As someone deeply invested in social justice, I am hyper-conscious of how self-love fits in the larger discussion of injustice. What is the purpose of self-love or body love in relation to police violence, sexual assault for all genders, trans and homophobia, people living with disabilities, or people whose aesthetics don’t fit society’s trend of the moment? Is my message of self-love and self-compassion making it safer for marginalized people to live authentically without risking violence or social isolation?
What does it mean to a transgender person love themselves when the very act of self-love through dressing as they wish or undergoing surgery to have the body they know they were meant to have, results in violence against them? According to the Advocate, 11 transgender women have been killed this year as of July 27th 2015, not counting those who endure violence and live to tell it.
What does it mean to a black woman love herself when she has to endure police brutality, cope with the racism and sexism that devalue black women’s bodies, or walk into a casting call for Straight out of Compton (info courtesy of Huffington Post) that reads,
A GIRLS: These are the hottest of the hottest. Models. MUST have real hair – no extensions, very classy looking, great bodies. You can be black, white, asian, hispanic, mid eastern, or mixed race too. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@subject line should read: A GIRLS
B GIRLS: These are fine girls, long natural hair, really nice bodies. Small waists, nice hips. You should be light-skinned. Beyonce is a prototype here. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@subject line should read: B GIRLS
C GIRLS: These are African American girls, medium to light skinned with a weave. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@subject line should read: C GIRLS
D GIRLS: These are African American girls. Poor, not in good shape. Medium to dark skin tone. Character types. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@subject line should read: D GIRLS
What does it mean for a man to love himself when discussions of self-esteem in regards to weight or sexual assault are often met with ridicule or questioning his masculinity, or when regardless of age, social status or education level, black men continue to fall under police brutality?
What is self-love without the safe space to explore its possibilities?
Meet two women, Harnaam Kaur and Kore Bobisuthi who both have a condition which causes them to grow thick facial hair. Kore spent many years shaving her facial hair but eventually grew tired of it so she made the decision to let her facial be and embrace her body as it is. While this would be the part where we’d cheer her on for having the courage to accept her body, this very act of self-love caused her to face constant street harassment. A man once yelled at her and started following her down the street and she had to hide in a store.
Harnaam also got her share of abuse so much that she would no longer leave her house, began to self harm, and at one point considered suicide. Though today she is happy with her body as it is, it was never her lack of self-love that invited the vitriol and harassment she experienced. What is the use of self-love here, if it means enduring violence?
We have to be willing to ask ourselves these questions.
What is self-love without Safety? What is self-love without accountability? What is self-love without inclusiveness? What is self-love if it is costing someone their life? What are we doing to create and nurture a space that makes it easier and acceptable for people find that self-love we so loudly preach?
We cannot tell anyone to love themselves if we are not willing to address the circumstances that breed the self-loathing, make it harder for people to find that love, or punish, harass, push to suicide, or murder the people who already love themselves.
Self-love should come with being able to walk the street without risking harassment, violence or murder
Self-love would be easier if we have personal trainers or yoga teachers who welcome and know how to work with curvier bodies
Self-love should come with a culture that does not silence or ridicule sexual assault victims regardless of gender
Self-love would be easier if we are aware of the ways in which society doesn’t provide accessibility to people living with disabilities
Self-love should come with having the respect of others regardless of whether or not one fits your idea of respectability.
I plead with you to ponder on the ways in which we hinder our own as well as other people’s quest to self-love and self compassion. Because I truly honestly believe that self-love is community responsibility. Let’s always be willing to ask, how do I make it easier for you to love yourself?
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.