For the past two or three years, body positivity has been steadily creeping into the mainstream forefront. Whether on the runways or in ad campaigns, diversity is being more and more respected and even demanded. Fat models like Ashley Graham and Tess Holliday have appeared in publications such as Sports Illustrated and Vogue Italia, taking up space usually reserved for models only a fraction of their size. But while everyone else is celebrating these small victories, I can’t help but think, Is this the start of actual change? Or is this just another trend for brands to profit off of and then drop?
Here’s the thing: Body positivity is important. Body positivity is life changing. Body positivity is life-saving. And while it’s great that print and media want to embrace it in little ways, here and there, I’m going to need them to clear a space at the table so BoPo can have a permanent seat in the forefront of society’s consciousness. Because for me and many others this isn’t a trend; it’s a damn lifestyle.
I grew up absolutely ashamed of my body. People’s flippant comments and micro aggressions all stockpiled in my mind through the years, and affected the way I viewed myself and how I assumed others would view me. In high school, for instance, I did my absolute best to avoid taking a physical education class, in spite of it being a requirement for graduation. I went three and half years and almost made it to the finish line before being called into the guidance counselor’s office to discuss what P.E. class I preferred to take to satisfy the missing credit. For the last five months of my high school career I took intermediate weightlifting. Unsurprisingly, no one wanted to be weightlifting partners with the un-athletic fat girl so I spent most of the class period hiding behind gym mats listening to music. When it was time to get changed, I took my clothes in a bathroom stall. Never once did I feel brave enough to let mean teenage girls see my doughy body.
For years beyond that, I never felt brave enough to let ANYONE see my body, including people I was hooking up with. Some ridiculous part of my mind thought if I kept half of my clothes on and only hooked up with people in pitch black rooms, they wouldn’t realise that my thighs jiggled and my breasts were less than perky. In spite of being intimate with others, I couldn’t find the confidence to be completely seen by them. It wasn’t until body positivity came into my life that I found the will to be bold and unafraid of the opinion of others. And that’s why it’s such an invaluable movement to the world.
Body positivity gives young girls the opportunity to be fearless in a way I wasn’t brave enough to be when I was that age. Body positivity gives adults permission to enjoy being sexually active. It allows people the freedom to enjoy existing. In spite of other people’s ignorance, or mean comments, it teaches you to find acceptance within, hence why it’s so worrying when brands use it as a marketing tool or ad gimmick. It’s amazing to try to give a spotlight to those who’ve been historically kept out of it, but those who seek to co-opt the term for their own personal gain need to do better to teach its lessons.
If given the proper chance, body positivity can change what we see on TV, in movies, and in magazines; but more importantly, it can change our entire lives.