But that’s advertising,
which we all know is a frequently dodgy corner of our culture. What about body
positivity out in the wild? Well, on social media, it actually gets worse for
fat bodies: we’re not just being erased from body positivity, fat women are
being actively vilified. We’ve become an embarrassing cohort that proponents of
Socially Acceptable Body Positivity (I just coined that phrase – body
positivity for bodies that are accepted anyway) would like to distance
themselves from as far as possible. We’re the baddies of Socially Acceptable
In 2017, however, body
positivity is the easiest way for corporations to sell stuff to women, and the
easiest label for influencers to claim in the search of moral kudos. Its
corporate popularity is probably the clearest way to see exactly how toothless
and anodyne it’s become. We all laughed when Zara’s ‘Love your curves’ campaign featured
two thin models in denim, but other ads using the spin of body positivity
are not that different. Victoria’s Secret used the slogan ‘A body for every body’
and decorated the accompanying ad with not one but 10 thin models. Every body?
No, just every thin body. It’s almost as if brands believe that saying
something is body positive makes it inherently good and above criticism
because, hey, at least we tried. Like the emperor’s new clothes, just tell
everyone it’s body positive and no one will be able to tell the difference.
In the recent past, at least
when I started blogging in 2011, ‘body positivity’ was a label that my fellow
plus size bloggers and other members of the fat community felt pretty peaceful
with. It was a label that made sense to us, it pointed at the ways we might
have been encouraged to feel disconnected from or hostile towards our bodies.
It acknowledged that not all bodies are viewed equally, that some come with a
huge amount of cultural stigma. Like, for example, fat bodies.
In the online community each individual can feel supported and
empowered by others in the community and by the fact that they have encouraged
themselves to publish a body positive – often norm-critical – picture. The
pictures published within the body positivity movement are all self-defined as
body positive. Therefore there is a lot of variation in the types of pictures,
especially when going through popular hashtags that have millions of pictures.
The idea of the movement is, however, to embrace the body as it is and not
portray women as they often are portrayed: with male gaze, gender-norms and
Western beauty standards. In this body positive online community women post
pictures of themselves without makeup or flattering clothes, without caring if
their stomach is not flat or even if it is huge. In the pictures within this
movement women can be seen as fat, as well as skinny, tattooed or with a
shaved-head, with unshaven armpits or legs, showing cellulites or stretch marks
from a pregnancy or just from body-changes.
The roots of the movement are in the fat acceptance movement.
However, the usage of the term body positive can be traced back to the 1990’s,
when “The Body Positive” was a feminist movement in the United States of
Nowadays the movement exists largely in social media and is based on
pictures. For instance, on Instagram there are millions of pictures that are
hashtagged with some of the hashtags used in the movement. The two large
hashtags examined in this study, #bodypositive and #bodypositivity, contain
currently over three million pictures. In addition to these, there are many
other hashtags that are used in the movement.
Body positivity is a term lacking an academic definition and is not
yet defined by the big dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster or the Oxford
dictionary (5.3.2017), and only recently was added to Wikipedia. Body
positivity means that all bodies should be seen and should be able to do
anything. It means accepting all bodies as they are and that a person does not
have to fit in a certain model in order to be beautiful or accepted. Body
positivity includes not judging yourself so much, as well as forgiving yourself
and being gentle to yourself. (Hultin 2017, Kalenius 2017)
With the aid of the internet, fat activism began to shift from niche
movement to mainstream platform. And in the process, some of its priorities
have begun to shift. Today’s body-positive activists recognize that size is
just one of the many ways that our bodies are unfairly judged—and in the
process, they’re working to fight not just for fat acceptance, but racial
justice, trans and queer inclusivity, and the rights of disabled folks as well.
