Body positivity refers to the assertion that all people deserve to have a positive body image, regardless of how society and popular culture view ideal shape, size, and appearance. It refers to the movement to accept our bodies regardless of size, shape, skin tone, gender and physical abilities. Body positivity has been around for many years dating back to the 18th century, when women were put into shapely corset to achieve a certain body type. The corsets effected women in a negative way to the extent of harming them physically.
Vintage X-RAYS reveals the hidden effect of corsets on women. Since then many activists, public speakers and journalists have come forward speaking against it. The movement really picked up after the publication of an article “More people should be fat!” which pushed against the idea of fat shaming.
In the 90s the body positivity movement evolved and started including more health workers who talked about the psychological effects of fat shaming which caused women to develop clinical psychological disorders and eating disorders.
Advertisement and fashion has really contributed to the construction of the ideal body image. Slim and slender body type has been put on a pedestal throughout the history of media and advertising, which has caused women to chase that ideal body type and going through physical and mental suffering.
“Body positivity” is now used more than ever, but what is it exactly? One need to identify what it conveys exactly as there is still ambiguity surrounding the term. It is mainly to appreciate all body types and be inclusive in media portrayal. It specially targets:
• To appreciate the uniqueness of all body types
• To diminish the negativity surrounding body types
• To make people comfortable in their own skin
It promotes self-love, accepting yourself for who you are and influencing these ideals towards others. Normalizing these aspects, so there can be acceptance for this in society. Which can lead to better wellbeing of people physically and mentally.
Due to the influx of social media, and the accessibility of the internet a lot of people have voiced their opinion against fat shaming and its portrayal in the media. Which in a way has effected mainstream media and its portrayal of body types drastically. A lot of fashion campaigns and media portrayal have started being inclusive to different body types.
Body positivity is guided by the understanding that feeling positive and accepting of appearance can improve mental health, reduce the risk of eating disorders, and allow someone to function at their best. The body positive movement was born out of the understanding that strict and negative messages about bodies and appearance were emotionally, psychologically and physically damaging to many people. The body positivity movement offers a solution to the problematic and harmful beliefs encouraged by social messaging and negative body image.
Body positivity is founded on positive psychology, which focuses on ways to improve functioning and well-being rather than focusing on illness or disorder. Psychological research has shown that body positivity is associated with improved self-care behaviors, including healthy diet and exercise, fewer unhealthy diet behaviors and lower risk of depression. Body positivity includes not just the absence of negative body image but also having meaningful respect and appreciation for one’s body. Of course, negative body image can have consequences for mental well-being and can worsen many aspects of functioning.
Many western brands have changed their portrayal in the media because of this, brands like Victoria Secret, Fenty, Dove and others have started being inclusive of different body types. This has trickled to other parts of the world too, especially here in Pakistan. Savage x Fenti Men’s Collection by Rihanna breaks barriers with plus size male models
Pakistani society has seen a cultural obsession with slender body and fair skin color and many women in the country have suffered because of this. With social media influx and many influencers of different body type and color promoting body positivity, many mainstream brands have also started being inclusive here. With models being diverse and of different body and color. An example of this can be the brand Generation, which has been the flag bearer of diversity including women of all bodies, color and ages in their media campaigns.
A campaign by a Pakistani brand Generation which promotes diversity in body positivity.
Despite these body positivity movement criticisms, acceptance, inclusion and tolerance of diverse body types can improve the health of individuals and the community as a whole. There is clear evidence to support the role of body positivity in improving in media and its portrayal which is leading to better mental health and well-being.
This writer is a student of BS Journalism Studies, 8 Semest at University of the Punjab, Lahore. She can be reached at [email protected]