Once upon a time, not too long ago, it was common practice for us to hop onto social media or watch TV and see nothing but slim, socially acceptable bodies staring up at us. Advertising outfits and makeup products, being cast as romantic leads alongside other impossibly attractive slim co-stars, having successful jobs and relationships and being able to generally exist within society with all the privileges that being slim can afford.
What we’ve seen over the last five or so years, however, is a huge shift in how bodies are being represented in the media and in society. The body positivity movement started out in 2012, as a hashtag used by those within the fat acceptance movement, a movement spearheaded by larger fat black and ethnic minority women that primarily focuses on the celebration and radical self love of visibly fat bodies, as another descriptor for what the movement represented. Quickly picking up steam on Tumblr and Facebook groups, and later via plus-size bloggers on Instagram, the movement has since trickled into the mainstream, causing somewhat of a body acceptance and self-love revolution.
Body image and presentation is the source of stress and anxiety for a large number of people, if they do not fit the supposed norm and unfortunately, the ambient noises and people’s opinions on one’s body type, doesn’t help either. Whether or not we are comfortable in our bodies, this nagging can take its toll and have adverse effects on our mental health. We are talking of situations when poor body image causes depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders and other mental health issues, that can change a person’s life entirely.Brief History
Body positivity has its roots in the fat acceptance movement of the late 1960s. Fat acceptance focuses on ending the culture of body shaming and discrimination against people based upon their size or body weight. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance was first established in 1969 and continues to work to change how people talk about weight. The term "body positive" emerged in 1996 when a psychotherapist and an individual who had been through treatment for an eating disorder founded the website thebodypositive.org. The site offers resources and educational materials designed to help people feel good about their bodies by taking the focus off, of losing weight through unhealthy diet and exercise efforts.
The body positivity movement in its current form began to emerge around 2012, initially focusing on challenging unrealistic feminine beauty standards. As the movement grew in popularity, the original focus on acceptance of weight began to shift toward a message that “all bodies are beautiful.”
While body positivity has become increasingly popular, people continue to be confused about exactly what it means. Part of the reason why body positivity is so misunderstood is due to the fact that there are so many different definitions for what the movement means. Body positivity also means enjoying the body you have and not beating yourself up over changes that happen naturally due to aging, pregnancy, or lifestyle choices. Instagram played a pivotal role in the rise of the body positivity movement. In recent years, a number of magazines and companies have incorporated efforts to be more body positive in their publications and marketing efforts. Some magazines have stopped airbrushing models, while some companies have developed marketing campaigns incorporating body acceptance messages.Health Focused Self-Care
Self-care can sometimes masquerade as a way to change or control your appearance, but self-care should focus on doing things that make you feel good about the body you have now. Show respect for your body. Eat healthy meals because it fuels your mind and body. Exercise because it helps you feel strong and energized, not because you're trying to change or control your body.
Wear and buy clothes for the body you have now—not for some planned future version of yourself. You might be holding on to your “thin clothes” because you plan to eventually lose weight, but such habits can make it hard to feel good about yourself today. Look for things that make you feel comfortable and good about how you look. Purge your closet of clothes that don't fit your current physique. Your body may change in size and shape in the future, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be able to look and feel good about yourself in the here and now. Purge your social media feeds of accounts that don’t make you feel good about yourself. If you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to others, you’re less likely to feel good about yourself. Follow accounts that spark your interests and that leave you with positive feelings. On Instagram in particular, many accounts are focused only on portraying perfection or an idealized image of the body.
The body positivity movement still has a long way to go. Until we get to a place where people of all sizes and ethnicities, can once again, see the movement as a safe space for us to celebrate our bodies and live peacefully without the disrespect, trolling and unkindness of others. But we might still see instances of fatphobia displayed rampantly. Take what happened recently with the British singer Adele, where people were praising her for her weight loss when it shouldn’t even be something people are discussing.
So, how do we change this? One great thing that can help the movement along is allyship. People who live in privileged and smaller bodies, can be a part of the body positivity movement by using their platforms and voices to uplift, retweet and reblog the thoughts, opinions and perspectives of voices who would otherwise not be heard, due to how they look. With their help, we can deconstruct the dangerous and harmful narratives about weight created by the media and diet industry.
Change also needs to happen behind the scenes. From directors and agents to PRs and marketers, an increase in physical diversity in employees, can have a profound change in the types of media output we receive. But change is slowly happening, and people of power are stepping up. The movement just needs more support and accountability across the board, if it can ever get to a place where all bodies are treated as equal. At London Rag we believe in promoting body positive image because it makes the concept of “beauty” much more extensive, including a range of bodies.