Encouraging radical self-love

Poet Sonya Renee Taylor gives pointers for body positivity.

Sonya Renee Taylor filled Anderson 112 with powerhouse poetry on the evening of Thursday, Mar. 1. The founder of The Body is Not an Apology (TBINAA), Taylor’s movement promoting body empowerment, combined the art of spoken word with steps toward better self-love in her presentation, Four Ways You Can Challenge Body Terrorism Today.

“Terror is defined as intense, sharp, overmastering fear,” Taylor said. “Terrorism is the inflicting of such fear on an individual or group.”

 Taylor sees body terrorism in full force in society through current and past violence propagated against marginalized groups, as well as the constant media bombardment of toxic ideals of beauty.

“Ask yourself, whose agenda is your self-hate?” Taylor told the audience. “You didn’t come here hating yourself- you’ve never seen a self-hating two-year-old. Those are messages that other people give us about our bodies.”

Taylor first launched The Body is Not an Apology in 2011 somewhat unintentionally, through Facebook. She had been debating whether or not to post a photo of herself wearing a corset in which she felt confident. Her self-doubt, however, came from the idea that as a 230-pound black woman, she might not fit the media’s rigid definition of beauty. Taylor recounted that seeing an image of a confident-looking plus-size model ultimately helped her make the decision to post the photo.

“Someone else’s unapologeticness… spurred my ability to be unapologetic,” Taylor said.

When Taylor checked Facebook the next morning, she realized a movement had  spawned.

“About 30 other people had tagged me in photos [in which they felt confident],” she said.

So TBINAA was born. The movement has only grown in the last seven years. It now publishes articles relating to body positivity, social justice and mental health, and boasts its own social network, which members can use to share their stories and affirm those of others. Its leadership circle consists of 32 people in three countries.

Taylor’s four ways of challenging body terrorism are: 1. SMIILE. The acronym stands for Show Minimal Interest In Loving Everyone. 2. Come Alive. 3. Banish the Binary. 4. Forgive Yourself. Mixed with her tips were original spoken word poems such as “Delighted” and “Evolve”.

“When New Year’s comes, and we’re back in the gym, we do it for three weeks, and then don’t do it anymore,” Taylor said. “But we can absolutely practice being kinder, gentler human beings to ourselves and others.”

Sophomore Alayna Baggenstoss was grateful for the information explored in the presentation.

“I’ve struggled with a few of the issues that she covered and she made me feel like I had the power again,” Baggenstoss said. “She’s given me back what was rightfully mine in the first place and I wish I could thank her for that.”

Taylor concluded her speech by performing TBINAA’s titular poem.

“The body is not an apology,” she asserted. “Let it not be common as oil, ash or toilet. Let it not be small as gravel, stain or teeth.”