Body Positive Movement
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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.
The Body Positive movement aims to help people overcome conflicts with their bodies so that they can lead happier and more productive lives. The movement itself aims to inspire youth and adults to value their health, unique beauty, and identity so that they can use their vital resources of time, energy, and intellect to make positive changes in their lives and the world. The movement itself has sparked much attention as various other organizations aim at helping young girls to promote self-acceptance and love of their body image as well. Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott are the original creators, who in 1996 created the Body Positive Movement campaign after a living room hangout between them and a group of friends in their former teen years. Together, they hoped to create a mission statement of accepting unique, realistic body images that lead to a more balanced self-loving life. While the body positive movement developed based on body politics focusing on the social stigmas associated with being overweight, the campaign came to include size discrimination based on extremes in physical size, such as very tall or short; extremely fat or thin.
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 oversize 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.
The movement aims to make people (it does not target a specific gender) feel comfortable in their body, regardless of the negative aspects.
Similar body image movementsEdit
There has been research that focuses on the relationship between girls' and young women's bodies and images in "the media." Projects, movements, and other organizations have been working to change the way young girls and women look at themselves in terms of their body image as well as self-image. Problems that arise from females constantly criticizing their weight and body image can lead to anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.
The Adipositivity project aims to "promote the acceptance of benign human size variation and encourage the discussion of body politics through a visual display of fat physicality". The ultimate goal of Adipositivity is to broaden the definition of physical beauty.
These social movements are just a few of many that are working to promote self-acceptance at any age and any weight.
In the mediaEdit
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 platformsEdit
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.
Since 2012, the Body Positive Movement has been popularized within the Instagram social circle. The emergence of photographic social media apps like Instagram, has amplified The Body Positive movement’s message of body acceptance and social change, by allowing users to visually see others proudly posting their imperfections. The body positivity selfie encourage others to proudly show off their unique and unconventional bodies, encouraging fat bodies are not to be hidden but flaunted. This strategy as discussed in Abigail Saguy and Anna Ward’s article, Coming out as Fat: Rethinking Stigma, can challenge society’s observation on fatness as a social stigma and transform it into a normality. As Saguy and Ward state in their article, “flaunting represents a politics of difference.”
Bloggers will photograph activities usually “thought proper only for thin people,”  like fitness and yoga inspiration accounts, challenging the assumption that fat bodies are not strong and active bodies. Oversize fashion bloggers tag their photos with hash tags, #plussizefashion and #plussizeootd (plus size outfit of the day) in order to challenge fashion standards and expectations on what oversize women should wear, proving they can be as fashionable as any thin woman. Much of the research based on body positive accounts has been found through hash tags collected from profiles. Hash tags are the most popular feature used to connect the movement to users, often times acting as tools for advocates to identify multiple issues their images are attempting to address. The hash tag #effyourbodystandards is the most popular. Bloggers’ voices are heard through hash tags and they speak about their issues in words rather than complete sentences. The tool acts as a link to other bloggers across the nation, and clues other bloggers to numerous body issues that they were not aware of.
Expansion and advertisingEdit
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.
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- Cwynar-Horta, Jessica. "The Commodification of the Body Positive Movement On Instagram." Stream: Culture/Politics/Technology 8.2 (2016): 36-56.
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- Abigail C. Saguy, Anna Ward, “Coming Out as Fat: Rethinking Stigma.” Social Psychology Quarterly, Vol.74, no.1 (2011): 53-75
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