class, I’m fairly average size-wise. In most ways, I see myself represented all around. The body positivity movement faces criticism for not including more people outside of these categories – for example, disabled people are constantly left out of these conversations. I can’t speak for them (though here is a good article on that subject) but I can speak about my own experience of something I feel that body positivity is ignoring.
People see pimples and either assume hormonal teenager or unhealthy. Someone who eats too much chocolate and drinks too much soda. Someone who doesn’t wash their face properly. Someone who doesn’t take care of themselves.
Like most people, I had acne as a teenager. And when I left puberty behind, my skin cleared up. Aha, I thought, I’ve finally grown out of it! Which, sadly, was not the case. I was blessed with a couple of years of calm skin, only to have my hormones freak out on me at age 20 for no discernible reason. It is incredibly frustrating thinking you’ve outgrown acne, only to have it rear its head again as an adult. Now, at age 23, it’s calming down again, but I’m still left with scars and hyperpigmentation that make my bare face far from clear.
I see body positivity videos and articles proclaiming titles like I finally feel good at my size – and you can too! And I am truly so happy that they exist, and that the authors found beauty in themselves. But it’s hard to take the message that I too can overcome my insecurities when I cannot think of single example of a person with acne portrayed positively. Having a pimple is either a punchline or plot device in tv shows. Characters with acne are coded as ugly in novels. The only people who get any kind of public acknowledge of having acne seem to be YouTubers who offer tutorials on how to cover it up. I’m not saying that those tutorials are bad (totally the opposite, I love me a beauty guru who gets my skin). All I’m saying is that it’s hard to feel comfortable – let alone beautiful – when society tells me my skin is ugly. If flawless skin is smooth and even, I am flawed.
Maybe it’s selfish of me to want more space for myself in a movement, because it’s obvious that society has already carved out plenty of spaces for me to exist in. But I still don’t think that there is a space for this particular part of my identity – my acne and my scars – to exist openly. I want to feel like it’s okay to have skin that doesn’t look perfectly airbrushed. I want a world that doesn’t tell us there is only one way to be beautiful.
*In case anyone is wondering – I am not unhealthy. I promise you that I take excellent care of my health and body. This is just how my skin is. I really don’t want any recommendations for what I could be doing, because that’s not the point of this post and honestly, I’ve probably already tried it and it didn’t work.