Body Positivity: What It Is and What It Isn't

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Body positivity has become a more common phrase in the last decade. People have started to embrace the idea of self-love and acceptance with their bodies. Even today, it’s still gaining ground as media outlets have begun taking part in this trend by producing body-inclusive content and products. But recently, there have been concerns that the idea of body positivity has been distorted. Despite the progress the movement has made, there is still work to be done.


What Body Positivity Means

Body positivity can have different meanings for different people, but on a basic level, it’s acceptance of who you are and being comfortable in your own body. It’s rejecting the pressure to be what society defines as perfect and embracing the idea that beauty does not come in a specific size or shape. It’s deciding for yourself what practices to follow and what messages to accept from your peers and from society. For some, it’s wearing what they want in spite of trends and for others, it’s following a diet and a lifestyle that works for them instead of what they’re told they must do in order to lose weight or improve their appearance. Because everyone’s body is different, different lifestyles work for different people and to me, part of body positivity is in embracing these differences. But in spite of the idea’s progress, some body positivity activists justifiably fear that we have lost the way and that the meaning of the term has been misconstrued.


What The Mainstream Movement Gets Wrong About Body Positivity

One of the ways the term “body positivity” is used in the media is in weight loss and fitness campaigns. On the surface, their message is that you should feel good in your body, but the subtext is that you shouldn’t feel good in the body you have right now. Their message is that self-love isn’t possible in your current body and that you should buy into their brand so that you can have a body that you can love. This is just one example of the way body positivity is misconstrued in its use as a marketing tool. It’s no longer about body positivity and more about selling a brand. The phrase becomes exactly what it was intended to attack: a tool to use people’s insecurities to make money.  



Another way the body positivity movement is failing to live up to its promises in mainstream media is in inclusion. Body positivity is often promoted in a narrow image as curvy, heterosexual, and able-bodied white women when its focus should be on the inclusion of all bodies. As activist Sonya Renee Taylor says, “as long as there is a movement that is only positive for some bodies, it’s not body positivity.” As a call for inclusion, body positivity should be a diverse movement for everyone, not just for a select few.


Body positivity should be about radically changing the way society views bodies and while we’ve made a lot of progress in the fight for a more accepting and inclusive world, there are still some things that need work. We cannot truly be freed from the pressure of society’s expectations and of the corporate monetization of our insecurities until we build a movement that fights for the acceptance and encouragement of every body type of every race, sex, gender, sexuality, and size.