Drawing by Satori RT via Amino
Existing in a space free of judgement is a fundamental right. However, for individuals that fit outside of the traditional mainstream beauty standards, manoeuvring through day to day life can prove to be difficult. In the United States, which idealizes and prioritizes thin, white, able bodies who show little signs of imperfection, it is evident that a space for all bodies and abilities is necessary in a constantly advancing world.
The Body Positive Movement initially began in the 1960s with the idea of correcting fat shaming. A second wave was introduced in the 1990s which encouraged the prioritization of bodies of all sizes to come together and exercise. Today with the help of social media, however, it has transformed into something much more than fat acceptance or spaces for the widely unaccepted bigger body to exercise.
The Body Positive Movement has transformed into a conglomeration of ideas brought in to place by individuals exhausted from the one track mind of beauty that is often instilled in individuals from an increasingly young age. It also challenges the mainstream views of how health is perceived and determined. Not only does the movement liberate fat women, but women with defining unique physical characteristics, women that are differently abled, and generally those that fit outside of the traditional mold which has been put into place throughout the years of heteronormative and hegemonic influences.
Slowly but surely, a space is giving way and allowing for a broader spectrum of body positivity and acceptance. However, it is obvious that with a constantly growing group of supporters of the Body Positive Movement, there also brings a voice of criticism. Protesters of the Body Positive Movement focus largely on the liberation of the fat woman and assert that fat isn’t healthy. They argue that the movement glorifies obesity, health problems, and unhealthy lifestyle choices. They believe that one can not possibly promote such atrocities. Some think that the celebration of loving and liberating the “other” body can lead to a slew of problems and even eating disorders. This type of outlook is one that is unsurprising, yet, consistently damaging. Shutting down spaces for individuals to celebrate their differences and come to terms with their place in the world, the space in which they occupy, and the way in which they carry themselves is anything but atrocious.
Because the argument of health is at the forefront of discussion, those that support the movement often times feel it’s important to provide evidence pointing to discrepancies in the very way health is defined. One such instance is how body mass index (BMI) is calculated. The calculation of BMI was created by Belgian astronomer and mathematician Adolphe Quetelet to define the characteristics of a “normal man” and use it as a way to spot epidemiological records. Quetlet had no intentions of using the BMI to direct a patients medical care. This same system of calculation was also originally intended for a white male. If BMI calculation, which is used widely to determine obesity and predetermined conditions that stem from obesity is flawed, what other medical practices should be under public scrutiny?
The reality of the Body Positivity Movement is that it doesn’t glorify obesity, health problems, and other unhealthy characteristics. It creates a space of acceptance for individuals to live their lives freely, with respect, and with confidence. What is forgotten is that the Body Positive Movement isn’t just the liberation of fat women. It is rapidly changing and evolving into the liberation of all women born with unique physical attributes, disabilities, and other characteristics deemed to fit outside of the traditional mold of beauty in western culture. The conversation needs to be shifted away from scrutiny and shifted towards that of inclusivity. Communities shouldn’t be protesting these developing ideas, rather, opening up a space of opportunities for discourse and asking “What can I do to help and create more inclusive and accepting environments?”. The movement invites women to look in the mirror-stretch marks and “flaws” aside-and say “I love myself”. Is that really such a bad thing?