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Toxic Positivity, Toxic Acceptance (Part 2)

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Feb. 11, 2023

So last time, in Part 1 of this discussion of …sunnier villains or antagonists, we had left off talking about how toxic positivity is all about the toxic person's comfort. And that this need to impose a certain behavior, dogma, and/or approach to reality in their environment leads to toxic acceptance. I mentioned Fat Acceptance and Body Positivity as a prime example of this behavioral pattern.

Before we get into the weeds again though, let's set some things straight, so we're all on the same page on what I'm talking about and where I want to draw the attention with this discussion- by doing some clear cut setting of principles and definitions, if you like. Not for Fat Acceptance or Body Positivity, but for what should be considered universal decent, ethical, and upstanding behavior for ourselves and our fellow human beings:

Offering unsolicited opinions and advice about a person's appearance, from their body shape to their taste in clothing to their makeup and anything else, is wrong and obnoxious. It is presumtuous in that whoever offers such commentary presumes to know the receiver's circumstances, choices, and status. It disregards the very real risk of that commentary being hurtful, undermining, and against that person's wellbeing, mental or emotional, or even physical. It disregards the very real risk of drawing the person's attention to something they already are struggling with or ruining a source of personal gratification for that person.

To be specific, since I'm about to use the Body Positivity/Fat Acceptance movements as my main example, I'll draw the line here and say that attacking people because they're fat/obese/morbidly obese by minimizing their existence just to the condition of their bodies, effectively denying them recognition of their personality just because they happen to be fat is also severely toxic. It's just another type of toxicity, ranging from that fancy ‘I call it what I see it’ toxicity to the ‘tough love’ toxicity that I'm not focusing on today (but I can discuss those if you'd like me to in a part 3! Let me know in the comments).

So no, when a person that happens to be fat goes to the beach, they have a right to wear a frigging bikini if they want to without harrassment or obnoxious staring or commentary about how they shouldn't have. They have a right to go out and eat at restaurants, without feeling like their menu choices will be scrutinized (nobody goes to a restaurant to diet, come on). And so on.

I hope I've been clear on that. Same goes for everything else regarding appearance, from things we have no choice about to things we have choice about, provided we don't hurt anyone else with our behavior. And no, not conforming to someone else's aesthetics doesn't qualify as harming that someone else. Tough luck.

So, that said, let's get into the weeds.

Originally, Body Positivity was a movement of non-toxic acceptance. It was basically just the tenet of accepting people without quid pro quos, more or less how I've already said we should behave to our fellow people anyway: accept people with their physical flaws, celebrate them for existing, and seek the beauty in each individual without seeking to change them in order to accept them. That included fat people, as was right.

This isn't toxic. This promotes actual positivity. However, as is the case with many movements, good themes are bent out of shape when taken to extremes. And when I say extremes I don't mean “extremely fat” or “extremely skinny” or whatever. I mean “extremely rigid” in that comfort of a toxically positive bubble.

Body positivity is supposed to make people feel comfortable in their own skin, and that's good. It's supposed to tackle tough topics without traumatizing people or making them defensive. What it's not supposed to do is try to deny reality to preserve that comfort beyond the framework of standard human interaction. I'll give you an example:

Fat activist Virgie Tovar once had an entire tirade because at a party, a person that wasn't her asked for a smaller slice of cake. And Virgie was triggered, feeling that that person attacked her fatness by not having a standard slice of cake and eating it all. So her demand was for another person to eat more than they wanted so that she would feel comfortable and not fragile about her own choice to have a full slice of cake. She has a whole over the top diatribe on why it's obnoxious to just not want to eat the frigging cake, by having people re-enact her obnoxious projections of people asking for less cake. And no, none of this is feminist. She wouldn't know feminism if it sat on her.

That's toxic acceptance. Why? Because it demands imposition on someone else's behavior (that does no harm to others) in order for the person demanding it to feel “accepted” - i.e. comfortable in their own skin. Same goes for demands that scientific evidence from years of research that state obesity to be a risk factor for various health issues be summarily discarded and instead, the non-scientific assertion that obesity is healthy be promoted in the name of “acceptance”.

