Body Positive for All, Not a Select Few

In recent years, the body positivity movement has made tremendous leaps and bounds. Plus size or curve women are finally seeing inclusivity and representation in fashion and beauty.

In 2012, Robyn Lawley was cast as the first plus-size model in a Ralph Lauren campaign.

In 2015, Ashley Graham made history as the first curve model on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

Clothing retailers across the country continue to announce they will now offer plus size clothing lines.

And while these achievements are amazing, there is still a laundry list of issues in the body positivity movement. The movement currently seems to only welcome white, cis, young, able-bodied female individuals, with a focus centered around size.

Photo: Tumblr

If we, as a society, truly want to end body shaming, we must accept people of color, LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming individuals, people of all ages and people who are disabled.

USF alumna and body positivity activist, Jordan Foley, said the roots of the movement began with marginalized groups in mind.

“Well, the body positivity movement grew out of the fat acceptance movement, which started in the 1960s,” says Foley. “It began as a highly political movement with the aim to dismantle system of oppression that harms marginalized groups (people of color, fat people, disabled people, trans/LGBTQ+, etc.)”

Foley then explained the sociopolitical movement was stolen and focused instead on those in positions of privilege.

To take the movement back, society needs to not only support the representation of these groups but also advocate for their liberation from toxic standards.  

We must support black girls and women’s right to wear natural hairstyles and refrain from using language that suggests natural black hair is less beautiful or unprofessional, as compared to straight hair. In a 2016 study by Perception Institute, one in five black women felt pressure to straighten their hair for work. The study also found white women exhibited “explicit bias towards textured hair.” It’s time we embrace all bodies and all features of bodies. This includes people of color from all backgrounds and ethnicities.

Photo: Pinterest

Additionally, it’s time able-bodied individuals realize the world caters to us, but not to our disabled counterparts. We must ask brands why disabled consumers are not featured in their advertising.

“It makes me feel discouraged about my body and passes on the idea that disabled bodies aren’t beautiful enough to be featured in magazines and other fashion media,” says USF student Bryanna Tanese. Tanese uses a wheelchair.

Finally, heteronormativity in advertising and fashion excludes LGBTQ+ consumers from representation. Heteronormativity is the idea that gender binary systems and heterosexual orientations are the “accepted” default within societies. While brands may state they support the LGBTQ+ community, photos of heterosexual couples dominate advertising.

These are just a few examples of the several ways, collectively, we can lift these groups up for body acceptance. It isn’t enough to only voice injustices for select groups; we must lift-up all bodies and all elements that make up those bodies.

In the end, we will all benefit. Everyone deserves to feel empowered.

Photo: Pinterest