We should celebrate our bodies

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We should celebrate our bodies

by Shayne Jones, Staff Writer

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I hold my stomach when I walk.  

Three fingers press tentatively into the supple flesh and hold it firm, as if it were about to run away. I hold my stomach when I walk because I can’t bear the sensation of the jiggling body fat that peeks over the waistband of my jeans, or the shame I feel when I tuck it back where it “belongs.” 

You know who are cool? The Spanish. The Spanish don’t hold their stomachs when they walk. The Spanish walk around with more than just their stomachs hanging out. I spent two months in Spain this summer with people who truly love their bodies and who love them without being told. 

 I have experienced a lot of things throughout my life as an American woman, but body positivity is not one of them. I was that toddler with a little extra chub, the tween with stubborn baby fat and the adult with a size 10 waistline, not a six. As much as progessive campaigns and motivational speakers urged me, I did not love my body. I was okay with it most days, on some, I was satisfied even, but love? Who actually loves their body? 

 The curse of social media is redundant and tired, analyzed more than a kid in therapy — who is probably there from over-exposure to social media — but it has a confusingly punctuated effect on Americans. Our culture feeds gluttonously on commercial perfection, insatiably yearning for its unfulfilling spoils. Entire industries benefit from our collective depression, and we’re okay with it. 

In Spain, women separate fashion from social relevance and fashion models from social idols. Cellulite is welcomed with each baguette. Lower bellies sag happily, plump with fresh Valencian sangria. Breasts are freed (God forbid) without being shamed or sexualized. Bodies, in their natural forms, are celebrated. 

I can’t remember the last time I celebrated my body. I don’t know that I ever have. 

 Body positivity as a concept makes sense, but it’s a lot harder to execute than it sounds. But I saw it in action during my trip, I could only describe it as breathtakingly beautiful. People genuinely adored the vessels in which they live. They adorn it with curve-flattering skirts and wedge heels, but they never hide it. 

I left Spain feeling a little bit chummy with the squishy rolls in my stomach. My wide thighs and broad shoulders give me swagger when I walk, and my full cheeks smile a little extra for me. I would be lying if I said that I was in complete harmony with my body, but a lot of the notes are starting to line up. 

We can be TED-talked, keynote-speakered and campaigned into loving our bodies, but let’s be honest —body positivity isn’t a campaign. Body positivity isn’t a trend, it’s not a hashtag, a meme or a viral tweet. It’s a deeply personal, emotional trek that we each take one step at a time, and each step is separate from the previous. 

 But hey, at least we’re walking, right?  

And we’re not holding our stomachs. 

Shayne Jones is a senior studying journalism. Follow her on Twitter @shaynejones.

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