It's easy to spot if you reverse the grievance, and instead of having Vergie mock ladies asking for less cake, you have someone like Eugenia Cooney make an equally obnoxious video about fat ladies asking for double cake portions. Both versions are equally horrific and impose on other peoples' choices in order to force people to become like whoever is doing the imposition.

That is toxic acceptance. (And that video is mostly passive aggressive, but qualifies for ‘toxic positivity’ too)

Just as it is extremely toxic to walk up to a fat person and start listing health risks due to obesity, telling them to stop eating what they're eating, just as it is extremely toxic to dehumanize a person just because they happen to be fat, so it is extremely toxic to demand that reality be changed to fit a false narrative.

Like everything in life, boundaries are key in keeping toxicity away. Toxically positive people will demand toxic acceptance- anything that makes them even slightly uncomfortable (i.e. challenges the view they want to have of themselves and the world) is enough to set them into some kind of acting out until the threatening stimulus is eliminated.

And that is dangerous. That can cause physical, emotional, and psychological trauma. It's a building block for abuse and it's definitely a building block for cult-like behavior, especially when toxic acceptance circles demand full compliance with demands under pain of excommunication, as has happened with people who were shunned from the fat acceptance/body positivity movement just because they decided to lose weight or they decided to talk about the physical problems they have to deal with due to being obese.

So that can absolutely be your antagonist's or villain's M.O. (not the fat acceptance, the toxic positivity). They can be shiny, bubbly, toxically positive, and enforcing toxic acceptance of whatever weird reality they need in order for them to be king/queen/cream of the crop, leaders in society- their society.

Toxicity comes in ALL shapes and forms. All it takes is for a good tenet to be warped so that one person (or group of persons) can control the behavior of others in ways they otherwise wouldn't have had the right to.

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PaulEberhardt at 5:36AM, Feb. 13, 2023

I'm not exactly an underwear model myself, which is why I just try and focus on being entertaining instead. ;) In the context of toxic acceptance I always arrive at this question: Who is more stupid? Those who insist that there is just one way how everything should be and be done, because knowing more than this one way exceeds their mental limits, or those who think they have to butter them up to the point of believing it themselves? My antagonists tend to be people with a narrow-gauge one track minds like that, because they're the ones I most like to get back at in a small way. You see, whenever someone like them is in a position of power I have to suffer; they don't know much, but they all instinctively know that nobody is more dangerous to them than someone like me who can think outside of their little boxes, because we can make them drop their carefully constructed mask of competence even without actually wanting to.

InkyMoondrop at 9:13PM, Feb. 11, 2023

I liked this article. But imo the toxic behavior has less to do with their beliefs and more about the environment that enables it. I think it's a product of outrage culture. There are examples of people being outraged about something and it resulting in more good than harm, but people doesn't have to be right, if enough of them are outraged about it and stand together, it will affect the media and affect legislation. Which is why it's irrelevant to me how many people yell about something and how loud and angry they yell about it online. BTW, I am overweight, I find it unhealthy and I dislike it. But I know I wouldn't like myself enough even if I'd be thin (I'd need a complete transformation and possibly a lottery prize for that) and it kills my motivation to do anything about it. I'm giving my own fictional alter-ego in a new in-development comic project thicker thighs at least (can't fatten up the stomach area) and I don't dislike it at all.

Corruption at 4:20PM, Feb. 11, 2023

I think part of these toxic positivity groups is how they draw people in. People want to be accepted for how they are. That is normal. However, some people oppose these groups for different reasons, be it medical, or because they disagree with their views on different things, like being trans. These groups lash back saying that nothing is wrong with them, and that people should be more like them. They so wish to be accepted, not just as a fringe group but as normal, and deny anything that might be wrong, they consider other views that don't agree with theirs to be attacks on them and their group. I believe they are actually in denial of reality in some cases, because they can't accept it without destroying their self image and self worth.

TheJagged at 8:41AM, Feb. 11, 2023

@usedbooks "Epidemic of narcissism" is the most astute observation of the current generation i've heard. What can you expect from a generation where you're already paraded on TikTok while you're still in the womb?

