by Isa Meyers //
The past several years has brought an influx of social media trends, influencers, and a rise of posts dedicated to body positivity. Body positivity focuses on people reclaiming their bodies from the unrealistic (and often racist, ableist, and transphobic) beauty standards that are socially engraved in Western culture. This social movement asserts that people should remain positive about their bodies regardless of what form they take, placing emphasis on the social acceptance of all bodies in a larger social context. In other words, the personal body is political and should be viewed through this lens.
While this movement has positive intentions, insisting that an individual has to remain positive about their body reaffirms that their body is not necessarily the “right” kind of body. Thus, it affirms that there is something inherently negative about being too fat, too tall, too masculine, etc… Body positivity forces young people to feel bad about not being positive about their bodies all of the time.
Body positivity, for me, makes me feel guilty when I notice something about myself that I don’t necessarily love. And while there’s nothing wrong with preaching acceptance regarding our different bodies, it’s emotionally taxing to be hyper-positive. We need to stop equating occasional self-criticism with self-hate. Because the reality is that you don’t have to love every inch of your body to still love yourself. It’s time that we stop assuming that self-love is a one size fits all or that self-love entirely relies on appearance.
Recently, the body positivity movement has been critiqued for becoming commercialized. In a recent interview with Vogue, singer, Lizzo, argues that the movement no longer benefits the people it was initially created for. Instead, body positivity has been primarily whitewashed and overtaken by influencers that profit from the hashtag. According to Lizzo: “What I don’t like is how the people that this term was created for are not benefiting from it. Girls with back fat, girls with bellies that hang, girls with thighs that aren’t separated, that overlap. Girls with stretch marks. You know, girls who are in the 18-plus club.”
Rather than focusing on how the body appears, body neutrality argues that we need to place an emphasis on what our bodies do.
So what, instead, does body acceptance look like in a post-body positivity society? Lizzo argues instead for body neutrality, or body normativity. Rather than focusing on how the body appears, body neutrality argues that we need to place an emphasis on what our bodies do. It normalizes all bodies in a way where body positivity falls short. Leigh Weingus writes in her op-ed that body neutrality’s “goal is to help participants acknowledge that loving their bodies isn’t always realistic. Sometimes, it’s OK to land somewhere in between ― in a more neutral place. Body neutrality is about seeing your body as a vehicle that, when treated with care, can help you move about the world in a way that brings you joy. That’s it. No thinking about how you look, either good or bad.”
Body neutrality is an attempt to eliminate body positivity serving merely as a buzzword or as a trendy movement to be commodified by celebrities and influencers. Body neutrality offers us a way to accept and love our bodies without equating appearance with worth.