If you use social media, you’ve probably across the body positivity movement (BOPO).
The message is simple:
All bodies are beautiful and you should always practice self-appreciation and self-love. Beauty standards and society’s definition of “normal” are unrealistic, and who you are as a person is far more important than external features.
Sounds pretty good, right?
Alas, humans have a knack for ruining a good thing, and controversy surrounding BOPO has arisen.
Let’s kick this post off with a little history.
First things first, the “ideal” body has changed dramatically throughout history. Below is a handy dandy video, or click HERE for the written article as well as HERE for another source (because we always check out more than one source folks!) The 1920s Flapper movement kicked off the western world’s desire for a slim physique, and there are no surprises that the BOPO movement soon followed.
The when, wheres and hows surrounding the origins of body positivity movement are a bit fuzzy. It’s not surprising that such a movement would begin independently in multiple different places. After quite some time sifting through Google, I came across THIS article by Tigress Osborn, chair of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) that seems like the most official source.
Osborn explains that the body positivity movement began taking form in the late 60s and early 70s. On the east coast, Bill Fabrey started the NAAFA because he was tired of everyone making fun of his fat wife. On the west coast, feminists created Fat Underground and developed a Fat Manifesto that demanded “equal rights for fat people in all areas of life.” Fat activism and fat liberation grew, and was spearheaded by Black women, who faced particular discrimination and hate.
The movement has grown, twisted, and morphed with the rise of social media. While some women certainly use it to to promote a positive message, there’s no denying the fact that it is also a wonderful way to get those ever coveted likes and follows.
The latest trend that dominates my feed goes as followed:
“Bodies that look like this, also look like this.”
Photo one is posed to perfection with great lighting and flattering attire. That person’s body looks great! Slim waist, defined abs, strong arms, great booty. You know, the “ideal” body.
Photo two strips away the magic of good photography and high waisted leggings, highlighting a few stomach rolls and plenty of cellulite. You know, the “normal” body.
On the surface, this #trend seems empowering. It exposes how people use a few smart tools to project a specific image of themselves that is designed for Instagram, yet far from reality. It’s totally okay and totally normal to not have a perfect body! Whew!
The trend empowers some women, but it alienates others. Desperately trying to project a “normal” body suggests that society has decided what a “normal” body means. Watching skinny girls contort themselves to generate physical imperfections is a slap in the face to those who just simply have rolls and cellulite, posed and unposed; “this isn’t for you” is a common response.
In fact, there’s a strong argument that a movement designed for black women (which is debatable, as mentioned earlier) has been hijacked by white feminism. See the below article for an enlightening read on it.
Body “positivity” has spiraled out of control into something negative.
Every single body shape is examined under a microscope and all sides of the BMI spectrum get heaps of criticism and smack talk. Skinny women feel undesirable for not having curves, overweight women feel like outcasts for being voluptuous, and you can’t even be anywhere in between without someone having something to say.
Here’s the issue:
Body positivity is inherently negative.
Whenever the conversation is about external appearances, you will inevitably think about your own body and subconsciously (or consciously) assign value to physical attributes: “good”, “bad”, “normal”, “different”, “beautiful”, “ugly.” It’s impossible not to compare yourself to the images scrolling by, and this is not a productive, fulfilling, or gratifying use of time.
It’s time to flip the script and move any and all conversations away from the outside and towards the inside, with a focus on being physically and mentally healthy—>
body positive to self positive.
If you truly love yourself, you will in turn love your body.
Let’s talk about being able to go on a 3 mile hike with friends, getting strong enough to lug a suitcase up five flights of stairs without asking for help, and making healthy choices now to lower our risk of getting heart disease in the future. Let’s talk about finding confidence, becoming a leader, learning a new skill, and having an exciting revelation.
Let’s shift #trends away from anything to do with what size pants we wear and towards personal growth and being physically healthy. Toned, curvy, thin, chunky, beautiful, and ugly are all wildly yawn inducing adjectives that mean nothing. What about using kind, generous, hardworking, quirky, low-cholesterol, pain free, energized, and confident instead?
Instead of posting a photo and saying, “I love my body #BOPO”, you can post that exact same photo with a healthier intentions highlighting any of the accomplishments listed in the two paragraphs above.
Here’s the thing, we should celebrate the human body! It’s pretty freakin’ incredible! But we can celebrate what it does, not what it looks like.
There’s one problem with this…
Revealing what’s on the inside is incredibly vulnerable and scary.
It’s much easier to throw on a bikini and talk about “body positivity” than to make healthy lifestyle choices and to be introspective. When the expertly crafted projected image of yourself gets criticized, it’s fine, that’s not the real you. But when you put your true, authentic self on display, there’s a chance people won’t like what they see.
But you know what? If they don’t like what they see, you don’t need them.
It’s time to shift our values and ideals away from superficial characteristics and towards what really matters: you.