My Opinion on Body Positivity

“All bodies, in every shape and size, are beautiful.”

This is the wholesome message the body positivity movement preaches. Although body positivity has arguably been around in some shape or form as long as beauty standards have been around, the movement was first officially recognized in 1969. This was when the National Association to Aid Fat Acceptance was established in America. It was set up as a means of fighting against fatphobia. Ever since, different versions of the movement keep popping up everywhere, both in everyday life and on the internet. 

Although it began as a fat acceptance movement, body positivity has become so much more than that. It aims to help people embrace the body they’re in, with all its flaws and imperfections. It tells people it’s okay not to conform to societal beauty standards because they are beautiful just the way they are. And it has succeeded in slowly dismantling the long-held tradition, especially among women, of fussing over almost every body part. It lets women breathe easy in the knowledge that imperfections are not just completely fine, but indeed beautiful.

The idea is so appealing, yet, in my opinion, it has become deeply flawed. 

Suppose it truly is a campaign for bodies of every type. In that case, body positivity should include people of color, mentally and physically disabled people, people with noticeable skin differences such as vitiligo or scars. It has the potential to fight against colorism, sizeism, featurism, pretty privilege, and ableism. But it very rarely does all that. It leaves many other people out of the conversation. As if their bodies don’t deserve to be seen in a positive light too.

Many people claim that the body positivity campaign glorifies obesity. This is not entirely true. Like the Health At Every Size(HAES) movement points out, you can’t always tell if a person is healthy by just looking at them. Although medically speaking, people with more body fat are predisposed to certain health conditions. The fact remains that not every fat person is unhealthy. However, there is something to be said about how body positivity often ignores the health side of things.

The central problem with body positivity, in my opinion, is the fact that it damages people the same way beauty standards do. It puts too much unwarranted attention on the body, which is the main problem with beauty standards in the first place. Instead of dismantling the idea that self-image is dependent on body image, it enforces it. By forcing you to feel positive about your body at all times, it implants the feeling that your body is the most important part of your sense of self. After all, if it isn’t, why the excessive need to make yourself feel good about it all the time? 

We are human, not angels. Inevitably, we will all get days when we don’t feel too great about certain parts of our bodies. That doesn’t mean we detest our bodies. It’s just a normal mood fluctuation. But body positivity gives no room for this. You must accept that you’re beautiful, and you must always feel beautiful. This is toxic positivity. It causes many women to feel guilty when they catch themselves thinking negative thoughts about their bodies. It makes people feel guilt and shame when they change something about their bodies. 

The body positivity movement doesn’t succeed anymore in dissolving the pressure of beauty standards. It merely reverses it, so now, instead of people feeling pressured to hate their body, they’re feeling pressured always to feel beautiful. It’s an unnecessary inconvenience, not unlike the pressure of beauty standards. Like someone once said, “Don’t tell me I’m brave for posting a picture showing my stretch marks… I don’t need to feel like my stretch marks are beautiful or ugly. I don’t need to feel any type of way about my stretch marks, period.”

A strange issue that keeps coming up in the body positivity camp is the attitude of hostility towards anyone who dares change something about their body. Everyone on social media saw that in full effect when Adele first resurfaced on the internet. It is disturbing that the biggest group of people who were body-shaming Adele are the same group of people claiming to be inclusive of all bodies.

Many body positivity proponents believe on some level that you have to hate your body to want to change it. That is not only bizarre but also wholly untrue. I could love the way my arm looks and still decide to get a full sleeve of tattoos. A person can love their body and still choose to lose weight or get a nose job or anything else they want to do. 

The point of body positivity shouldn’t be to keep people from wanting to change their bodies. It should be to create a society where people don’t feel pressured to change how they look. It should be to create a world where it is okay to be fat, but it is also okay to lose weight if you want to. A world where it doesn’t matter how your body looks like because that’s not what determines who you are as a person. A world where being fat, skinny or dark-skinned, or disabled doesn’t affect how society perceives you. A world where everyone can move through the world feeling indifferent about their bodies. An era of body neutrality. 

Body neutrality is a school of thought beyond beauty standards and body positivity, where a person can accept their body without feeling positive or negative about it. The idea is that it’s best to regard your body with indifference. In my opinion, this is the way to go. Unlike body positivity, it isn’t just focused on the individual; it is focused on creating a world where a person doesn’t have to worry about how they’re perceived based on how they look. 

Perhaps it is too much to ask. 

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