You might have heard of body positivity (sometimes shortened to BoPo). Well, I’m pretty sure you have as it’s the ‘in thing’ right now. But what exactly does it mean? Here’s your quick guide to body positivity, and what it means for you.
Doesn’t it just mean feeling positive about your body?
Not really. Body positivity (like lots of feminist ideas, actually) has been hijacked by advertisers and marketers as a kind of general life philosophy about feeling happy and loving yourself. The origins of body positivity, however, are much more specific.
Body acceptance in this instance meant a little more than just ‘love yourself’; it meant not feeling like you have to change your body to fit in with the wider society ideal of what is a ‘normal’ body, and feeling comfortable with body fat is a big part of that.
So it’s about celebrating curvy bodies?
Body positivity is about celebrating marginalised bodies, and a rejection of mainstream diet culture. It’s about accepting those bodies who happen to fall outside society’s beauty norms — typically young, white, slim, able-bodied women — as beautiful. If you’ve got a Kardashian bum, you might not be a catwalk model, but you’re not marginalised by society. Body positivity isn’t just about bringing more curves into media, it’s about creating an increasingly diverse media and celebrating many different types of bodies. including fat ones.
Isn’t ‘celebrating fat bodies’ the same as telling people it’s okay to be unhealthy?
No, NO. Stop that right now. For starters, it’s none of your business — do you go around telling thin models they shouldn’t smoke cigarettes? Or stand outside fast food chains telling people not to go in? Thought not. The revulsion that surrounds fat bodies comes from prejudice, not a concern for fat people’s health.
Secondly, do you think that fat people aren’t intensely aware of their size? Weight gain can be brought on by many things, but there’s ample evidence to show that low self-esteem stops people from exercising and caring for their bodies — so telling fat people that their bodies aren’t okay because you ‘care about their health’ won’t spur them on to get healthier, it’ll have pretty much the opposite effect. So once again, feel free to mind your own business. Health has no relation to this subject.
How can I be more body positive?
Good question. First of all, try to frame your goals in terms of what makes you feel good, not in terms of size or weight. When you talk to other people, accept them for who they are. Be kind to others, and be kind to yourself — if you tell your fat friend she looks beautiful, but then moan about how much weight you’ve put on recently, it’s a little hypocritical.
Celebrate fat people. That’s right! Celebrate fat people!
Don’t feel like body positivity means you have to feel wonderful about yourself all the time — it’s okay to feel ugly, it’s okay to feel insecure. Sometimes you’ll have bad days, because everybody does. Body positivity isn’t about loving everything about yourself; it’s just about separating the way that you look from how you assess your worth as a human being. Because in the big scheme of things, how we look really doesn’t matter.