Bella Mezzacapo photojournalist
What is “body positivity?” Body positivity is the assertion that all people deserve to have a positive body image, regardless of how society and pop culture view ideal size, shape, and appearance. This seems inherently good and, well, positive, right? One would assume so, but here’s what is wrong with the whole body positivity movement.
Body positivity has good potential, but it still focuses heavily on appearance. The body positive slogan “every body is a bikini body” is seemingly uplifting. However, it is truly objectifying and rather toxic. The term “bikini body” was first popularized in 1961 in weight-loss ad campaigns. So, why is a movement about being positive about your body, no matter its shape, based around a term that is associated with weight loss?
Despite the positive effect that the body positivity movement can and is meant to have, the movement is becoming more and more exclusionary and harmful. Some feel that the movement has become more about celebrating medium and smaller bodies and other feel that the movement has continually excluded marginalized bodies. On top of that, most influential body positive accounts and posts typically depict white women, 67% to be exact. What about other bodies? This leaves ethnic minority women and even men very under-represented.
Body positivity’s emphasis on loving your looks ultimately reinforces society’s annoying fixation on appearance. One study found that people who encounter body positive accounts, ads, programs, etc. actually experience increases in anxiety and dissatisfaction with their bodies. Although there is a positive spin on body positivity, the movement encourages people to work on their bodies and engage in beauty practices. What is body positive about that? This leads to self-objectification.
Self-objectification is when an individual views and treats themselves as an object and evaluates their self based upon appearance. If you catch yourself looking excessively at your reflection and nit-picking your appearance, taking selfies frequently and still being dissatisfied with the outcome, and comparing yourself to others, you are a victim of self-objectification. This is common in both men and women, and it happens because of the toxic body positivity movement.
Rather than practicing body positivity, we should be practicing body neutrality. Body neutrality is about neither loving nor hating your body but accepting and respecting it for what it is. This is a better approach because being positive is not always genuine or plausible. For some, it can be too big of a step to take.
Body neutrality removes the pressure one may feel to love their body when they truly may not and rather helps one accept their body and appreciate it for what it does for them. For example, lots of people are insecure about stretch marks, so, instead of forcing a person to love them when they truly don’t, body neutrality helps the person realize that their body sustains them and keeps them alive.
Overall, body positivity is toxic and should be rid of. Instead, we should practice body neutrality, void unrealistic expectations, and start to appreciate ourselves as we are.