Pulling this definition straight from Wikipedia, because why not? “Body positivity is a social movement rooted in the belief that all human beings should have a positive body image, while challenging the ways in which society presents and views the physical body. The movement advocates the acceptance of all bodies regardless of physical ability, size, gender, race or appearance. It encourages the end to body shame and media’s beauty standards.”
Body positivity was built around acceptance of all marginalized bodies amongst a world of the thin, white, and privileged. It was never about exuding self-love and confidence, but instead about representing bodies that are historically excluded and unrepresented within our society and main stream media, i.e.; fat bodies, disabled bodies, trans and gender-nonconforming bodies, and people of color.
The movement began in the 1960s during the feminism and fat acceptance movements and has since expanded. The new wave of body positivity emerged around 2012 with the help of Social Media, as women used these platforms to speak out against unrealistic beauty standards. While many of the most influential body-positive bloggers and Instagram influencers are still the women you started it all, i.e.; BIPOC, gender-nonconforming, disabled, fat bodies, if you searched #BodyPositivity on Instagram, I bet you wouldn’t be surprised to find many, many white and thin privileged bodies riding the wave.
Faces of the movement
Below are just a few of the names we should get familiar with, myself included. These are the powerful voices behind the movement that are fighting for acceptance of each and everybody.
Sonya Renee Taylor – This woman does it all, she is an author, poet, spoken word artist, speaker, humanitarian and social justice activist, educator, and the founder of The Body is Not An Apology, a movement committed to Radical Self Love and Body Empowerment. “We believe that discrimination, social inequality, and injustice are manifestations of our inability to make peace with the body, our own and others”.
Lindo Bacon – Dr. Lindo Bacon, is best known for, “shaping a culture of empathy, equity, and true belonging.” With strong roots in the Health At Every Size Community, Dr. Bacon is a genderqueer person who fosters community through public speaking and by writing about injustice and revolution. They have three best-selling books, but is best known for Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight.
Virgie Tovar – This woman is a powerhouse, she holds a Master’s degree in Sexuality Studies with a focus on body size, race and gender. She is an activist and an expert on weight discrimination and body image. She founded the podcast Rebel Eaters Club, is an author for Forbes Magazine, founder of Babecamp – an online course helping people break up with diet culture, she started the hashtag campaign #LoseHateNotWeight and followed that up with a TedX regarding the campaign.
The movement in it’s current form
So, as most movements go, many have jumped in and are helping push back against Diet Culture’s push for thinness. Strength is in numbers and this support and following have changed beauty standards everywhere, you will now see women mannequins with curves, poster models who are fat, black, and transgender. Things are happening!
Okay, great, we are getting somewhere! However, let us not brush aside how we are getting there. The bandwagon started when average weight white women began breaking standards as plus-size models. Although the movement has been around for some time and was being lead by marginalized women, it was these white voices that propelled the movement in the United States.
While the movement welcomes women of all sizes, the petite, white, able-bodied woman, who post selfies of her rolls to encourage others to stop shaming their bodies are the ones riding on the wave of movement. I am guilty of this, I wanted so badly to be a art of the movement because it was relevant to my own struggles with diet culture and body shaming. The harsh truth for myself and women like me, is that this movement was not made for us.
“By demanding inclusion from a movement for marginalized people when you’re a member of the privileged group, you’re asserting your social power over the marginalized.”Back Off, Thin People – Here’s Why Body Positivity Wasn’t Made for You
by Melissa A. Fabello, Cathy Bouris and Kaitlyn M. Forristal
How can we take part in the movement?
As women, in a society so afraid of fatness, we all have felt the pressures of dieting and have been encouraged to hate our bodies, even at societal’s accepting weight ranges. Don’t get me wrong, it is not a bad thing that thin, white women talk about body positivity on Social Media. Privileged bodies should be talking about it, as having privilege allows your voice to be heard. However, we need to be allies, in this movement, not the leaders.
“You can do your part not by preaching, judging, or portraying a perfect life on Instagram, but by being a living example of someone who loves themselves and lives in a way that reflects that outwardly.”Katie Willcox, a model, author, and founder of Healthy Is The New Skinny
Fatphobia still exists
People are afraid. They are afraid that if we push against diet culture and praise fat women, we are going to create an epidemic of fatness. That is exactly what Diet culture wants us to believe, that instead of uplifting people, we need to shame them into being thin and that this will solve the “problem” when instead it leads to worse health problems, particularly when it comes to mental health.
Breaking up with diets and the idea that the only way to be healthy is to achieve and maintain a certain weight. I wrote a blog on this movement, click here to read more.
A movement that encourages a safe space for people to be heard, supported, and loved. As our entire world is reflective of the relationship we have with self.
Body neutrality movement
Help steer away from self-hate without the pressure of having to love our bodies always, as that is not always achievable. Instead, it’s about working towards a place where we respect our bodies but don’t give too much energy to positive or negative thoughts about it.