What does ‘Body Positivity’ really mean?


One of the most popular self-help tips offered by the various books, TV shows and websites that are so popular these days is ‘Every day, look at yourself in the mirror, smile, and tell yourself you’re beautiful’. The idea being that eventually you’ll start to believe it. It sounds silly, and most people dismiss it out of hand. But the whole concept of ‘body positivity’ is based on this, and it really does work.

In a society where at least 1 in 100 people suffer from body dysmorphic disorder (perceiving the body to be unrealistically ugly or disfigured), body positivity is doing something extraordinary. It’s allowing people who have less socially acceptable bodies – people who are ‘too fat’, or ‘too skinny’, or not ‘curvy’ enough – to appreciate themselves, and to move past the limiting expectations of society.

Body positivity, though, is about more than just telling yourself that you look good, or that you’re beautiful. It’s about looking at your body in the mirror and seeing all those parts of you that you hate – frizzy hair, or weirdly-shaped nose, or extra fat – and saying, all this is part of me, and I love it. Body positivists say: well, this is me, and I refuse to apologise for who I am, and I am not going to change for anyone but myself. It’s about recognising that you are just as important as your best friends, your family or your significant other, and you have every right to be love yourself just as much as you love them.

When it comes to feminism, this is even more important. Although the numbers of men affected by body issues are steadily increasing, eating disorders and other disorders relating to self-perception are still far more common in women. Body positivity is enabling women to reclaim their bodies as their own, and not something that our patriarchal society has a right to police. When placed in the context of the feminist movement, body positivity becomes something radical – an unapologetic denial of the values we have been drip-fed for most of our lives. Loving your body can become a way of fighting back.

It’s particularly important for those women who do not fit the thin white ideal that fills our media. Feminism needs to be intersectional – to take into account the way racism, homophobia and size-discrimination interact with each other, and the face of feminism in the mainstream media is all too often that of a white middle-class woman, erasing the experiences of those women who don’t fit that ideal. Body positivity is not just about fighting back against patriarchal ideals – it’s also one way for the feminist movement to face up to biases and problems within the feminist community.

Feminism is for everyone – regardless of race, size, orientation or gender, and body positivity is there to help us recognise and accept this.

More articles in 21st Century Feminist
  1. Fleshing Out the Bones of Society
  2. Finally, A Car Made For Me, A Woman!
  3. The Telegraph Just Tried To Disguise Islamophobia With Feminism
  4. Does International Women’s Day Benefit Feminism?
  5. White Feminism : The Lack of Intersectionality Within Mainstream Feminism
  6. What I Talk About When I Talk About Men’s Feminism
  7. The ‘HeForShe’ Campaign: One Year On
  8. When Will the Media Treat Women With Respect?
  9. Vaginal Piercings to be Classified as a Form of Female Genital Mutilation
  10. Easy Ways To Take Feminist Action
  11. #50Dollarsnot50Shades: Porn From The Wrong Place
  12. Feminism Doesn’t Need A Rebrand
  13. Students Must Stand Up to Sexual Assault
  14. What does ‘Body Positivity’ really mean?
  15. Have You Seen Her? Where Are Women Going after University?
  16. Please, Don’t Mention the War
  17. I Clean, Therefore I Am
  18. 2014: The year of the feminist?
  19. Don’t ‘man up’, man your language
  20. White Feminism: Time to Ditch Our Prejudice When Faced With Our Privilege
  21. Rape Culture: Summed Up by Somebody Who Actually Has a Decent Insight into the Matter
  22. This Writer Believes That Sex Work Should Be Accepted by Society
  23. But What About The Men?
  24. Private: Breaking Barriers: Women In The LGBT Community
  25. Opposition to Religion on a Feminist Basis – An Old, Tired and Plain Bad Joke
  26. Losing the Lads’ Mags – Are we really losing our sexual liberation?
  27. The Sexist Sell
  28. Private: Coming Out of the Feminist Closet
  29. The Other Side of Feminism
  30. A Journey With Feminism And Depression
  31. Gender Wars – The Internet’s Front Line
  32. Coming out of the Feminist Closet
  33. Meninist…Feminist – Can’t We All Just Agree On Equality?
  34. What Would Quasimodo Say?
  35. ‘Yes Means Yes’ – A Change For Good?
  36. Delhi Gang Rapists: Victims of the Patriarchy?
  37. The One, or One of Many?
  38. The Anti-Misogyny Twitter Bot You Didn’t Know You Wanted Is Here
  39. The Internet Is For Porn
  40. End the Deforestation of the Female Rainforest
  41. Private: Let’s Stop Selfie Shaming
  42. ISIS Sex Slavery: Is Sexual Violence a Necessary Precondition of Conflict?
  43. Celebrities Like Taylor Swift Have Turned Feminism Into A Gimmick
  44. In Defence of 21st Century Feminism

Discussion2 Comments

  1. avatar

    I don’t subscribe exclusively to the “thin white ideal” at all, but it’s painful to watch someone who is unhealthily overweight insist “I’m beautiful just the way I am”. No, you are unhealthy and you should expect more of yourself.

    Such a cop out.

Leave A Reply