Instagram, Perfection, And The Problem With The Appropriation Of ‘Body Positivity’

naked woman in a bunch of flowers
Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho

The internet exploded this week over reality TV star Louise Thompson’s announcement that she was releasing a book called Body Positive. While books released by those making a living in the public eye, via TV and via social media, are two a penny these days, it is the particular nature of the book which has caused uproar, especially among the body positive community.

The Made in Chelsea actress is accused of blindly appropriating the term without understanding where it has come from or what the term really represents. According to Louise Thompson, 27, she has transformed herself “from anxiety-ridden party girl with a destructive relationship with food and little concern for her health and happiness to someone who has found peace, direction and self-love through nurturing herself.” Her book, which is out in May, is described as a collection of workouts, self-care tips and diet recipes which “keep her on the track to positivity.”

But body positivity is not about keeping “on the track to positivity.” Nor is it about self-care and it is especially not about diet recipes. Body positivity is about self-appreciation and the celebration of a diverse range of body types other than those belonging to people who work and sculpt them on a daily basis. It is certainly not about bodies that generate an income through sponsored posts on Instagram or through reality TV.

The body positive movement, which started in the 1960s, developed out of a need to encourage people to adopt more forgiving attitudes towards themselves in order to improve their mental and emotional wellbeing. The movement was formally established in 1996 by Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott who decided they wanted to re-educate women and girls and help them feel empowered by the way they looked once and for all.

While it is Louise Thompson who has caused outrage, she is by no means the only offender of wrongly using the term. A quick search of Instagram reveals over four million posts are tagged #bodypositive and although many of the posts are of wonky tummies, eye bags or body hair, the majority are photoshopped pictures of tanned, toned and svelte women. Although the body positive movement is for everyone, one thing it is not supposed to do is trigger anxiety, low self-esteem or doubt into the minds of those scrolling Instagram looking to educate themselves on what a real body looks like.

Yet this is where Louise Thompson trips up. Her Instagram gallery is a collection of heavily edited posts that never even show a hair out of place and her book is wrongly confusing bodily positivity as bodily perfection which can only be achieved through a regime of diet and fitness. Her book makes you feel guilty that you don’t look like she does and tricks you into thinking the only way you can is by buying her book, working out and going on a diet. Body positivity is about being proud of the way you look, in whatever shape and form it is, and yes, it does include wanting to change it, but because you want to not because you feel like you need to. TC mark

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