Body positivity is a social movement that believes all body types are valid, regardless of weight, skin colour, disability and other physical characteristics, such as stretch marks. It aims to remove body shaming, which is humiliating someone for their “socially unacceptable” body type. It also tries to decrease the negativity towards each individual’s own body image. This is my first post under the topic of ‘Body Positivity’ which is shining light on the movement that has arisen to discourage the body ideal in society.
So, what is this body ideal? Essentially, it is a small, proportionate, white body with flawless skin that lacks any physical disabilities. The norm in society is that we all must strive for this unattainable goal, and the closer you are to it, the less likely you are to be socially excluded. Clearly, this is deeply flawed and very discriminatory, which is why this movement has appeared to discourage it. A lot of people do recognise that this body ideal is nonsense, and yet there is still negativity about people’s bodies which implicitly tries to lead people towards it.
Firstly, every body type should be able to wear whatever clothes they want! None of this “they shouldn’t be wearing a crop top because they are too fat” or “why did they choose to wear that, it shows off their scars”! Or the common phrase “bikini body” that typically describes the societal ideal of what a body should look like, which therefore “looks good enough” to wear a bikini. We should really detach this meaning and make a bikini body just a body with a bikini on it!
In general, people should not judge the way a person chooses to express themselves through their physical appearance! Unfortunately, this still occurs because people feel inclined to be negative about others based on their perceptions of what looks good. But really, you determine what you look and feel good in and you show off parts of your body or cover them up depending on your comfort level.
There is also a common misconception in society that large equals unhealthy and small equals healthy. This is not necessarily the case! There is a difference between being large and being unhealthy, and same with being small and being healthy. Sadly, a lot of people feel the need to tell others about their health only from looking at them, rather than also considering their food consumption, amount of exercise and other factors that determine a person’s health. Some people also believe that this mentality that all bodies are valid is encouraging physical and mental issues such as obesity or anorexia, but this is in no way the intention. It is actually trying to promote that health is way more important than the body ideal.
I also want to point out that you can instinctively have a negative thought about someone else’s body. It is society that has planted that thought and it is okay to have it, but it is not okay to let it stand alone or be promoted through communication. We need to break the norm of the ideal body and this can start with questioning your negative thoughts and replacing them with positivity. For example, if you instinctively think “that person should not be wearing a bikini, they don’t look good”, stop and think “hang on, they can wear whatever they want and they are beautiful in their own way”. It is super hard to break these norms, but necessary to effectively implement social change.
Before I end, I want to acknowledge my privilege from being closer to the body ideal that is ingrained in our society than other people. I do not want to take away the voices of the people who are further from this ideal, but still have beautiful, healthy bodies which they are happy with. I want to join them in their message and help to promote body positivity towards others.
Overall, forget the body ideal in society and spread body positivity! Remember that every body type can wear whatever clothes they want based on their views of what they look and feel good in. Also, the focus should be on health rather than the body ideal, and health should be determined by a range of factors, not just weight. Break negative patterns of thinking about what a body should look like through critiquing your negative thoughts and replacing them with positivity.
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