Body poppin’ all the time: a look at body positivity

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Women’s magazines throw so many messages at you: one article will tell you to love yourself whilst three others tell you how to get a summer body, clear skin, and a vagina that just won’t quit. And the thing is men are not completely not immune to this either, with men’s mags moving away from the conventional ‘see this sexy woman’ to showing you ‘how to get killer abs in four days’. Needless to say the majority of programming is aimed at women, from making your vagina smell like peaches to making sure you have the face of a 15 year old at 50 with a booty to match, women are constantly being told how to ‘self improve’.

The idea is always ‘love yourself…once you change everything about you’. With the onslaught of messages, how does one learn to love their being? Body positivity is one frame of thought that can help.

People mistakenly think that, because body positivity a movement carried most proudly by larger women, that body positivity is about being ‘a big girl and loving it.’

Even though the portrayal of a bigger body is an important part of the movement, it is not all of it. With a skinny aesthetic being pushed as the ideal, the body positive movement centres around changing common ideas about what a ‘great body’ or ‘healthy body’ looks like.

‘It is by no means exclusively a movement aimed at the liberation of fat bodies; it is about encouraging people to accept and appreciate their bodies, irrespective of how closely they approximate – or fail to approximate – normative beauty standards’, says one author.

Be in charge of your own body

One of the core ideas of body positivity is to learn ‘how to uncover the messages that have influenced your relationships with your body, food, and exercise and develop a weight-neutral, health-centered approach to self-care [to b]ecome the authority of your own body by sorting out facts from distorted societal myths about health, weight, and identity.’

It is about tackling all those little voices that creep into your head when you are looking at yourself in the mirror, or when you think you should spend that extra hour in the gym, or skip that extra sweet treat. Not because you want to be healthy but because you are having an issue with your body and feel it isn’t good enough. The truth is that the beauty standards set forth by various gatekeepers and society at large are ones that few people can reach without breaking the very bodies they are trying to perfect.

Skin deep beauty is Big Business

Skin lightening is a $10 Billion dollar industry whilst the weight loss industry is closer to $ 66 billion, and this is not mentioning the array of make-up products and fashion trends that have us doubting our very existence.

Body positivity has faced criticism, with people saying that there are parts of it that have been capitalised upon, amongst others. However, there are still many ways in which this movement can be a powerful force for good.

Not only does loving the body that we are in send a powerful message to ourselves but also to the world at large as to what ‘perfection looks like’. There are many people (regardless of size and stature) who are told that they should not love themselves.

The movement is about correcting an internal and external power imbalance that is often skewed against less ‘conventionally attractive bodies’. It is about undoing the harm that is done by the hate, the slurs, the societal pressure, the negativity, and self-degradation that few of us can escape. Body positivity, done in the right way, is a great way to start climbing out the bog of self-hatred.

This post originally appeared on Love Matters Africa.

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