I had asked on Instagram last week: “What is BoPo or Body Positivity mean to you”? I’d love for you to take a moment to think about that question before reading on.
I got some responses such as: body positivity is body gratitude, it is loving your body as it is, it is rocking a bikini no matter what size you are, and it means being confident.
These are great ways to show the body that you are its friend not its enemy. The original body positive movement came from the fat acceptance movement. In its origins, it was a movement to fight the discrimination against larger bodies. But now, as you can see from the varied responses to my question, BoPo can mean something different to everyone. It seems it has broadened from its origins of fat acceptance.
What I love about the BoPo movement is seeing more real, unaltered, photos of people. More companies are using more realistic models with a variety of body shapes and sizes, while vowing to not alter photos. This is a great step in the right direction! We are still inundated with portraits of an unrealistic body ideals, and we need to see more real humans living their lives regardless of their weight/size/shape/able- disabled body/ etc. .
Here is the tricky thing with BoPo on social media platforms like Instagram. It is a lot of people taking photos of their bodies, maybe even highlighting their “flaws” and proclaiming that they love their body regardless of their “flaws”.
But, stay with me here, what if we didn’t see our body parts as something that could be flawed? A stomach could just be a stomach. You would not be “brave” for showing it to the world, but you would simply be neutral. In my opinion neutrality towards “flaws” can be 10,000,000 times more powerful than “accepting flaws”.
Not to mention your “flawed” tummy could be significantly smaller than the person next to you. So, as you talk about your struggles with posting that kind of photo- it can leave the other person to think “Gee- if THAT stomach is flawed, mine is really flawed!”
I believe that body neutrality could be a more powerful movement than BoPo. Keeping with the stomach theme imagine this: when a little girl say’s “my tummy is too big”, instead of telling her it’s okay and to love her body anyway, what if we explained that a body isn’t something that can be flawed at all? Explain that a belly is a belly is a belly, no matter what size, shape, or color? Explain that all bodies are good bodies.
Getting back to social media, we post photos of ourselves on Instagram for external validation. It feels great to get likes & comments, right? But there really is a dark side to this that we often don’t like to think about, let alone talk about it. When we get fewer likes/comments on a photo, or when we compare to others around us it can make our self-worth and confidence plummet. Even if it is all in the name of BoPo.
For a lot of people just the words “body positivity” gives off the impression that you have to love your body every second, of everyday. Which is far-fetched for most people. In that case see if the terms “body respect”, or “body neutrality” better resonate with you. Shift the focus on appearance to appreciating the bodies functionality.
This body neutrality is a tough concept. We all have some degree of body dimorphism, where how we see ourselves is often different than our true reflection. We tend to be our own biggest critic. I am not immune to this myself, it is something that I work on every day. I think respecting my body, celebrating what it can do, and being confident (however that may look) might be more powerful than #BoPo.
I think that is the whole point of my post. Show me you living your life in an authentic way, regardless of how your body looks, and that will always trump a posed #BoPo picture. Show me you crushing a deadlift, or nailing a backbend, instead of posing in a mirror at the gym. Or maybe you have a disabled body, show me you doing something that brings you joy! Remember it is OK to not feel positive towards your body all the time. Instead lets focus on treating our body well. While I think the BoPo movement started with great intentions, and still is a positive message, it does have its caveats. Namely, the fact that its focus is on aesthetics.
Am I saying we shouldn’t take photos of our body? No, I would never tell you what to do. I still take photos of myself. But I won’t be using #bopo- there are enough people that look like me doing that. As a thin, white woman, I think I am better off being an ally to people in all bodies, by spreading the HAES (Health At Every Size) movement to anyone who is interested.
Maybe the ultimate goal is being kind to your body, treating it well, and doing the same to all the other bodies out there. Maybe the super-ultimate goal is to do that AND love how your body looks. Some body positivity neutrality maybe? Haha, but in all seriousness- this is complicated stuff! I don’t know what the right answer is here, or if there even is one, that’s why I wanted to jot down some of my thoughts. I’d really love to hear from YOU if you have any opinions/thoughts/experiences you would like to share (comment or email!).
Final note: to all the moronic haters that think body positivity is “glorifying obesity”: just a heads up your bias and privilege are showing. Maybe go check out the post before about Health At Every Size.
Thanks for reading!