“Everybody is different, and every body is different.”
― Beverly Dieh
The concept of body-positivity is fundamentally based on the belief that everyone, male or female, should be able to look at their bodies without contempt, and accept it, regardless of changes in shape, size, complexion, and other features. It empowers people to have a positive relationship with their own bodies. The movement strives to challenge the socio-cultural representations of what a beautiful, handsome, or a perfect body ‘should’ look like. Undoubtedly, the idea in its entirety is an empowering one.
However, if you look closely and mindfully, the body-positivity movement on the Internet as we see today seems to have completely derailed from its track. To be body positive is a good thing, great, in fact. But the way the internet has molded this movement is problematic in more than one way.
Instead of endowing more freedom on people, especially women, it has underlined the physical appearance of women way too much. The movement which should have addressed all human beings in general, has segregated women, essentially telling them that how they look is the most appealing part of their being at the end of the day. It has amplified the notion that all women must feel great because they look great, subtly reinforcing the very disturbing conviction that a woman’s self-worth rests in her body.
The movement on the internet wants women to accept their bodies (in whichever shape or size) and be perpetually happy. So, just because you are ‘beautiful’ the way you are, you should be constantly smiling and be an epitome of contentment. Physical appearance and self-worth are kept on the two opposite sides of the same scale concluding that your pride rests in your beauty alone.
I agree that the intentions could be pure, but we are doing it all wrong!
Instead of promoting and encouraging the belief that no matter what you look like, no matter what’s happening in your body or on your skin, you are still worthy as a person- the movement tells you that your entire value depends on your physical appearance, and the woman is yet again somehow reduced to how she looks.
The movement promotes the idea that a woman is perfect the way she is, and needs no external changes to feel beautiful. But ‘perfection’ is a controversial term. What’s perfect for one might not be for the other. And everyone’s definition of it needs to be respected. The current body-positive movement by some means restricts women from doing what they want to and/or with their bodies.
The attempt to fix an imperfection is frowned upon and dissed as a mortal sin. So, basically, if I have facial hair or underarm hair (which I have, like most others), I am expected to be comfortable in it. If I find it uncomfortable and can’t show up in public with my facial hair, am I fighting against the movement? Absolutely not! I am doing what I find right for myself and what I feel confident in. The movement keeps on forgetting time and again that everyone’s idea of beauty is different, and we should be allowed to express ourselves without any judgment.
What I am saying is that my way of being positive about my body doesn’t necessarily need to match yours or anybody else’s. The entire idea of body positivity is to remove the taboos that surround our physical bodies.
Instead, the movement is just juggling around these taboos, and presenting them in different, fresh packaging. It is trying to limit us, especially women, like everything else around. We are told not to ‘feel’ guilty or sad. Isn’t it a cap on our emotions? Why do we need to feel a certain way always? We don’t like something about our bodies, that’s fine. But if we aren’t allowed to ‘not like’ something, that’s problematic.
Another thing I have observed time and again is that people (read influencers) on social media over-do things to ‘normalise’ what’s already normal. For example, it is normal to have underarm hair, right? Then why do they need to emphasize on it by sticking false long hair to their underarm?
In the world of ‘body-positivity’ and sly marketing gimmicks meticulously planned to profit off of women’s insecurities, it isn’t uncommon to find Instagram influencers crossing the line between normalization and ridiculing an issue. While there are influencers who positively contribute to the movement, most of them just create belligerent content to gain followers and likes (and money of course.)
What I am trying to imply here isn’t that I am against the movement but that I don’t really appreciate how it is being portrayed. The idea of body positivity is brilliant and every human being irrespective of gender must be able to live in harmony with their bodies. However, it is unjust to expect everyone to suddenly break-through their years of conditioning (of criticizing their own bodies) and start posting hashtags #loveyourself.
The current Body Positive movement doesn’t hesitate to shake hands with body shaming at some sensitive corners, practically nullifying the entire motive behind the movement. For instance, some people do promote body positivity by encouraging people to accept their bodies but simultaneously body shame those who alter their bodies as per their own idea of beauty. The movement which was started with the aim of letting women be themselves has reached a place where its criticizing women for wanting what they want.
In an ideal world, it should be about how people shouldn’t be judged over how they look naturally, or even how they choose to look. It is not only about ‘I don’t care what people think about my body’, but rather people actually understanding the concept and stop judging others.
At the end of the day, everyone should have the complete liberty to live their lives the way they want it. If someone is looking forward to dropping off a few inches, that’s fine, if someone likes nicely-polished skin, that’s fine. And if someone is comfortable in their own skin, that’s fine too. Not all things need to be rated on a standard scale of what ‘positivity’ looks like.
A blanket-approach to all things related to one’s physical appearance doesn’t do justice to any cause. Body-positivity movement has to be more than just telling that fat people are beautiful.