By Shauna Coen
It's not uncommon to hear people who show their ‘imperfect’ bodies called brave.
It’s great when people share posts and photos about loving their body. It’s great that they may inspire others to grasp and understand body positivity and it certainly shows some diversity to what we typically see on Instagram and magazine covers. But we shouldn’t call women ‘brave’ for simply having a certain type of body.
Too often, women who show off their bodies that match society's idea of conventional beauty are called ‘gorgeous’ while women put their supposedly ‘flawed’ bodies on display are commended for their bravery.
As if revealing your stretch marks, cellulite or tummy roles in public makes you a superhero.
Having suffered from eczema since a young age, I was always conscious of my skin. I struggled to find a magic potion that would soothe my rough, red and patchy textured skin.
Often, the only solution to stopping the itch was steroid cream. Years of slathering the creams on the backs of my knees had resulted in stretch marks developing in those areas.
For me, it was a small price to pay for the relief of constant discomfort. They are now a vital piece of what makes me, me, and more often than not, I forget they're even there.
However, on one sunny day last summer, I decided to wear a short summer dress -tight and restrictive clothing aggravates my eczema, not that it matters what I was wearing- when a friend pointed out my marks and commended me for showing them off.
‘Fair play to you for not covering them up,’ she said. ‘I'd never be as brave as you are,’ she added. I was lost for words. Why would I consider hiding them? Or am I supposed to take that as a compliment?
I don’t blame her for thinking it. I blame society.
The reason people see this as bravery is because we perceive showing flaws, be it fat, a scar, whatever, as having some potential for social failure.
While fat and stretch marks are completely normal for women, it's something we don't always see shown off, particularly on social media.
We as a society have developed this notion that there's one certain way to look and that you have to look a certain way to be deemed ‘beautiful’.
Therefore, we think other bodies that don’t fit into that narrow perceived image of beauty are ‘imperfect.’ This has made showing off bodies not perceived as normal as some radical act, when it's actually just natural and we’re just human.
You don’t tell a catwalk model that they’re ‘so brave’ for displaying their bodies on runways and for photo shoots. And besides, comments like these are rather insulting to the women who are really displaying bravery in life.
There are people who are firefighters, risking their lives every day, there are people fighting cancer, fighting for rights for minority groups despite risking their own lives by doing so – they are acts of bravery.
Posting a photo without makeup on or a picture in a bikini isn’t. If the only positive feedback a woman receives from posting an untouched photo of her body is that it somehow represents ‘bravery’, it only makes it that bit more difficult for every person, be it, man or woman, to see the real beauty in any body type.
If we can’t change this then society will not stop perceiving the exposure of ‘imperfect’ bodies as an act of courage.
There is no reason loving our bodies exactly as they are should be seen as brave or radical. It should be the norm.