Body Positivity vs. Body Neutrality
Written by Christine Wincentaylo
Body positivity has its roots in the fat acceptance movement of the late 1960s which focused on ending the culture of fat-shaming and discrimination. The term “body positive” however emerged much later and became a movement, as we know it, in 2012. It initially focused on challenging unrealistic feminine beauty standards and the focus then later shifted toward a message that “all bodies are beautiful.” (Very well mind, 2020)
Body positivity is a social movement rooted in the belief that all human beings should have a positive body image, while challenging the ways in which society presents and views the physical body against negative body image, like those perpetrated by unhealthy ‘thinspiration’ photos or images that encourage the idea of a “fixed” ideal body image. Without a doubt, the media has created a defining image of perfection to be idolized. The beauty industry profits from socialised insecurity and it was found that on, average, women spend around £483 ($600) on beauty products a year (Glamour, 2018)
The Body Positivity movement has created a safe space for a community of like-minded individuals who wish to go against the social norms of an ideal standard of beauty. The conversation around body positivity is changing thanks to unapologetic figures such as Lizzo, Stephanie Yeboah and Chessie King. But as we recently saw with reactions and comments to Adele’s weight loss, there is still a long way to go.
Body positivity grew in popularity, yet women of colour, women with disabilities and transwomen, were pushed from the spotlight by a more conventional beauty ideal. Many women now feel the movement has been co-opted. Stephanie Yeboah is one. “It has become a buzzword, it has alienated the very people who created it. Now, in order to be body positive, you have to be acceptably fat – size 16 and under, or white or very pretty. It’s not a movement that I feel represents me any more.” (Guardian, 2018)
So these individuals have found a new path; one with a pretty similar name. Body Neutrality.
Essentially, body neutrality aims to encourage you to accept the body you are in and focus on its achievements, rather than its appearance. “Too often, we fall into the black-or-white trap of either loving or hating our bodies, and I think this movement provides an opportunity for a middle ground,” psychotherapist Alison Stone stated. “It provides an opportunity for acceptance.”
Jameela Jamil, who identifies with the movement, said ‘I’m not trying to spread body positivity. I’m trying to spread body neutrality where I can sit here and not think about what my body is looking like. “We have made incredible progress. We’ve made incredible strides”.
Many agree that schools should now focus on body neutrality and recommend books such as ‘Beyond Beautiful’ to help young people in providing the ultimate guide to building confidence in your body, beauty, clothes, and life in an era of toxic social media-driven beauty standards.
– What is this book about? It’s a super practical guide about how to improve your body image in a looks-obsessed world. ⠀
– I don’t struggle with my body but with [another part of my appearance], does this apply to me? Yes! ⠀
– I’m a guy, does this apply to me? Yes!⠀
In the future, I would like to see more discussions around body neutrality with young girls and women. Our bodies keep us alive and we are destroying them to look a specific way. Ladies, let’s love our bodies without the “If’” or “But’s”. Understand we need to appreciate how strong we are. We don’t need to deprive ourselves of the nutrients and minerals our bodies need. You can’t be the best you when you are not physically and mentally healthy.
Beyond Beautiful is a much-needed breath of fresh air that will help you live your best life, know your worth, and stop wasting any more precious energy and mental space worrying about the way you look.
Here are some other empowering ladies to check out and follow:
Images by Anuschka Rees (https://anuschkarees.com/blog/2019/5/21/out-now-my-new-book-beyond-beautiful) and the Beyond Beautiful Instagram account.