TheJagged at 8:36AM, Feb. 11, 2023

But anyone who rags on you for being fat, and pretends doing it out of concerns for your health... they're liars. They don't give a shit about your health, cause then they would worry about your mental health before they concern themselves with your weight. Your fatness is an embarassement to them, that's all. I'd rather someone blatantly insult for being fat than reverse toxic positivity me by claiming health concerns. You don't know my suffering. Just fuck off, mind your own business. Pretty much the lesson on all this body positivity crap: Stop minding other people's business, bub.

TheJagged at 8:30AM, Feb. 11, 2023

Yeah there is no such thing as "fat positivity". Take it from a fat person, there ain't nothing positive about being fat. Nobody *wants* to be fat. Some of us just don't have the fucking mental fortitude to not be fat. Dieting sucks. Working out sucks. Food gets shoved in your face at every goddamn corner, junkfood gets promoted as if it was healthy cause there's artifical calcium or whatever in it. Imagine we did with cigarettes what we do with sugar? We call candy "breakfast cereal" and advertize it to our kids no less. Sugar is a fucking drug. Oh hey maybe i should start a heroine positivity campaign! Stop shaming junkies, they just have different life choices.

TheJagged at 8:17AM, Feb. 11, 2023

The only fat positivity mantra i follow is the mantra of Jack Black.

Tantz_Aerine at 6:43AM, Feb. 11, 2023

usedbooks: ABSOLUTELY correct. And unfortunately, people are often tempted to impose their will on others if they find some kind of behavioral lever to do it, pushing past what is a right into what is an abuse.

Tantz_Aerine at 6:41AM, Feb. 11, 2023

Marcorossi: that's quite well said. In my opinion, boundaries are the only way to resolve this. For example, you have a right to your preference of what most appeals to you in a female body shape. You can't and shouldn't be told to 'force-like' other types. Beyond that, you should also not cross the line and inform a person they're not attractive to you *without some contectual reason*. Like, if they're hitting on you, it's warranted to let them know you're not attracted to them, and they shouldn't cry "bigooooot" at you for it. If they're just existing, you wouldn't be. Just simple stuff people tend to forget.

usedbooks at 6:28AM, Feb. 11, 2023

I have seen people aggressively defensive over others wanting advice on changing something about themselves (makeup, hair, weight loss, weight gain, muscle building, etc.). "Love yourself or else!" Like, okay, you know you can love yourself and still want to change something? -- And it may have less than nothing to do with outside opinions. People wear makeup, work out, diet, etc. for reasons completely unrelated to attracting or pleasing romantic partners. A person's appearence choices can/should be entirely personal. I suspect some of the militantly "body positive" folks are projecting their personal trauma and unable to fathom that not everyone's choices are the result of peer pressure, family pressure, or societal norms. When you get down to it, we have an epidemic of narcissism. A bit of empathy works wonders.

marcorossi at 6:19AM, Feb. 11, 2023

But there is also another phenomenon: in private life it is common to give out hard judgements, for example that movie is stupid, that actress is vulgar etc., this happens because to live each of us will have a set of value that implicitly include negative values; but we usually do not tell it in the face of people; due to the internet a lot of people end up putting out private comments and opinions on the internet, which however is a public medium, there for all the world to see; on the one hand this can create a lot of clashes and acrimony, but on the other forbidding this kind of judgemental behaviour is also very controlling because in the end we can't be non judgemental, this implies not having personal opinions (for example I can't avoid having personal tastes about my favorite female body shapes). This is a big problem IMHO and I don't know how it will be resolved.

marcorossi at 6:17AM, Feb. 11, 2023

I think there are two separate issues. On the one hand, people usually want to be accepted in the sense of being loved and praised; for example if I draw a webcomic I'd like other people to tell me that i'ts good, that I'm an artist etc.; if I try to force other people (e.g. my partner or friends) to tell me that I'm a grat artist by using emotional blackmail this would be an exaple of what you call toxic positivity/acceptance.

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