Any time I come across a friend or stranger's selfie on social media, my initial reaction is usually something along the lines of, “Wow, I love that color on her,”or “That eyeshadow really makes her eyes pop.” I can honestly say I've never once looked at a self-portrait and thought to myself, “That's so brave.” The word "brave" is apparently being used to describe body-positive selfies, specifically those of curvier women, and 25-year-old Instagrammer Clare of the @becomingbodypositive account is not here for it.
First of all, let's get specific on what the word "brave" actually means. As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means “having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty.”
Why is it considered courageous to accept, love, and unapologetically exist as your true self?
Clare wrote to her followers,
There's an implicit assumption that comments like 'you're so brave!' are supposed to be received as a gesture of praise – a regard for courage, an admiration of bold spirit. For firefighters running into burning buildings, I get this. For people who pack up and leave abusive relationships, this seems appropriate. But for existing? For just presenting myself as I live in the body that I have? What kind of message does it send when the word 'bravery' is autographed across visual exposures of 'unconventional' bodies? This is where my ambivalence sets in.
Women of all shapes and sizes deserve to feel comfortable posting a selfie.
Women with curves are beautiful, and they deserve to be feel beautiful, just as much as the next person. And if the only positive reinforcement a woman receives from posting a raw and unfiltered photo of her body is that it somehow symbolizes "bravery," it only makes it that much harder for everyone to see the genuine beauty in curvy bodies, rather than perceiving the exposure of their bodies as an act of courage.
Clare explained in her Instagram post,
At what point do we stop complimenting fat bodies for their 'bravery' and start PROTESTING the reality that we NEED bravery in order to validate our existence at all? In many ways, telling a fat person they're 'brave' just reinforces how much f*cking LABOR fat people need to undertake simply to receive respect in this world. When will fat people be able to stop being brave, stop NEEDING courage to survive, stop DARING to live and depleting our mental energies on the toll 'being brave' requires?
Clare makes a good point, and it's not the first time someone has called attention to the use of the word "brave" in this context.
In her Netflix comedy special “The Leather Special 2017,” Amy Schumer touched on the fact that "brave" is probably the last thing a woman wants to be called when publicly exposing her body. Though the topic of conversation was executed in jest, every joke has a little truth behind it.
Schumer used the anecdote as the show's opener, telling audience members,
So I tweet out this photo of myself, OK? I'm holding coffee, I'm topless in just underwear, and it goes viral. Like, it was everywhere. On every news show, every website, and that's when I learned the word you don't want people to use when a naked photo of you goes viral: brave.
For the record, you don't have to post photos of your naked body to be body-positive. From uploading a close-up of a toothy smile to baring it all in a bikini, being body-positive simply means you are proud of the skin you're in, and confident enough to show it off.
To love yourself is brave -- to share that is necessary.