Thanks to social media we’re slowly changing our opinion on standards of beauty. Body positivity is everywhere across platforms like Instagram these days. And it’s helping women all shapes and sizes to accept and love themselves as they are. But what is body positivity and where does it come from?
What is Body Positivity?
For most women feeling positive about their bodies can seem like an impossible task.
These days “body positive” Instagrammers are celebrating their bodies exactly as they are. It’s a refreshing change. No photoshop, no filters, and no altering. #bopo
It’s a much-needed change.
However, when you scrawl through Instagram’s body positive photos, you can’t help but notice one thing. Most of the women have a “socially acceptable”, thin body.
Of course all women deserve a safe and supportive space where they navigate accepting their bodies. Everyone’s experience of body hate is painful to them regardless of what size they’re living in. I would never take that away or dimish someone elses experience (mine included). Especially, when it may also involve dieting, disordered eating or potentially a life threatening eating disorder.
It’s important for all of us to understand where “true body positivity” has come from.
Most of us are completely unaware that it’s a lot more than taking a selfie of a couple of small fat rolls on our stomachs and splashing it around Instagram. At it’s heart, this not what the term “body positivity” is truly about.
It’s actually a really interesting part of our feminist history.
Will the real body positivity please stand up?
Body positivity may seem like a modern invention, but it all started with middle-class feminists from the 1850s through to 1890s. This is deemed the pioneer of body activism of today. Known as “first-wave feminism”.
From here fat activism and size acceptance in the 20th century became the focus. Today’s body positivity has its roots in activism and feminism of the late 1960s. Known as “second-wave feminism”.
Instead of arguing that all bodies are beautiful, activists protested for the rights of one particular group of people: Fat people.
Body positive activist and mental health advocate Lexie Manion explains, “Body positivity is a movement focused on shining the spotlight onto marginalized bodies — people of colour, LGBT, disabled, fat, etc. — because they are not well represented in the media.”
Marginalised bodies, including “fat bodies, bodies of colour, queer bodies, disabled bodies and bodies that bear the battle scars of diseases”.
In 1967 Lew Louderback’s published an essay titled, “More People Should Be Fat”.
Soon after fat acceptance then quickly merged into an organised activist movement. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) was then founded in 1969.
One of the core principles of NAAFA, and fat activism, is that many of our beliefs and the information that is spread about fatness and health, is wrong. Instead of treating fatness as a sign of poor health or lack of willpower and laziness, fat activists encourage a Health At Every Size approach.
Health At Every Size
Under this framework, it’s not the shape and weight of your body that matters. Everyone is encouraged to engage in “general wellness”, by way of a healthy lifestyle and enjoyable, balanced eating habits as measures of health, rather than weight or body mass index (BMI).
The BMI is a flawed, out dated system that only tells you if your weight is average for your height. It doesn’t take into account above-average amounts of lean muscle mass. It assumes everyone has the same percentage of lean tissue and fat tissue. Therein lies the main problem with using BMI for athletes, body builders, or even people with above average musculature.
Body positivity and self-love
For women whose bodies do fall within societies narrow ideal of what is acceptable, it’s important to simply acknowledge the difference between “body positivity” and “self-love”. Sophia Carter-Kahn, co-host of the She’s All Fat podcast says, “Body positivity to me is facing outward, and self-love is facing inward”.
Acknowledging the difference helps marginalised bodies to claim the space they’ve long been chased out of. Working on self-acceptance and self-love, and ultimately knowing your self-worth does not depend on a number.
Ultimately the end goal is to open up and make enough space for all bodies, regardless of what people look like. But particularly the ones that have been forced to hide or sent the message that they’re not acceptable as they are.
If you’re struggling to accept and feel comfortable in your body, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here>>