I’m all for the body positive movement. It’s not that there hasn’t always been one, you can trace it through history, but without a doubt I think it is taking on a new and more intersectional form. It is helping people overcome body dysmorphia, survivors of sexual assault reclaim their bodies and allowing previously marginalised groups to claim the limelight.
We have moved beyond including ‘plus size models’ to seriously critiquing the term. What does a healthy body look like? How are our assumptions of correct sizing racist? How is this discussion affecting men differently from other genders? Why are we excluding trans people from this discussion? It’s awesome that we are having these debates but, of course, there are still problems.
The main focus of this article is on our use of make up and filters in a 21st century community. I’m not arguing this is the biggest problem the body positive movement faces but it is a problem nonetheless and one I have been confronted with a lot recently.
All too often when I see ‘body positive’ posts it is of people with multiple layers of make up and multiple filters placed on top. Now, if that is how people feel confident then fab, you do you. However, for me that would do absolutely nothing to promote my own personal sense of self worth. If you post a picture that has been so artistically altered it no longer looks like you, how does that help you reclaim your body? Perhaps more importantly, how are you helping other people?
People, celebrities in particular, get thousands of likes on ‘body positive’ pictures because the movement has become so popular. On the one hand that’s exciting, but on the other it’s now becoming exclusive. I’m not sure how much seeing larger models filtered to perfection helps people with larger bodies. Personally, I think they are beautiful to begin with. ‘Fat’ is not an insult so please lets start showing bodies as they really are.
Of course, exposing yourself is scary and make up and filters can make people feel more protected. However, I would encourage anyone getting behind this movement to consider how they frame what they post.
Firstly for yourself: if you get a million likes, then walk away, take off your make up and look like a completely different person then surely you feel disassociated from that picture? It is not you who is being supported but an artistic recreation of you. That’s completely valid in it’s own way and is certainly impressive, but is it body positive?
Secondly, people looking at that picture will often forget and ignore the make up and filters. They will see it as a representation of how they are supposed to look. If you want to reclaim your size 18, that is beautiful, but have altered your appearance in every other way so you’re representing perfection? How much are you helping other people who are a size 18? The more we post pictures of ourselves as we actually are and not as we create ourselves to be, the more we will begin to have realistic standards of beauty.
It is normal to have spots, blackheads, roles of fat, crooked teeth, receding hair, different colour skin, chapped lips, blonde eye lashes, huge hair… These things are all completely normal but everyone is trying to hide them so you think you’re the odd one out. You’re not. No one has a body that society would deem perfect. You can only achieve that with make up and filters and surgery and accessories.
If you want to be body positive then you’re going to have to embrace the things people have told you are flaws. There’s just no way around it. If you want to do it for yourself and your own sense of self worth then you’re doing pretty damn well. I think it’s about the bigger picture though. The more we show ourselves as we are, the more other people know that their ‘flaws’ are normal, that they are not alone. All it takes to redefine beauty is to show yourself as you are.