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Mental Health

Should we adopt Body Neutrality rather than Body Positivity?

The body positivity movement has recently infected the mainstream media. This forward looking and optimistic movement promotes health, happiness and overall loving the skin you’re in. I take no issue with this movement, seeing the increased diversity in the modelling industry, more advocacy for plus sized women and overall consensus to change the collective perspective of body image. The increased popularity of the ‘body neutrality’ movement however does highlight the limitations of the body positive movement.

How much positive change is the body positive movement really promoting? No doubt, it is a step in the right direction. But this newfound positivity is jaded with contradictions and hypocrisy. There are claims of inclusivity but ultimately the plus sized women being presented are no more than a size 16, white and conventionally beautiful. Fitness accounts on Instagram will post long essays on why acceptance of our bodies is important, while also giving advice on how to sculpt, tone and change every aspect. Love the skin you’re in, but here’s how to get abs. Kim Kardashian goes on her Instagram story to delightfully exclaim how her sisters stated she looks like she is bordering on an eating disorder. Being skinny is celebrated, even being too skinny has a tragically dramatic, yet quietly admired perception. You only have to look at the controversy over figures such as Ashley Graham and Tess Holliday to appreciate the limitations we face. Accusations of promoting obesity demonstrates clearly how conditioned we are to the notion that being thin is the desired goal. We as a collective are so used to a warped presentation of body type that we have lost sight of what ‘healthy’ actually looks like. When I watch the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, I don’t want a bra. I want a new body. A new face. Are we ultimately still focusing negatively on our bodies, but now in a commercialized and forged way?                                                                                                                                         

No doubt it is important to look after yourself. Obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer. But the image presented in the media has been so infected with what is an ultimately unattainable goal. You cannot recognize someone’s health through a picture, what is ‘healthy’ and ‘normal’ on the internet isn’t real life. Fundamentally, does anyone have the right to comment on someone else’s health trajectory?

Body neutrality proposes to value what your body does for you, not what it looks like. No negative or positive views, no comment. People simply find peace with their bodies, and in a world where nine out of 10 girls in the UK struggle with body confidence, this movement can be a source of relief. We should consider that an overemphasis on body image, positive or negative, is repeatedly putting emphasis on physical appearance rather than intellectual contributions is reinforcing patriarchal ideals; a person’s worth should not be measured in this superficial way. Stephanie Yeboah, an advocate for this movement highlights in a recent Guardian article how “The body positive movement doesn’t put people with disabilities and other marginalized bodies into the foreground’ thus making body neutrality accepting of those who are frustrated with their bodies. Body neutrality could allow us to be present in our daily lives, less time spent critiquing how we look and more on substantial matters. Appreciate the legs you walk on, but don’t consider whether they are skinny enough for other people’s approval.

Overall – should we care so much anymore? The benefit to be found in this movement, is clear intensely focusing on yourself can be exhausting. Does the neutrality movement negate the need for body positivity? Should we be adopt one movement over the other? I think there is a lot to say for considering both movements in conjunction. If working to alter yourself physically in any way increases your happiness, go ahead; however, remember you’re not a lesser person if you don’t. The overall consensus to value people for their actions over their appearance however, is imperative in evolving the whole attitude toward body image.

University of Bristol, studying English Lit. I like books, but I LOVE cheese.
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