Proud2Bme | Are Body-Positive Trends Really Helping?

  • Body Image
  • Body Positivity

Are Body-Positive Trends Really Helping?

By Kaitlin Irwin--Female body confidence is at an all-time low. Upon hearing this news, I was saddened but not surprised. In an era of body positivity and celebrating diversity, it seems strange that women still have such low self-esteem.

Our culture has been and always will be flawed. From the moment we pop out of the womb, we’re molded to fit other people’s expectations of ourselves. As societal trends change, female expectations get tweaked, but they’re still impossible to conform to.

Here’s an example: the moral value we’ve placed on our food. Go to a restaurant and you might find a “skinny” menu. Hit the supermarket and walk past shelves of 100-calorie snacks and fat-free options marketed specifically towards women. Have a lunch date with your pals and odds are someone will mention that they’re “cheating” by ordering some fries. What about exercise? After all, exercise makes us goddesses, right? That’s what loads of Instagrammers would have us believe. Even body-positive fitness trainers tend to fall into the trap of promoting “hot body” workouts that will get us our “dream body.”

Yes, we have body-positive advocates out there who are speaking up about confidence and self-love. Yet, it’s definitely a lot easier and safer to say we’re body confident than to actually do it. I notice lots of people talking about self-acceptance and body-positivity. However, I’m not sure how much it’s helping. I might even go so far as to say that it’s hurting us.

Body confidence has become another commodity to buy into. We're told to love our “flaws,” but why are they flaws in the first place? I have a gross mole on my leg. I don’t have to like it, love it or hate it. It’s just there. It doesn’t define me and it doesn’t make me beautiful or ugly.

Showing off my stretch marks doesn’t make me body-positive, but it can become a different kind of body obsession, and this is the pattern I’m seeing in the body-posi movement. Instead of focusing on my stretch mark-riddled thighs, why don’t I go do something that I actually enjoy, like bicycling or drawing? Self-acceptance and overall confidence goes far deeper than beauty. We should know when to stop sending messages about our looks and instead put our energy into pursuing our hobbies and using our skills.

The amount of attention given to the body and appearance is a huge reason why nearly 85 percent of women and 79 percent of girls hold themselves back from attending social events and pursuing their goals—because they feel badly about how they look. How is this happening when the body-positive movement seems to be in full swing? Because it’s still objectifying women’s bodies. Hopefully we’re beyond the “real women have curves” thing, because by now, we should know that curves do not make you a woman, and body-confident nude photo shoots are still defining people by their body type and seeking validation for it. I actually love the freedom of being without clothes, but that’s something for me, not for others.

Our society has major problems, but I think we’ll get further if we become the change, rather than expecting deep-rooted patterns and marketing tactics to bend to our commands. These trends and body ideals may have shifted from looking “perfect” to embracing your “imperfections,” but companies still profit off of our need for validation.

The heroin-chic, Kate Moss supermodel era was body-obsessed. The curvy, Ashley Graham supermodel era is still body-obsessed. Both of these women are real women, and while they’re different, the underlying message is still the same: you are what you look like. But a woman is more than breasts, a butt and a waist. It’s time we start loving ourselves as whole people, not just as bodies.

Advertising and marketing is sneaky business. Ads and commercials will play to our insecurities (think acne-fighting cream because you want to hide your zits) as well as to our desire to appear secure (think luxury designer leggings for that feel-good yoga class). Either way, many companies profit off of the way we place importance on our bodies and appearance. Forget the possibility that you want to clean up your skin or that you genuinely enjoy yoga. Most of these companies are pandering to the people who buy acne-fighting creams or go to weekly yoga sessions because that’s what body-positive people who practice self-care do.

We can be body-confident and self-accepting without Snapchatting our smoothie bowls, posting #nomakeup selfies, and journaling about how body-positive we are. How about we just live our lives and work with what we’ve got? How about we drop the petite, curvy and plus labels and just be women? What would happen if we stopped the skinny-shaming, fat-shaming and all the shaming in between? We’re not body types, we’re women. So let’s start acting like it.

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