What is body positivity?
A social movement, body positivity is promoted as a way to celebrate the great diversity of the physical forms of human beings. According to the movement, too much emphasis – especially in the arts and the media – is placed on only certain body shapes with under-representation among short people, obese people, people with disfigurements, disabled people and people with skin imperfections, such as birthmarks, for example. The basic idea is that by only praising – or even being able to see – images of so-called beautiful individuals, it creates a social norm that is unrealistic. In some cases, people even claim that such images can lead to certain psychological disorders, such as anorexia, for example. By embracing body positivity among all body types, on the other hand, society should become more accepting of its diversity, something that can have a knock-on effect in terms of mental well-being.
Where did body positivity come from?
Although the idea gained ground in the mid-1990s through a number of different ventures, it had been around well before then. In the UK, the Victorian Dress Reform Movement started the whole idea with relation to female body shapes, specifically campaigning against the widespread use of corsetry, for instance, as well as the right for women to wear trousers. Although the movement died out at the turn of the nineteenth century, it was followed up in the mid-twentieth century in New York when some people started to highlight how obese people were often discriminated against.
Is body positivity good?
As mentioned, one of the key benefits of body positivity is that it tends to promote better mental health outcomes by readdressing the imbalance there is in society on certain body norms. That said, some people criticise it on the basis that body positivity can promote the fetishisation of certain body shapes. In addition, some people think it promotes unhealthy lifestyles - for example, by failing to point out that being obese can lead to poor health, in certain cases. Overall, it is seen as a positive thing, however.
How can you promote body positivity?
There are plenty of events around the world where body positivity is celebrated that you can attend and support. In London, for example, there is now an annual 'Real Catwalk' event that takes place which features people of all shapes and sizes with a range of abilities and disabilities strutting their stuff in public. Pointing out and challenging imbalances in the media is another good step that helps to promote it, too.
How has body positivity changed the world?
Several big brands now embrace body positivity as a part of their brand imagery in a way that would have been unthinkable a decade or so ago. As more and more diversity in branding and media images comes about, so the need for body positivity as a social movement should end up falling away – time will tell whether that ends up being the case, however.