Body Positivity: Like all things, we’ve made this toxic
Body Positivity is a term that has been around for many years, and has changed and developed with the intention of becoming more accepting of people. But it has also developed into a toxic mess, let me explain how.
The term Body Positivity refers to the assertion that everyone deserves to have a positive body image, regardless of how they are viewed by society and popular cultures standards. It also intends to dismantle judgement against people of color, all types of genders, and disabilities. This movement aims to challenge how society views the body, promote the acceptance of all bodies, help people build confidence in their appearance, and address unrealistic beauty standards. It also targets how social media contributes to us having a distorted view on how we see our bodies.
In the late 1960s, the Body Positivity movement started as the first fat acceptance movement. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) was established in 1969, with the intent of changing how people talk about weight and focusing on ending fat-shaming and discrimination against others based on their size or body weight.
With this movement evolving throughout the years, the term "Body Positivity" was created in 1996, and its current form began to emerge in 2012. At its start, this movement focused on challenging unrealistic feminine beauty standards, and as it grew, the original focus of the acceptance of weight changed to the message "all bodies are beautiful".
However, the term Body Positivity doesn't have a strict definition, meaning it can mean anything to anyone. This lack of a definition is what creates the majority of the confusion surrounding it today. Many think this movement promotes and glorifies obesity, which simply isn't true. Even the Fat Acceptance movement wasn't about glorifying obesity, it was about dismantling the harmful stereotypes and attitude towards bigger people. Even though it doesn't necessarily have a definition, Body Positivity is about enjoying the body you currently have in the state you're currently in, and not beating yourself up over natural changes such as aging or pregnancy.
While the Body Positivity movement has come a long way since the Fat Acceptance movement, it often feels like its original message has been lost in the amount of debate surrounding the topic. The intense focus on those who have bigger bodies has wiped out the goal of allowing people of different colors, races, and disabilities to feel worthy to view their bodies as good, it shuts out people with different body types. It was the result of being overly critical and having various discussions about this topic. What is truly terrible is that no one cared to take back that message for those who were overshadowed from the movement.
Body Positivity takes the toxic nature of beauty standards that are unrealistic and allows people to see standards that are more tangible and attainable, which is self-love.
The issue with that standard is that radical self-love and acceptance is extremely hard for many people, especially if it is forced upon them. With the amount of beauty standards present by the media at all times, this standard of constant self-love is unrealistic.
This movement is also still incredibly superficial. Despite the fact that it intends on dismantling the system surrounding beauty standards, it ends up contributing to them and strengthens the extremely toxic message that you should be beautiful.
Beauty is subjective and vain, and our society is incredibly obsessed with how people look, going as far as ignoring others negative traits simply because they are good-looking. In this society, beauty is considered a necessity to live a good life, and Body Positivity strengthens that message. It tells us that we need to love and convince ourselves that we are beautiful in order to be seen as worth of others.
That way of thinking is unrealistic and messed up, and it is where the term toxic Body Positivity starts, stemming off of toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is when someone focuses only on positive aspects of life while rejecting and dismissing all negative emotions, even though it is part of human nature. Covering up negative thinking with positive messages can be harmful, creating a lot of pressure and guilt to be always seen as happy with your body.
While Body Positivity has good intentions, it refuses to let others have bad days when they don't always like themselves, or partake in activities that would help someone feel better about themselves. In this movement, as soon as you are unhappy with yourself, you are labeled a hypocrite or giving into the patriarchy and beauty standards for wanting to improve. You become a terrible person. What is used with the intention of improving yourself is seen as going against the Body Positivity movement, and you get told you're not worthy of being part of that movement. Examples of this are Adele's weight loss, who came back and was critiqued and bashed for "submitting to beauty standards", and Rebel Wilson, who was shamed for losing weight.
Tess Holiday is an American plus-sized model, blogger, and makeup artist and labeled one of the most Influential people on social media by time magazine. She is an advocate for Body Positivity, but has said that she feels incredibly pressured to not let her fans down by taking care of herself and doing the bare minimum for her health. This further adds to the reality that the Body Positivity movement does not allow people to change because doing so will cut them off from the movement's love and support.
Body Positivity emphasizes one's appearance as one of the most essential elements of one's self-perception, while neglecting other equally important aspects of one's identity, making it a surface-level movement that isn't for everyone. Because of this bad reputation, there are celebrities and influencers going against this movement, and more towards Body Neutrality.
Body Neutrality promotes accepting your body as it is and recognizing its abilities and non-physical characteristics, stressing the lack of attachment to how your body looks. It's been around since 2015, and it takes a neutral perspective towards your body, meaning you don't have to force yourself to love it while still enjoying what it can do.
Body Neutrality aids in detaching your self-worth from how you perceive yourself, that how you look has no ties with your worth. This movement intends to stop making the body the determinant of self-worth and self-perception. It helps people focus on other parts of themselves, not just their body.
Body Positivity had good intentions and aims, but got corrupted, making people obsess over their appearance to the point where they forgot that there are other aspects of themselves.
Body Positivity and Body Neutrality can co-exist, it's not a matter of which is better than the other. They both have positive aspects that can be simultaneously practiced. Body Positivity promotes strong self-esteem, and it encourages others to love and care for their bodies, while Body Neutrality emphasizes on what your body can do and encourages mindfulness.