Body–Positivity: How Difficult is it to Practice What is Preached?

Even though body positivity is preached by numerous public figures and brands, it is not very easy to rise above the normalized body standards and confess our love for ourselves.

It is a beautiful day. You are having so much fun with your friends and family and it would be incomplete if you did not capture these moments. Everything is just…Perfect. You click lots of pictures; and later scrolling through all those memories it seems something’s not right. The photos do not look as perfect as the moments then. It’s not the background, not the light, not the photography skills, certainly not the people around. Perhaps it is the way you look or that ‘imperfect’ jawline or those ‘flabby’ arms or that ‘pizza you ate two months ago’ belly.

This dilemma is faced by many of us every time we think of uploading an image of ourselves on social media. We have been so accustomed to that perfect face, arms, legs, eyes, nose and everything; that our natural body – body that sustains us, makes us who we are; seems unnatural.

With Gen – Z at the helm, the body – positivity movement has taken the world by a storm. Almost everyday beauty and clothing brands, trolls, etc. are called out for excluding or ridiculing the non – ideal body type. Fair and Lovely (now, Glow and Lovely) is a recent entrant, which also includes brands like Adidas, Victoria’s Secret and so on. It refers to the assertion that all people deserve a positive body – image, regardless of how society views an ideal body. In simple terms, encouraging the fact that every size, shape, skin tone, appearance is not just acceptable but wonderful. The term emerged in 1996, but finds its roots in the fat acceptance movement of 1960s. Its current form began to emerge in 2012, challenging feminine body standards. Since then, it has grown immensely with celebrities, clothing brands, beauty brands, and the showbiz also coming forward and showcasing their support to the movement. But the fact of the matter is – it is very difficult to admire yourself, just the way you are, when everything around you forces you to strive for that perfect everything.

Firstly, social media has a huge impact on body confidence. According to Time Magazine, psychologists have found a strong association between social media use and body image concerns, dieting, body surveillance, a drive for thinness and self – objectification in adolescents. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. provide the platform for earning approval for one’s appearance as well as for comparing oneself to others. According to a report in 2017 by the Royal Society for Public Health in the United Kingdom, Instagram is the worst social media app for young people’s mental health, with the major issue being body image concerns. With increasing presence and reach as well as aging down of smartphone ownership, social media has become a “toxic mirror”, which blurs the divide between likes and comments and what one actually feels about their selves. Everyone wants to present their most impressive image to the world and not be judged and, photo editing apps provide just the right tools.

There are scores of apps – Facetune, Make Me Slim, Retouch Me etc. which promote unrealistic physical appearances. With just a few clicks, you can slim down your face, your thighs, make your skin tone lighter, tan your body and literally, transform yourself into one of the Kardashians. Every person with a smartphone must have used filters at least once in their lives. Nowadays, even phone cameras have built – in AI that automatically ‘beautifies’ your selfies. By beautifying, it means your skin tone is made brighter, blemishes removed, eyes enlarged and cheeks reddened – just what you need to suit the caption – ‘Own who you are.’

Representation in popular culture also influences body positivity. Sadly, there’s not enough diversity. Speaking specifically about plus –sized actresses; while a few can be named in Hollywood who are slowly making their mark, Bollywood is in a serious dearth. These rare gems are either cast in conventional roles of a homemaker or middle – aged women, often supporting roles or are brought to the limelight to be made the butt of fat jokes. Lean and fair beauty still overpowers the image of what a heroine should be. Many corporates too have joined the march for body positivity; launching ad campaigns that celebrate every body type, shape, skin tone.

However, the larger cultural problem has conveniently been overlooked, which in turn, leads to the notion that how you talk about yourself should change, even if nothing has changed that would materially affect how you feel. Showing us some different pictures is all the change we need. As reported by Vox, Everlane, an American clothing retailer, launched a new underwear line in 2018, featuring a plus-size model in its ad campaign, despite making no actual plus-size underwear for sale. So, the company became a hero by hiring an ad agency, without changing the discrimination in their business. Public figures too have been accused of such hypocrisy. On one hand, they would encourage people to be both confident about their body image, while on the other hand, urge them to try methods or products to improve their look.

Body image and presentation causes stress and anxiety for a large number of people if they do not fit the supposed norm. Whether or not we are comfortable in our bodies, this nagging can take its toll and have adverse effects on our mental health, leading to depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders and other mental health issues.

“Even if every single one of us would eat the same and have the same lifestyle, we still would not have similar body types.”

a post on Instagram quoted

Yet, it is very difficult to let go of the conditioning we have been normalized to over the years and express and flaunt our authentic selves. Firstly, what needs to be addressed is what causes this behavior? There is no inherent unhappiness in womanhood, fatness or blackness, however, the pack mentality, which has consumed our culture, continues to pull down people with non – conforming bodies. Secondly, body positivity movement needs to include everyone who are usually not represented in the media – fat, non – white, trans, differently abled. The conversations also need to incorporate the body shaming of men. The movement must also be wary of commodification by lifestyle and wellness brands and public figures.

The body positivity movement still has a long way to go. It has to address many of its shortcomings and create a safe and equal space for everyone. Although social media is scrutinized for its negative impacts, it is also the best space possible to present and listen to the calls for representation and realness. Stop comparing yourself and reflect upon all the amazing things your body did and does for you. Perfection is a façade. Everybody has some cracks and concealing them will only cause more pain. Embrace and celebrate authenticity over perfection because there’s only one of me and only one of YOU.

Feature Image Credits: Ca.Style

Ipshika Ghosh

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