Meet four body positivity advocates who are fighting erasure with visibility
Body positivity advocate Englesia posing by the pool for their Instagra, 2017
Over the last couple of years, the body positivity (bopo) movement has taken over Instagram, accumulating millions of posts under its hashtags, and thousands of self-declared “bopo activists”. The movement has now received a previously unheard of amount of attention for a self-love and self-acceptance agenda, but to truly understand the importance of body positivity especially at this point in time, we need to look at what else has been happening on Instagram and in the real world.
The biggest and most vigorously growing online trend that could be considered rivalrous to the bopo movement is the fitness side of Instagram. Trending posts about cardio, lifting weights, “how to get a toned body in 12 days” workouts, diets, and most notably, transformation comparisons of the overweight self a year ago, and the slim, muscly, toned Instagram-model self now. These transformations are reposted and glorified by meme accounts (the trendsetters of Instagram culture) influencing millions of followers.
Then the Kardashians and other controversial celebrities started to promote various versions of the same profoundly unhealthy “flat tummy tea”, a tea laced with extremely high levels of laxatives. Also promoted by the Kardashian’s existence, “slim-thick” became the new ideal body type: a flat stomach and small waist, paired with round hips and a noticeably big butt. The gym-hermit fit-stagrammers wasted no time and developed new workout routines and clickbait techniques for achieving just those goals; majestic glutes, and rock-hard abs.
The number of American women in the age group 19-34 who are having non-surgical procedures done such as fillers or botox has risen by over 40% since 2011. The UK seems to follow a very similar trend although no official statistics have been released. These non-invasive injection procedures are no longer hushed secrets of middle-aged socialite women, but trendy vlog material and influencer content. Showing your cheekbone filler transformations, or lips being injected is the new designer bag of proving to strangers that you are somebody.
Meanwhile, the United States elected a president who was not shy of commenting on women’s bodies and appearances, ridiculing and humiliating people for fun, and thereby green-lighting this type of bullying. Suddenly the Internet felt like middle school again, forcing you to avoid the eyes of 12-year-old boys whose daily missions consisted of making you feel uncomfortable by staring at, if not trying to touch your burgeoning breasts, to which you hadn’t even grown accustomed yet.
Brands like Dove continued refusing to learn from their well-intended but unfortunately still flawed “real beauty” and “real women” campaigns. Advertising “real” by showing regular women (read: women who are slightly closer to the national average weight and body shape), instead of the underaged, US size 2 models most always used in campaigns, was a pioneering step towards inclusivity a decade ago. However, today inclusivity demands women of all shapes, races and religions, trans women, abled and disabled women, cis and queer women to be represented and involved in the conversation, without there being one “real” or right type.
With all kinds of people telling you left and right what beauty standards you should hold, causing you to loathe yourself into buying the products that promise to make you the right kind of beautiful and therefore better, it comes as no surprise
that so many of us started to support the bopo movement in an act of catharsis.
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