From TV to magazines to the Internet, we’re constantly bombarded with images of the “perfect” body. It’s no wonder that for so many of us, our bodies feel lacking or unworthy. If only I could just lose a little weight, we tell ourselves. If only I could look like that person. It’s a thought that has, sadly, become a daily mantra for millions of us.
Thankfully, Sonya Renee Taylor is trying to change that narrative. Author of the new self-help book, The Body is Not an Apology, Taylor has spent years examining how we relate to our bodies. And she’s here to tell you: it’s time for a little radical self-love.
Through both her book and her website of the same name, Taylor promotes the idea that all bodies are worthy, that all bodies are important and that we need to start rewiring our relationship with how we view our own. She started her mission back in 2011, and since then The Body is Not an Apology has become a school of thought, a website, and as of February 13th, a book that breaks down exactly what Taylor means by radical self-love and how you can (and should!) achieve it for yourself. She dives into the politics around bodies, the way we’re conditioned to think negatively about ourselves, and how to start to break out of those modes.
Taylor’s mission isn’t solely about weight either – the book touches on race, age, ableism, etc. It’s a multi-dimensional approach that’s visible on her website as well, with different articles broken down into sections like “Gender,” “Aging,” “Rad Parenting,” and any other ways that our bodies are governed or expected to fit into arbitrary models.
Taylor herself is a poet, a writer, and an activist who has long been fighting for women’s rights and body positivity. We recently had a chance to chat with her about her book and her radical self-love project in general. It was an all around inspiring experience, and rest assured when we tell you that this is a book that will fundamentally change the way you think about body politics.
Check out our interview with Taylor, and be sure to sign up below for a chance to win your very own copy of The Body is Not an Apology:
Booktrib: The Body is Not an Apology is so much more than just a book. What inspired you to start the project in the first place?
Sonya Renee Taylor: TBINAA started as a conversation with a disabled friend who feared she might have an unintended pregnancy. She shared that she did not use condoms with her casual sexual partner because her disability made it difficult for her to be sexual and she did not feel entitled to ask about condoms. My impulse response was, “Your body is not an apology. It is not something you offer up to say sorry for my disability.” I am a poet and I knew the words felt like they wanted to become a poem so I wrote one called, “The Body is Not An Apology.”
About six months after writing the poem, I had a selfie I had been hiding in my phone. Despite feeling beautiful and powerful in my body I was afraid of the judgment others might pass on the photo. On February 9th, 2011, I chose to post the photo on Facebook and encouraged others to post photos where they felt empowered in their bodies. The next morning 30 or so folks tagged me in their own empowered pictures. I decided to start a Facebook page where we might celebrate ourselves unapologetically. I named it after my poem. That was the beginning of seven years of working at the intersection of radical self love and social justice.
BookTrib: Your mission is centered around this idea of radical self-love. Can you talk more about what that is and how you define it?
SRT: Radical self-love is unobstructed access to our inherent sense of worthiness and enoughness in the bodies and lives we have today. Radical self-love is how we arrived to the planet and we have been separated from this inherent sense self as a function of oppression, violence, media, and power.
BookTrib: The book talks a lot about the ways our private bodies become political. Why is it so important to have this conversation on a cultural or social level and not just an individual one?
SRT: We are not separated from our radical self-love because we can’t get our self-esteem together. We are separated because we are living in social, political, and economic systems that profit off of our self-hate and our indoctrination into a system of body-based oppression. Racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, homo and transphobia are about bodies. They are about which bodies our society says are valuable and which are not. How we have internalized these messages about our own bodies and about the bodies of others uphold systems of body hierarchy and further oppression in our society. How we think about ALL bodies has an impact on the access, opportunities, and experiences of ALL bodies.
BookTrib: How do you see this book – and this project – fitting into the current body positivity movement? Do you think there are limitations to the rise of plus size models and brand awareness that we’re seeing lately in the media or is it a step in the right direction?
SRT: I think “body positivity” fits under the larger work of body positivity but is far more expansive, political, and radical than anything we are currently describing as body positivity. I think representation matters, seeing ourselves in media impacts what we envision as possible for our own bodies but unto itself, it is not enough. Companies exist to sell you things and make LOTS of money. They are not here to disrupt the power structures of society. As soon as you see Special K cereal, a brand notorious for peddling diet culture messages, begin touting “body positivity” you can be assured the body positivity message has been corporatized and co-opted. I believe we must keep asking ourselves, what bodies are still not being treated positively? The answers to that question are the current ceilings of body positivity.
BookTrib: As you say in the book, radical self-love sounds simple, but it can be difficult to actually practice. What advice do you have for readers who are struggling to love their bodies?
SRT: Buy this book. Find a community of folks working to return to love. The Body is Not an Apology just happens to have both!
The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love is now available for purchase. For more information on the author, visit her website at www.sonyareneetaylor.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sonya Renee Taylor is the Founder and Radical Executive Officer of The Body is Not An Apology, a digital media and education company committed to radical self-love and body empowerment as the foundational tool for social justice and global transformation. TBINAA.com reaches over 1 million people each month in 140 countries with their articles and content focused on the intersection of bodies, personal transformation and social justice. Sonya is also an International award winning Performance Poet, activist, speaker, and transformational leader whose work continues to have global reach. She has appeared across the US, New Zealand, Australia, England, Scotland, Sweden, Germany, Brazil, Canada and the Netherlands. Sonya and her work has been seen, heard and read on HBO, BET, MTV, TV One, NPR, PBS, CNN, Oxygen Network, The New York Times, New York Magazine, MSNBC.com, Today.com, Huffington Post, Vogue Australia, Shape.com, Ms. Magazine and many more. In 2016 she was invited by the Obama White House to speak on the intersection of LGBTQIAA and Disability issues. She has shared stages with such luminaries as Carrie Mae Weems, Theaster Gates, Harry Belafonte, Dr. Cornell West, Hilary Rodham Clinton, the late Amiri Baraka and numerous others.