Proud2Bme | 6 Ways to Decolonize Body Positivity

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6 Ways to Decolonize Body Positivity

By Palmer Hipp--I believe all humans have unique backgrounds, experiences and body types, and because of this, body positivity should be fluid. I define body positivity as the acceptance and representation of all body types.

But if you type “body” or “body positive” into Google, many white, heterosexual, privileged females appear. I often think the body positivity movement resembles a white feminist movement in that people with disabilities, transgender individuals and people of color are seldom represented. If they are, they’re often categorized under the binary of “real” men or women. There is rarely a diverse depiction of race, ethnicity, gender, age and sexual orientation in the mainstream media. This, simply put, needs to change.

Decolonization broadly refers to a shift in how you view the world. Breaking norms institutionalized by power systems and years of white infrastructures, challenging labels and destroying binaries are ways to reclaim one’s body. As an advocate for self-love, I believe we must create a place where the marginalized are valued for their differences. When we can reimagine body positivity as a universal concept, people may begin to accept their past and love their present in order to create a better future.

Here are six ways you can help decolonize body positivity:

1. Educate yourself.

Learn about races, genders, ages, sexual orientations and disabilities. Acknowledge what makes you stand out, and understand why some may have different beliefs from yourself.

2. Learn about your background.

Find what makes you, you. Decolonizing means defending one’s culture, their history and their family values.

3. Listen

Hear what people have to say, understand their stories and struggles. To be a good ally, you must listen.

4. Leave the idea of “real” women and men behind.

There’s no wrong way to be a woman or man. One size, race, age, ability, gender or sexual orientation does not make anyone more “real.”

5. Give compliments not based on physical appearance or gender.

You never know where someone is on their journey to body positivity, and these compliments may not be interpreted as intended. Sam Dylan Finch gives great examples of common body positive phrases that exclude people:

  • Instead of, “Your body is already perfect,” say, “Don’t let society tell you that your body makes you less than others.”
  • Instead of, “All bodies are good bodies,” say, “All bodies have value. All bodies deserve care.”

6. Challenge the status quo and speak up!  

The body positivity movement should be for everyone, but let’s not ignore the fact that many are left out. Those who have the power to speak need to have the strength to advocate for those placed in the shadows. Do your part in publicizing, uplifting and encouraging the voices of people who are marginalized. Challenge the definition of beauty to represent everyone. Encourage more appropriate language, and challenge words that do not represent body positivity.  

Decolonizing body positivity is necessary in reclaiming and restoring body positivity. Together, we have the power to represent all bodies and all voices.

About the blogger: Palmer Hipp is studying in the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia. She hopes to obtain a MSW, aspiring to become an activist for social justice issues. She devotes her time toward breaking the stigma against mental illness and eating disorders as well as promoting awareness and education to mental health issues and violence against women. 



Also by Palmer:

JC Penney Knows How to Market a Plus-Size Campaign

5 Ways to Challenge Mental Health Stigma

5 Bo-Po, Feminist Things We'd Like to See in 'Beauty and the Beast'

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

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