The body positive movement is everywhere these days. I’d say you’d be hard-pressed to be able to browse the Web without some proponent of it showing up somewhere on your screen. Whether I’m glancing at Facebook, scrolling through Buzzfeed or perusing Huffington Post articles, it’s always there in one form or another. Sometimes it’s a meme, sometimes it’s a video and sometimes it’s an article, all telling me the same message in one form or another: to love my body.
That’s it, really. Want a bikini body? Take a bikini and put it on your body, say the body positive pushers. “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top,” says pop star Meghan Trainor in her catchy tune, “All About That Bass”. A quick Google search on the body positive movement will return thousands upon thousands of blogs, articles, videos and images telling women the best thing they can do for themselves is to love and embrace their bodies.
I can completely understand the rationale behind it. After decades of magazine covers, movies and ads being filled with images of perfectly toned bodies, flawless skin and chiseled faces, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that women are pushing back against the media’s representation of women and demanding to see more realistic representations of themselves. And the media is slowly, but steadily, beginning to oblige. Just a few months ago, plus size retailer Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel lingerie campaign blew up on social media, proving how powerful the demand for change within the advertising sphere really is. The campaign, a seemingly coy jab at the picture-perfect, airbrushed, ultra-thin Victoria’s Secret models, inspired thousands of women to flaunt their figures on social media with the popular hashtag attached.
However, ask me if I think the body positive movement is helpful to improving women’s self-esteem and I’ll tell you that the answer is, well, no. I don’t think women should hate their bodies, but I don’t think the answer lies necessarily in loving them, either. I think in order for us women to obtain a healthy sense of self-esteem about ourselves, we need to take our bodies out of a big portion of the equation.
We all know why the media chooses to portray an ideal that represents less than 2 percent of women in our population. It’s a goal that we’ll never be able to reach. A goal that we’ll always strive for and a goal that will always be just beyond our grasp. A goal that will keep us buying whatever the media is selling. The underlying message we receive when we look at advertisements or magazines is that if we’re ultra-thin, tan, have a flawless complexion and tiny, pert nose, we’ll achieve ultimate satisfaction and all our problems will magically go away. The majority of women are upset over the fact that they don’t see themselves represented in the media, but really, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves why our self-esteem has to come from the media in the first place?
The body positive movement is pushing back against the beauty standards we feel pressure to adhere to everyday from the media, and for that, I give it credit. But encouraging women to love every inch of their bodies all the time seems patronizing, and honestly, a little narcissistic. What good does it really do for anyone? When I really think about what it would feel like to love my body as the body positive activists suggest, I think, well, sure it would be nice to strut my stuff down the beach in a swimsuit without feeling the need to drape a huge towel over my thunder thighs, but other than that, that’s all that would change. It wouldn’t make me smarter, richer or a better person. It wouldn’t pay my bills. So I feel good about my body because people say I should. Ok, well, now what?
If we want women to feel empowered, if we want them to feel good about themselves, we need to encourage and teach them how to succeed. We need to take the focus off our bodies, even if the focus is positive, and direct it towards something more meaningful. We need to encourage women to go for that promotion, pick up a new skill or even start their own company. No, challenging women to post lingerie-clad pictures of themselves to social media all in the name of body positivity is not going to raise their self-esteem or empower them. Loving your body won’t raise your self-esteem. Self-esteem doesn’t and shouldn’t come from within; it comes from doing, it comes from achieving, it comes from being a productive member of the community.
Is it easy? Of course not. It’s hard not to focus so much on your own body when the media and everyone else is all about bodies, bodies, bodies. I swear I must see the word ‘body’ at least a thousand times a day on the Web. When you flip open your laptop or switch on your phone, you’ll never be without pictures of other women to compare yourself to, whether they have killer abs or a little extra flab that they’re not afraid to show off. My point is, don’t hate your body, don’t love your body, stop comparing it to others. Accept it. Take care of it the best you can. Use it to do great things that will positively affect not only your own life, but the lives of those around you.