I just listened to the latest Made of Human podcast by comedian Sofie Hagen in which she chats to Megan Jayne Crabbe aka BodiPosiPanda about diet culture, body positivity, privilege and much more. The episode was fantastic, so funny but also informative. I learned a lot about my own privilege and ‘health at every size’. These topics are covered in Megan’s book Body Positive Power which I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I searched on my local library’s online catalogue and found no trace of it. I tried just ‘body positivity’ as a search…still no results. I tried feminism and found mostly academic texts. I even tried anorexia and found some self-help guides, academic texts and biographies that looked pretty depressing. Whilst Megan explains her eating disordered past she focuses very much on the positives in the now and encouraging others to accept themselves. I tried other titles I knew to be about body positivity and found two books. I thought I’d try a little experiment and typed in ‘diet’. There were 1083 results. I had been expecting some diet books but over a thousand?!
This is when I got a little angry. The library is a public service providing free education. I looked at the library first for Megan’s book because I’m currently unemployed due to illness and so trying to save the pennies (and no, I’m not ill enough for welfare benefits nor well enough for Jobseekers Allowance…but that’s another rant for another day). I spent a lot of time in the library as a teenager and some of that time was definitely spent looking at diet books to help me lose weight. If the library had more body positivity books on its shelves and a fewer diet books I wonder if that experience would have been different for me. Diet culture is everywhere we look because it makes people money. It’s on billboards, on the covers of magazines, on the TV, on social media. Diet culture has created the myth that it is shameful to look like anything other than ‘slim and toned’. We can’t escape it in these profit making zones but it would be nice to escape it in the public education service of the library. By providing so many diet books and so few body positivity books the library is perpetuating diet culture.
There is so much more to be said on the pervasiveness of diet culture and body shaming and on the media’s obsession with obesity and glorification of disordered eating but I’ll leave it here for today.
I would like to say that in the library’s defence when I went to the doctor as an 18 year old with anorexia they offered me a self-help book on prescription from the library. Therapy would have been better but with that book and the help of a paid-for counsellor I was able to start my recovery.
BodiPosiPanda: http://www.bodyposipanda.com/ some great early blog posts still on there but more recent ones in her advice column: https://www.the-unedit.com/posts/?tag=Ask+Bodyposipanda