|The societal perception of beauty and body image has always been problematic. Women grow up thinking that they should look a certain way for people to accept them / Photo by: Aaron Amat via Shutterstock|
The societal perception of beauty and body image has always been problematic. Women grow up thinking that they should look a certain way for people to accept them. Unrealistic expectations portrayed by the media leave thousands of people thinking about how to look and who to be so they can feel the same acceptance that the privileged experience.
Research conducted by the Park Nicollet Melrose Center showed that approximately 80% of US women don’t like how they look, 70% of normal weighted women want to be thinner, and 34% of men are dissatisfied with their bodies. Also, 53% of American girls age 13 are unhappy with their bodies. This figure increases to 78% by the time they reach 17. These figures show that body image issues start at a young age.
While having body image concerns is not a mental health problem in and of itself, it can lead to mental health issues. Previous studies have found that higher body dissatisfaction is associated with psychological distress, poorer quality of life, and the risk of unhealthy eating behaviors and eating disorders. Thus, the rise of body positivity campaigns came in handy in addressing these concerns.
According to VeryWell Mind, a trusted and compassionate online resource that provides guidance on mental health, body positivity aims to tell people that they deserve to have a positive body image regardless of how society views ideal appearance, size, and shape. It’s about challenging society’s standard of beauty and body image as well as recognizing that judgments are often made based on gender, race, sexuality, and disability.
Body Positivity Movement
For some of us, body positivity seems like a modern concept. However, the fight for the freedom to love our bodies is way older than the internet. The oldest roots of this concept reach back to the Victorian Dress Reform movement. During that time, women advocated for the acceptance of women’s bodies regardless of their body size and weight. They even enscouraged fellow women to use extreme corsets or partake in body mutilation to fit the standards of an hourglass or petite figure. At the same time, they urged women to not hide their bodies underneath layers of fabric in overly elaborate dresses and argued for their right to wear pants.
When the 1960s came, the advocacy shifted a little bit. The movement revolved around ending fat-shaming and discrimination against “plump” women. According to Fusion TV, an American pay television news and satire channel owned by the Fusion Media Group, activists insisted on the rights of one particularly denigrated group: fat people. With the help of social media, the movement eventually recognized that size is just one of the many ways that our bodies are unfairly judged.
The body positivity movement now aims to challenge how society views the body, promote the acceptance of all bodies, help people build confidence and acceptance of their own bodies, and address unrealistic body standards. It aims to help people understand that popular media can influence the relationship of people with their bodies, which includes how they feel about food, clothing, exercise, health, identity, and self-care.
Body positivity takes the focus away from looks as well as identifies people by their strengths and non-physical characteristics. The movement also discusses how body image can influence mental health and well-being. Previous research has shown that having a negative body image is linked with an increased risk for some mental health conditions such as eating disorders and depression. It has also been linked with low-self-esteem and unnecessary dieting.
Fortunately, there have been improvements from the mainstream media and companies. "I think the biggest change that body positivity has created is this widespread cultural awareness of things that very few people were talking about 5 or 10 years ago," Megan Jayne Crabbe, author of “Body Positive Power,” said.
According to Shape, a monthly English language fitness magazine, Crabbe emphasized the importance of being aware of diet culture and its harms and diversity representation in ads. "Accomplishments like brands banishing Photoshop, TV shows casting a wider range of body types, and magazines vowing to stop splashing weight-loss promises on their front covers are small changes in the grand scheme of things, but hopefully are also signs of bigger changes to come," she added.
|The body positivity movement now aims to challenge how society views the body, promote the acceptance of all bodies, help people build confidence and acceptance of their own bodies, and address unrealistic body standards / Photo by: serdjophoto via Shutterstock|
Can Body Positivity Go Bad?
While the message of body positivity revolves around helping people feel better about themselves, some people have criticized the movement. For instance, it implies that people can do what they want with their bodies as long as they are comfortable with it. However, some have tried to be thinner and fitter, thinking that they will be happier and healthier without considering its impacts. This idealization of thinness can contribute to people engaging in unhealthy actions under the guise of feeling "body positive."
Some advocates have also campaigned to love one’s body no matter what their size is to the point that they insist that weight has nothing to do with health. However, this is not true. Greater weight is associated with hypertension, diabetes, and infertility. “Obesity is clearly recognized by the world and national health organizations as a leading risk factor for disease and death. The body-positivity movement’s denial of science is troubling,” psychologist Deb Thompson, Ph.D. said.
Nonetheless, the movement gives hope to people who are going through body image issues. It is a reminder that we should be accepted, no matter our appearance and size.