While many body positive activists, myself included, exclaim as loudly as our caps lock lets us that, BODY POSITIVITY IS FOR ALL BODIES and that WE CAN WEAR WHAT WE WANT and that WE ARE WORTHY OF LOVING THE SKIN WE’RE IN – our words are still falling on ignorant ears. The fact is, while body positivity has made the mainstream a (slightly) more diverse and bearable place, the body positive crowd seems to have thinned out somewhat in recent months.
Maybe it’s because now that we’ve seen stretch marks on the front cover of a magazine, we think that an active body positive voice is not needed. Maybe it’s because curvier models are being used in the fashion world and we think that our work is done. Maybe it’s because more clothing stores are testing the water and selling ‘more-inclusive’ size ranges and we think that we’ve touched a nerve. Who knows why, but the body positive sphere seems to be lacking in enthusiasm – and I for one, am not giving up on us yet. Whether we like it or not, the fight for a better level of body positivity and a stronger self-esteem is still on, and here’s why we all need to dig deep and get back behind body positivity once again.
BODY POSITIVITY IS NOT A FASHION STATEMENT
Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled that more and more clothing companies are expanding their size ranges to be ‘more-inclusive’ – although it seems that to be all-inclusive is too much to ask – we need to remember that body positivity is not merely a fashion statement. When I think back to all of the negative body image situations that I found myself in when I was younger, fashion was just a slice of my low-self esteem cake. Sure, it was painful going shopping and not being able to fit in anything – but it hurt a lot less than being physically assaulted because of my size. I used to hate going into the changing room and being faced with my body from all angles – but that didn’t compare to being surrounded by bullies from all angles.
My point is this – the fashion world is becoming more size diverse, but we shouldn’t accept that token as a complete overhaul of beauty standards. The body positive community have been thrown a crumb by the fashion gods, for while the fashion world stretches its waistlines to a size 22, it certainly isn’t all-inclusive. Encouraging a change within the world of fashion is only a part of what body positivity is about and we’d do well to remember that fashion has nothing to do with body positivity, not really.
Our experiences of how we relate to our bodies are built upon so much more than the clothes we wear, they are built on how we feel when our clothes are off and we’re laid-bare.
BODY IMAGE IDEALS ARE STILL UP FOR GRABS
It’s important to give credit where credit’s due, and the mainstream has done much in the way of increasing body diversity in the public eye. We now see many campaigns and movements that are working towards a better body image, but although this olive branch is being extended to many bodies in the real world, it is not being made available for the rest of us. While the models used in campaigns and shoots might have stretch-marks and cellulite, they don’t have the vast marks, lumps, bumps and variety of body types that actually exist in the real world. Body ideals are still up for grabs, but they now take the form of bodies such as Ashley Graham’s and Hunter McGrady’s. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing with Ashley Graham’s or Hunter McGrady’s (slayyyy ladies) but the mainstream still forgets that body size doesn’t stop at a size 16.
DIPPING A TOE IN BODY POSITIVITY IS NOT ENOUGH
If you’re going to be body positive, you gotta do it properly. I’m not saying that there’s any right or wrong way to navigate the tricky path of body positvity, but we need to remember that there is always more that we could be doing. If you’re going to share the story of a straight-sized babe overcoming her bullies – then you need to share the story of a fat queer Queen who is throwing sass around like confetti. If you support male body positivity, then you sure as hell need to support the body positivity of WOC. My point is this – you can’t pick and choose the types of bodies that you support, encourage and love. If you choose to be an activist, a body positive ally and supporter, then you need to be in it for all bodies, not just the ones that are mostly accepted within society.
We need to fight to get the voices of the marginalised heard, and dipping a toe in body positivity is not enough.