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Op-Ed: The Failure of the Body Positivity Movement

All over social media we have been seeing the body positivity movement in action. This movement is born from an idea that bodies of all skin colors, all shapes, and all sizes are accepted. Its purpose is to promote inclusivity in all ways and to target one of the most destructive diseases of our time: mental health, a disease that comes mainly from the toxicity of social media and its relation to unrealistic beauty standards. Or at least that’s what it claims to promote.

The definition of body positivity, according to Wikipedia, is that “all human beings should have a positive body image, while challenging the ways in which society presents and views the physical body.” However, the confusing range of media out there seems to engage in contradicting stories of what this movement really entails.

The criticism of this movement, and the retelling of its failure is overwhelming. And the different variety of each criticism confuses readers as to what the words ‘body positive’ even mean. To the point where the origin of the movement and its purpose becomes so blurry everyone has a different take on it. This is what produces so many condemnations of the movement.

Let’s start with the most obvious one, the idea that people whose bodies are socially acceptable, conventionally attractive, and white are the only ones who seem to be a part of the body positivity movement. There was an analysis of almost 250 body positivity posts on Instagram, results showed that 67% of the posts featured white women. If based on the idea that body positivity is meant to challenge unrealistic beauty standards, this sets a harmful precedent of what it means to be body positive. Due to the fact that people that are barely straying from conventional beauty are the only ones embracing the movement, failing in tackling the diverse part of beauty.

Others, however, believe that the criticism of people with “normal” bodies and their usage of the movement challenges the idea that ALL bodies should be accepted. Teresa Maria, a writer for Outlandish, says: “If there are not that many morbidly fat people posting photos on social media with #bodypositivity, it doesn’t mean that everyone else shouldn’t be posting their photos. You can’t tell fat people to post more bikini photos if they don’t want to, just as you can’t go telling skinny people they can’t have body positivity issues to tackle with”. This may seem like an all-too-familiar “all lives matter” situation, but this argument claims to be based on the idea that the definition of body positivity is about feeling good in your own skin, no matter what skin that is; and that body issues can be experienced by obese, transgender, and disabled people, as well as by skinny, once-in-a-while roll, and flat bodies.

There is another criticism of the movement floating around the media world based on the belief that the body positivity movement has given too much emphasis to plus-size body types, therefore supporting unhealthy behavior that leads to obesity.

Last but not least, is the belief that this body positivity movement is creating more anxiety and depression than it is trying to target. Because apparently, the existence of a body positive movement reminds someone of their body issues as much as looking at a “perfect” model does. All because the emphasis on loving yourself just reinforces society’s obsession with looks.

So out of all of these perspectives and approaches to this life-changing movement, which one are we supposed to choose.

Is the purpose of this movement to end fat-shaming, to target the body issues of all females, to make skinny people feel included, or just another way to make ourselves feel less superficial? What does this movement really entail? Either way, whatever it used to entail has been lost on us already, because the only thing body positivity is now related to is the fighting ground it has created.


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