The Shame Game And The #BodyLove Revolution: 5 Takeaways From The Body Love Panel Discussion At She Talks Asia Summit
Every woman has a love-hate relationship with her body. Many of us don’t realize it’s a very real relationship, and that like any intimate alliance, it needs nurturing, quality time, affirmation, cupcakes, and shoes. It’s not complicated.
We don’t tell our girlfriends, husbands, or boyfriends that their thighs are thunderous or that their post-surgery scars make them little Frankensteins. We don’t pepper our statements with but— that hateful conjunction—and tell them that they’re good-looking but fat. We know better than that. We leave them notes and affirmations, take them to the movies after a rough day at work and buy them cookbooks after they’ve read Kitchen 6 and want to be the next Anthony Bourdain. And yet, when it comes to the relationship we have with our bodies and with ourselves, we’re less magnanimous and kind.
The Body Love panelists (from left): Chely Esguerra, Iza Calzado, Adrianne Concepcion, Gwen Ruais, Kat Gumabao, and Rona Tai
Though several factors influence the way we see ourselves—and by extension, our bodies—our appraisals are heavily influenced by media. Young girls are especially susceptible to what they see in advertisements, billboards, and social media. These platforms promote the unattainable: the thin silhouette, the upturned nose, the white skin—the impossible standard against which girls measure themselves. As a woman who’s seen gorgeous women, like Liza Soberano, in countless billboards on the way to work, I constantly ask myself if I want some tortilla chips to go with the dip of my self-esteem; or why my longest relationship has been with dissatisfaction.
Iza Calzado dishes on her own journey to loving her body
The media is like that boyfriend who wants to change you so that you forget why he fell in love with you in the first place. It wants you to be perfect so that you can meet its parents; it plays on your insecurities so it can sell you lipstick, clothes, shoes, and weight loss programs. If you want to be loved, be lovable, it tells you, and somehow being lovable equates to being as flawless as a celebrity after their nth skin peel, butt lift, and tummy tuck. The media shames you into believing you’re not good enough and that you might never be.
The good news is that the narrative is changing.
In the recently-concluded She Talks Asia Summit, I sat in the Body Love panel moderated by the stunning Iza Calzado, who talked briefly about her intentional, everyday journey to loving her body.
Rona Tai brings the house down with hilarious anecdotes about being sexily plus-size.
The panel was composed of a stellar crew of women who struggled with their own body image issues—model Gwen Ruais, businesswoman and Amazing Race Asia runner-up Rona Tai, advocacy expert Chely Esguerra, plus-size model Kat Gumabao, and trans stylist Adrienne Concepcion. Each one looked flawless and easy as they sat on their chairs, waiting for their turn to speak. Ironically, they looked just as flawless and easy as they talked about their flaws and the difficult roads they took to arrive at body love.
This panel came hot on the heels of the recent controversy involving a local magazine that Instagrammed photoshopped images of Lili Reinhart and Camila Mendes. Reinhart and Mendes are the stars of Netflix hit Riverdale—or should I say, the woke, outspoken stars of Riverdale—who took to social media to slam the magazine for thinning out their waists.
Instead of letting media educate us, celebrities are now coming forward to educate media, and are fighting for non-celebrities like you and me. In small waves, these stars are teaching us to love our flaws because they love theirs.
Adrianne Concepcion looks pensive before her spiel on the challenges of being a trans woman.
Of the speakers—all of whom were compelling, funny, and wise—I was most intrigued by Adrianne Concepcion who told the crowd how difficult it was to be born into a body she couldn’t identify with, and how she learned how to be comfortable in her own skin through a series of small victories that added up. “Confidence isn’t the absence of insecurity,” she told the crowd, “It’s about transcending insecurity.” If someone who was born feeling imprisoned by her body can rise above its physical cage, surely we can break out of the cages of our own minds and love the very bodies we’re told by media and trolls not to love. If haters shame your body, these women make the case that body love shames your haters right back.
My favorite takeaway was a one-liner by Chely Esguerra that’s as much a challenge as a wish: ask yourself "What if I love myself today," and see how it gets you through it.
5 Takeaways from the Body Love Panel
1. Work out because you love your body, not because you hate it.
2. Self-love is a commitment you make everyday.
3. If you embrace yourself, you don’t need to compare yourself to anyone.
4. Don’t give people permission to make you feel bad about yourself.
5. Writing yourself affirmations goes a long way.
Photos courtesy of She Talks Asia