Body Positive Movement
The Body Positive Movement is a movement that encourages people to adopt more forgiving and affirming attitudes towards their bodies, with the goal of improving overall health and well-being. It also focuses on challenging the structures that interrupt a partnering relationship with one's body, like racism, cisheteropatriarchy, the media idealization of certain bodies, the fashion industry, the diet industry, etc. The body positive movement is inclusive of all bodies in theory, but not always in practice, where expressions of body positivity may suffer from the typical influences of what is considered beautiful or acceptable.
Connie Sobczak and Deb Burgard both used the term publicly in 1996 and met each other in the San Francisco Bay area within a year. Connie and Elizabeth Scott would soon found the organization The Body Positive, and Deb Burgard created the original Body Positive website bodypositive.com in 1996-7. Burgard had begun the trademarking process in the fall of 1996, and holds the trademark today. All three of these founders had roots in the eating disorders community, and Burgard also has roots in second wave feminist, fat activism, and the queer community. Burgard's work as an eating disorders psychologist and activist influenced the early concept of healing the relationship with one's body when one faces oppression. The focus was on both support for the public and also changing the institutions that perpetuate the idealization/devaluing of some people's bodies and lives. While the body positive movement initially focused on healing from the effects of weight stigma, the fact that weight stigma intersects with other oppressions has widened the focus for some activists and authors.
Body positivity stems from the fat acceptance movement of the 1960s' second-wave feminism, which focused on issues of body politics and discrimination against fat bodies. Present fat acceptance activists have sought to redefine media portrayals of fat women using popular social networks like Instagram to send the visual message of the plus size physique as one that is beautiful and praiseworthy. The article, Feminism and the Social Media Sphere by Mereen Kasana, describes social media as systems of feminist spaces where women are provided with encouragement against pre-existing isolating standards that render them invisible in society.
Body positivity is about radically re-imaging how American culture views bodies, moving from a society where differences are ranked to one where they're celebrated. The movement aims to make people (it does not target a specific gender) heal the ways they have felt divided from their body because of the way bodies like theirs have been devalued.
The Body Positive organization offers workshops that have five different learning competencies. The first one teaches students how to tell the difference between positive messages and messages that have the potential to “cause self-destructive behavior” and is called “Reclaiming Health.” The next competence is about being able to experience health through practicing self-care. The third competence, “Cultivating Self-Love,” teaches students, “to move away from self-criticism…and become aware of the voices that raise criticism.” “Authentic Beauty” is the fourth competence and deals with how to “find inner beauty without having to resort to the ideal images imposed on us by society.” The fifth and last competence is called “Build Community” and its focus is encouraging “individuals to be connected with others in order to establish a community of support and harmony.” Burgard's website bodypositive.com is in the process of being archived and revitalized. Many of the conceptual origins of the body positive movement can be seen on the site.
In the media
Sports Illustrated released three covers for their annual 2016 Swimsuit edition—all featuring women with different body types. "What defines beauty today? The truth is, times have changed and one size does not fit all," Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Editor MJ Day said in a press release. "So we don't have just one cover, because beauty doesn't take just one form." One of the three covers features "plus-sized" model Ashley Graham; a size 14. Graham is the first plus-sized model to be featured on the Swimsuit edition. Graham has been the face of body positivity since her Lane Bryant #ThisBody ad campaign. Sports Illustrated wanted to celebrate all different body types. Graham "has long been an advocate of body positivity", telling TODAY in an earlier interview that "there is no right size and there is no wrong size."
The iconic Barbie doll has undergone major changes to reflect realistic body proportions. Mattel Inc., the company that manufactures Barbie, announced a brand new line of Barbies to represent figures of "real women." Previously, "studies have linked early exposure to ‘unrealistically thin’ Barbie dolls to the development of unhealthy body image in young girls." The size and shape of the traditional Barbie is unrealistic and can only be attainable through plastic surgery. Therefore, the company has decided to release three different shapes: curvy, tall, and petite to represent the diversity of women’s body-types. Barbie no longer has the traditional thigh-gap and super-skinny figure. "Mattel seems to have jumped onto the body positivity/diversity bandwagon," said Ravneet Vohra, editor of Wear Your Voice.
Social media as civic platforms
Social networking has become an influential medium to support civic and social justice. Studies show the power of social media lays in its ability to expose and spread political issues, where political advocators can direct higher positive change in a larger unison. Social media’s capacity to communicate ideas in a global way can encourage more discussion and awareness on any civic or social justice to wider audiences. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, are all sites that gather supporters in common view and guide political-activist groups in learning information from different cultural perspectives. Media writers and activist like Kasana state diverse interaction among different networks as politically significant and more impactful to the public, because networks can expose social issues to uninformed groups. Kasana further labels social media platforms as transnational online spaces that act as support networks of solidarity and unity to social media users.