Body positivity for all
One of the core principles of NAAFA, and fat activism more broadly,
is that most of the ideas we promote about fatness and health are just plain
wrong. Instead of blindly treating fatness as an indicator of poor health, fat
activists argue for a Health At Every
Size model. Under this framework, it is not whether you are fat or what
shape your body is that matters, but everyone is encouraged to engage in
healthy lifestyles and eating habits, and vital signs like blood pressure and
cholesterol and general wellness are treated as more important measures of
health than weight or BMI (.
off by the 1967 publication of Lew Louderback’s Saturday Evening Post essay
“More People Should Be Fat,” fat acceptance quickly coalesced into an organized
activist movement. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA)
was founded in 1969, and has been arguing against our obsession with thinness
It was in the middle of 20th century that the focus began
to shift from fashion to fat shaming. The modern body positivity movement
has its roots in activism of the late 1960s—though at the time, it took a
slightly different form. Instead of broadly arguing that all bodies are
beautiful, these activists exclusively championed the rights of one
particularly denigrated group: fat
people. And it wasn’t Instagram likes or fashionable clothes they were
after, but tolerance from a medical establishment that tortured and sought to
Fighting the fat shamers (FAT
Granted, dress reform activists didn’t always push back against fat
shaming of the era, but they did argue that women shouldn’t be forced to
mutilate their bodies with overly-restrictive corsets or bury their legs under
mountains of petticoats. Organizations like the Society for Rational Dress
argued that a woman’s place was in a pair of pants. And with that shift in
sartorial trends, women’s bodies began to get more freedom to exist in their
CORSETS Though it may seem somewhat
removed from modern body positivity ideals, the Victorian Dress Reform
movement—a campaign fueled largely by middle-class feminists from the 1850s
through 1890s—could be considered a precursor to the activism of today.
Those fights have not always been about the same movements, though.
While modern body positivity focuses mostly on expanding our ideas of beauty to
include people of all gender identities, races, sizes, ages and abilities,
activists in other eras had different priorities – for example, fighting for
the right to wear clothing that didn’t actively damage their bodies.
Modern body positivity is a growing movement and an online community
in social media based on visuality. With its hashtag campaigns and
Instagram-ready attitude, body positivity may seem like a modern invention. However,
the fight for the freedom to love everyone`s bodies is way older than the Internet.
As long as humans had bodies, they have been battling the ideas about the
“right” way to exist in them.
as fashion becomes more body positive, the push to make other
institutions—including media, law, schools, and housing—more inclusive of
people whose bodies have been marginalized has been sidelined. As legislators
pass “bathroom bills” that target trans and gender nonconforming people,
airlines make it difficult for plus-size people to travel, and the Department
of Education dismantles protections for people with disabilities, body
positivity has morphed to singularly focus on fashion, empowerment, and selling
products. It’s a complete departure from the radical politics of fat
acceptance, the movement that birthed body positivity. In the age of
#bodypositivity, what are the aims of the current movement, who gets centered
and celebrated, and what bodies are considered “good bodies?”
The body-positivity movement uses rhetoric rooted in empowerment to
affirm women of size and encourage us to accept ourselves as we are, regardless
of our dress size. A Google image search for “body positivity” offers an array
of simple illustrations framed around the idea of empowerment. All bodies are
good bodies. There’s no wrong way to have a body. All bodies are beautiful.
Beauty comes in every shape and size. Honor my curves. Plus is equal. It’s time
for us to reclaim our bodies. These catch phrases, and dozens of others, have
become powerful hashtags on Instagram—more than 4 million people have used the
#bodypositive hashtag on the photo-sharing platform. Tagging a photo with one
of these popular hashtags lets other body-positive people know you’re a member
of the community
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. Whether people are nurturing their bodies and maintaining their weight,
or finding a place in life where they are comfortable through working out, or changing
their lifestyles to find a better attitude, the body positive movement focuses
on building self-esteem through improving one’s self-image. The body
positive movement targets all body shapes and sizes. The movement is not only
about working out and striving to be positive and creating a better lifestyle
for oneself, but deals with health as well. A debate within the movement
surrounds the question of whether social media sites, including Instagram,
Facebook, and blogs, are helping or harming people’s perceptions of their
bodies. People involved with this movement challenge themselves daily to learn
how to grow and love themselves to the fullest. FROM WIKI
do so, I will first research the roots and history of the body positive
movement until now.
of the objects of this research the body positive community on Instagram in
order to understand how social media platforms enable women to self-present outside
of traditional gender norms and challenge dominant ideals of feminine beauty.
WHAT IS BODY POSITIVE MOVEMENT