While scrolling down my Twitter timeline, I saw the question: What does body positivity even mean? and it's a very plausible question. Like most buzzy terms on social media, the meaning has been distorted over and over again. The concept of body positivity isn't new but the term itself is quite current. Someone on Twitter responded to the posed question and said that body positivity is simply an excuse to be naked on social media and that's just not completely true. So, here I want to explain what body positivity is in my terms and talk about what it means to me.
Body positivity in its simplest form is a rebellion against body shaming, especially as it relates to women. Of course we all know that women have endured body shaming since the female anatomy has been sexualized and even demonized. In developed societies women are usually viewed as temptresses who seduce and create chaos. Let me be clear, there's patriarchy is many tribal/indigenous societies as well, but a good bit of those cultures view the female anatomy differently. This is why the National Geographic will often have images of nude women from tribal/indigenous cultures, their bodies aren't sexualized in those contexts. I digress...
Most developed societies are very patriarchal so of course women are always considered to be the problem. In addition to rampant patriarchy, which has always been the case, mainstream media also plays a large role in body shaming. Skinny, blonde, and white/fair skinned was the standard for a long time. In printed media and on TV it was rare to see anything other than the prototype. Over the years the prototype has somewhat evolved but we still have a long way to go.
The media constantly reinforces the idea that people don't want to see bodies that are not perfect. No stretch marks, rolls, dimples, scars, or discoloration allowed. It also says that women who look a certain way shouldn't wear certain types of clothing. For example, one idea is that a bigger woman should never wear a crop top or a swimsuit in public. Or a woman should never wear a dress that's too short because it makes her seem like a slut (aka slut shaming - I will discuss in another post).
Body positivity grew out of the negativity women face for not looking a certain way and being shamed because of it. Being body posi means to accept yourself as you are and to be not afraid of being visible. Most people have a problem with body positivity, especially as it relates to nudity because of their own discomfort and because we have been brainwashed into believing that the breasts, butt, legs, etc. on a woman are sexual objects. A woman's decision to love and embrace her flaws and even show off the flaws is what body positivity means to me.
I think along the way this definition has been blurred. Much like the word 'feminism', it's starting to evolve into something a lot of women don't want to be affiliated with, because it's getting a bad rap. People see it as an excuse to be naked, but if the woman is proud of her body and not hurting you or being explicit, it shouldn't matter. Of course there are limits. Body positivity is NOT about nudity and explicitness. You can be fully clothed all the time and still be body posi.
As I said earlier body positivity is becoming one of those things that makes people uncomfortable. If you are body posi (or even considering joining the movement) be prepared to be targeted and bullied just because of your body happiness. One of my Twitter followers has received several death wishes from people who hated her body positivity. Shame.
I "joined" the body posi movement a while ago. I say "joined" because it isn't a club or gym that you have to apply and get accepted into, it's not exclusive. I took a full body picture of myself (clothed, of course. Nudity is not for me) for the first time about a year ago. I loved looking my body, and gained the strength/courage to post it on my social media pages. Gigantic step for me!
I was body shamed for years due to my fatness. If you know me, you know my story about being bullied/teased in middle and high school. It really affected me that my peers hated my body and the media said that that I should hate my body too. It's totally imperfect, and I could change it, but what about now? What can I do now to feel better about walking out of the house everyday? I can love myself, enjoy my body for what it is now, and the rest will fall into place. Body positivity is a journey, a tough journey. It's hard to combat negativity but we must! You might have it within your power to change your body into something more socially acceptable but even if you were a size 2 but still hated your body, you still wouldn't have happiness.
Also keep in mind, visibility does not always necessarily equal body positive. If being visible (specifically via social media) is not your thing, then you don't have to post pictures of your body. It doesn't have to be a visible journey, the choice is yours. Many women choose to be visible with their body as an inspiration for other women and because it may help them feel better. Also note that body positivity means not body shaming other women for their body choices.
Body positivity is a personal choice of body acceptance, your journey and happiness are your own!