Social media as a negative platform
Body Positivity is one of the most discussed topics today and the power of social media platforms has created much of that discussion. But as more support for acceptance for plus-size women is happening, “skinny-shaming” is becoming a new type of criticism in these same networks. As sites and media have begun to promote positivity, they have unfortunately also become places for a different kind of negativity. Thus has skinny-shaming begun to appear against celebrities, models and women who may either be unnaturally forcing their weight down, or who may actually have naturally slimmer bodies. But the true intention of skinny-shaming might be different, as it may be a way that some women express they feel others they are having “thin privileged.” Actress and model Jaime King has suffered unfair criticism over her naturally-thin body and was accused of being thin-privileged. In social media, especially Instagram, people have posted criticizing King’s thin body and even cruelly suggested that she should “eat more”. Taunts like “go eat a hamburger” are just some of the things written in poor taste under some of her pictures. When King was recently offered a movie role, the producers told her they were not happy with her weight and asked if she could even “lose some pounds." According to King’s interview with the New York Post, she said “when I was diagnosed with endometriosis, I gained 40 pounds because my hormones were so crazy.” Social media and web sites often purposely give a misleading impression that someone, especially a celebrity, is living a life that is “better than yours”, with no worries or issues. Actress Sara Hayland, from the popular TV show [G1] [G2] Modern Family, came under criticism on Twitter and Instagram when she posted a photo of herself looking unusually slim. She was flooded with comments about her weight, and took to Twitter to post a lengthy response to the body-shaming comments against her on social media and celebrity news sites. "I haven't had the greatest year," she noted on Twitter, "maybe one day I’ll talk about it, but for now I’d like my privacy. I will say that this year brought a lot of changes and with that, physical changes." Body-shaming", the act of humiliating someone for their size or shape, can happen to anyone - a celebrity, a regular woman, or a man. In this age of social media, any woman who uploads a photograph can quickly become a victim of body-shaming, regardless of her status, race, color, or age, and even if she or nature is the reason for her body being as it is.
Expansion and advertising
Research of the body positive’s narrative within Instagram reveals body positive advocates began their movement discussion with images of their daily routines, including family and friends. Later, that narrative changed into discussing their experiences with eating disorders, fat shaming, mental illness, and their self-image, through the use of hash-tags. Cwynar-Horta asserts the successes of the body-positive narrative in Instagram, reinforced through the increasing “likes” gained attention from not just followers but media magazines and article features as well. Hash tag narratives in Body Positive profiles now advertise jewelry, teas, and exercise equipment from corporations that have noticed and encouraged body positive advocators. Instagram’s transition into an advertising platform in 2013 has seen a new public interpretation of the positive body campaign. Corporations have picked up bloggers’ account newsfeed, and begun selling products through user endorsements. Recent backlash from bloggers claim corporation’s support of the body positive campaign, as a business tactic that is “hijacking..spaces that are meant to be democratic,” and adding beauty ideals that body positive bloggers fail to meet. ) Modeling agencies looking to sponsor overweight models have recognized popular idols like Tess Holiday and Ashley Graham, both iconic names within Instagram’s body positive movement. Fashion Brands also “claim to be body positive” by including plus sized models into their advertising campaigns and launching plus size clothing lines. American eagle’s Aerie clothing line for example promotes body positive attitudes by portraying realistic body types and unedited pictures. Recently, Advocates have noticed a standard size on overweight models, which does not “accurately represent a variety of large size women.” Evaluation on today’s media and Instagram portrayal of body size by figures like Tess Holiday and Ashley Graham has been considered as limiting the all-inclusive goals of the Body positive campaign. Body Positive community members have criticized body positive media portrayal as only representing identities within the movement that are conventionally attractive white women; or those who meet society’s beauty standards most closely.
- Ashley Graham (fashion model)
- Iskra Lawrence (fashion model)
- Sarah Tripp (style blogger)
- Jes Baker (writer)
- Beth Ditto (singer/songwriter)
- Megan Jayne Crabbe (Instagram personality)
- Jesse Hattan (Model and Instagram personality)
- Cwynar-Horta, Jessica. "The Commodification of the Body Positive Movement On Instagram." Stream: Culture/Politics/Technology 8.2 (2016): 36-56.
- Fierro, Ernesto. "Positive Body Image Workshop Creates Culture of Body Image Acceptance." University Wire. Jan 25 2016. ProQuest. Web. 9 Nov. 2017
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- Mehreen Kasana, “Feminism and the Social Media Sphere.” Women’s Studies Quarterly, vol.42, no. ¾ (2014): 236-249
- Sanghani, Radhika (2017-06-20). "Holly Willoughby and the thin-shaming trend that shames us all". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2017-11-06.
- Brinded, Lianna. "Conflating "skinny shaming" and "fat shaming" masks the often forgotten issue of thin privilege". Quartz. Retrieved 2017-11-06.
- "Jaime King wants people to stop 'body-shaming' skinny models". New York Post. 2017-09-10. Retrieved 2017-11-06.
- "Peruskurssi body positive -ajatusmaailmaan: nämä hahmot kannattaa tuntea". Iltalehti (in suomi). 26 July 2017. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
- "The Story Behind The Viral Post: 'Beauty Comes In Many Different Shapes And Sizes'". Women's Health. 2017-08-04. Retrieved 2017-09-05.
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- Grant , Janet Millar. “Elementary Teachers' Federation Of Ontario.” ETFO | Body Image Project, ETFO, 2017, www.etfo.ca/supportingmembers/resources/pages/bodyimageproject.aspx.