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Best Bums Week: let’s talk body positivity

Beauty beyond booty

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It's Bums Week! We've all got one, and we should all appreciate them, regardless of how they differ from what society seems to have in its head as the image of the Perfect Bum.

That's the thing about body positivity – it does away with this silly idea that there is one perfect kind of bum, and all the weird guilt that comes with it.

There's a false narrative that people who don't have society's idea of a perfect body shape just haven't… worked hard enough for it?

We're told that if we worked harder, we could get rid of our cellulite (nope, that's genetic, and people of all sizes have it), or hip dips (again, surprise, genetic) or that it's humanly possible to always have a totally flat stomach (hello, bloating).

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It's always "the" body, "the" look – singular.

The question is, how do we become body-positive while also striving to better ourselves? Some people have criticised the body-posi movement for sanctioning morbid obesity and implying it's equally valid to be in shape or out of shape.

But it is utter bullshit to imply that truly body-positive people don't need to care about their health, or that they are somehow above the desire to look good and that people who do want to look good are unutterably vain.

Body positivity is not about eliminating aesthetics, it's both about expanding aesthetics into waaay more definitions of beauty, and about emphasising that you have the right to be respected, valued and happy, regardless of how your body looks.

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We are here to get shit done (such as degrees, for instance). And anxiety about how we look steals our time and confidence.

I used to think I needed to be petite to be pretty. Not just in the sense of 'thin', but also small, delicate. But that’s never going to happen – I have pretty broad shoulders and muscular legs. So I've been trying to work with the body I have, to make it better and more capable.

I’ve been weightlifting for about four months now and I’m so much stronger and more toned than I used to be. I'm happy with my body (most of the time), but I'm also excited by the prospect of it improving, aesthetically and functionally. I just have a less limited definition of 'looking good' now. 

I think a lot of people get confused about what body positivity actually is. There's a distinction between 'I love my body, I'm happy in it, everyone deserves to be happy in their body' and 'my body is perfect and should not be changed ever'. Wanting to work to change your body is not against body positivity.

I want to be fitter and stronger, and I want to look that way too. But body positivity means that all bodies are valid and valuable, and everyone deserves to be happy in their body. Health and aesthetic goals are both important. But they are completely separate from the right to love yourself and be respected by others.

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Goal: be less of a mess than my bed

I've also had bums on the brain this week because of weightlifting. I love following fitness people on Instagram, but I've noticed they're sometimes getting very singular about aesthetics – Grow the Booty (insert peach emoji) is HUGE in young women's fitness right now. The tracts of Instagram are covered in young, white, middle-class, female lifters jutting out their bums and doing endless donkey kicks.

More worryingly, the prized Giant Peach is taken in implausible isolation. If you do lots of glute exercises, you'll likely grow your thigh muscles as well, but because big thighs aren't as 'in', swathes of advice are available about how to improve your glutes without getting any extra strength/muscle in your thighs. The pressure to keep your legs small can make you feel like gaining leg muscle – which is bloody hard – means you're doing something wrong!

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Follow this plan and you too can be this psychotically happy!

Do I think everyone should be allowed to have whatever aesthetic (or, dear God, ass-thetic) goals they want? Absolutely! But it's not body-positive to talk about one particular type of body like it's the body Everyone Should Want and Everyone Should Be Aiming For.

We need diversified role models, diversified goals, and most of all, the consistent message that there are so many kinds of beauty, and that in many spheres of life, beauty shouldn't factor in at all (if you're like me and tend to prioritise nap time over mascara).

Treat your body well, if only because it means you're treating you well. And appreciate the bum you're in. You've got one, after all. Some people don't. Presumably. And they probably find sitting really uncomfortable.

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Go forth. Conquer. Ass-ert dominance.