The body positivity movement is more than a passing trend on the internet that popularises itself for the span of a few weeks before people go on to the next best thing. This movement is rooted in people’s want and need to be able to accept themselves and those around them as they are rather than what popular media would like us to be. No matter your body type, skin colour, fashion sense or gender orientation, this movement seeks to include everybody who dares to step outside of the perfect image of skinny, muscular, tall, fair-skinned people that the media inaccurately represents.
Body image and presentation is the source of stress and anxiety for a large number of people if they do not fit the supposed norm and unfortunately, the ambient noises and people’s opinions on one’s body type doesn’t help either. Whether or not we are comfortable in our bodies, this nagging can take its toll and have adverse effects on our mental health.We are talking of situations when poor body image causes depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders and other mental health issues that can change a person’s life entirely.
The body positivity movement advocates acceptance and strives to change people’s behaviour and perspective towards certain products and services that profit from people’s insecurities such as weight loss products or health club services. The core goal of the movement is to address the unrealistic beauty standards portrayed in the media and to help people build confidence in themselves. Major brands like L’Oréal, Hindustan Unilever’s Fair & Lovely and Johnson & Johnson are changing their branding to drop words like ‘whitening’ or ‘fair’ from their products and some have stopped the production of fairness creams all together in an attempt to be more inclusive and to celebrate people of all colour as they are.
The movement first started in 1969 when the National Association of Advance Fat Acceptable was established. Even today it continues to strive towards making a change in the way weight issues are spoken about. In 1996, the term ‘body positive’ was first coined when a psychotherapist and a person who was undergoing treatment for eating disorders created a website known as thebodypositive.org. However, the movement as we now know it, only gained popularity in the year 2012 and was focused on debunking unrealistic standards for feminine beauty. It is during this time that the movement shifted from weight acceptance to saying that all bodies are beautiful, scars, cellulite, hair, fat and all.
In recent years, we have seen such a drastic change in conversations surrounding body positivity, that any brands or organisations that do not keep up with the change are completely sidelined. Victoria’s Secret, a fashion company known for its paper-thin models and iconic fashion shows, took a nosedive as they lost most of their viewership. The fact is that people no longer have the patience to digest these unachievable standards and are looking for media portrayal by people who look and talk like them rather than a supposed image, probably airbrushed for perfection. Celebrities and musicians have taken to changing perspectives about this too as their content has started to reflect body and sex-positivity, where the glorification has shifted to people who keep it ‘Juicy’ and ‘thick’.
This movement has influenced the fashion industry to such an extent that a lot of plus size fashion brands have gained popularity. With brands like Navabi, Mango, ASOS Curve and Chi Chi London – plus size fashion is at par with some of the biggest designer brands and more importantly these brands offer affordable clothing without compromising on quality. Models like Tara Lynn, Winnie Harlow, and Precious Lee have set quite the precedent for models and fashion companies everywhere to add more diversity to every sector of their brand. Millennial influencers and musicians like Doja Cat and Nikki Minaj are very outspoken advocates for body positivity.
Research done by the American Psychological Association shows that body dissatisfaction may be on the decline and even though studies show that women express more dissatisfaction than men, this trend is finally on the retreat as perceptions continue to change and evolve.