In this book, borne of her movement and website of the same name, Sonya Renee Taylor, an activist and poet, propels the argument that our society has constructed systems which have forced most of us to apologize for the bodies that we live in. Because we may not live in the body of the selected ideal of our time – whether because of our weight, our skin color, our ability, our gender identity, or any other identity – we are often made to feel less-than by the world around us, perpetuated by our own voices inside. And for this we feel shame, we shrink away, we deny ourselves experiences that might actually give us joy. In this book, Taylor seeks to provide the reader with tools to combat the external and internal pressures that we feel, in order to achieve “radical self-love,” that innocent, basic love for our bodies that we were all born with.
I think this is an important book to read, for anyone who has ever experienced discomfort in their body. And honestly – who hasn’t??? It is delivered honestly, compellingly, and with a sensitivity to anyone of any identity who might be reading the book. There is some sprinkling of her own journey, but she also derived quite a bit from others as well, which I appreciate.
I was particularly intrigued by the section on the “Body Shame Profit Complex” (LOVE this name) and actually wish there had been more on this. This refers to the advertising industry which has allied with all the other companies that make billions of dollars on our attempts to improve the defects we perceive in our bodies – everything from make up to anti-aging creams to the diet industry. Think about it – how much do you spend on these types of items each year? I know I contribute to this complex on a regular basis.
I think this book differs from others in that it is not trying to teach new behaviors, nor self-acceptance, but rather self-love — which is different. It hits deeper and is more sustainable if done properly and consistently and it also requires forgiveness and “grace” for the moments when you slip.
One soft criticism of the book that I have is that I believe it needed more vignettes, more stories about people to illustrate the concepts. There are so many important ideas that are proposed here, and I think they are easy to read through quickly and potentially gloss over. Occasionally, Taylor does provide examples of what she means to say with the use of narratives, such as that of a young girl who is taunted for the bald spots on her head. This is such a vivid image and becomes so starkly etched in the mind of the reader. I wish she’d done this more often, so that more arguments would be similarly strengthened.
I think it will take awhile for me to fully digest all of the ideas proposed here.
I’d love to hear from others who have read it!