All bodies are good bodies. This very principle is what inspires a movement that has been practiced long back and now reaching mainstream dialogue in the establishment press. Body positivity is in.
Body positivity, in its simplest forms, is a movement by women and men to embrace all body types and fight for positive representation across all platforms in the media.
Vee McConnell is the Co-President of Georgia State’s Faces of Feminism. In the discussion meetings, the club works in difference of sexism, racism, classism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism and other various forms of institutional oppression. Last semester, they held a #BlackTransLivesMatter. This semester, they held a panel on fatphobia, the social demonization of fat people.
As an advocate herself, McConnell explains the term body positivity, and the implications of it.
Q: What is body positivity?
McConnell: It is the idea that all bodies regardless of size, shape, color, ability, etc. are equally worthy, equally valuable. I focus more on specifically fat positivity because I believe fat people, since there’s a multi-billion dollar industry committed to making us disappear, need and deserve our own movement that focuses on our unique struggles. People of all body sizes benefit from body positivity and fat positivity though. The hatred of body fat, the fear of becoming fat and the hatred of being fat affects everyone.
Q: What goes into practicing body positivity?
McConnell: It is a constant and sometimes exhausting endeavor to try and undo the messages we receive hundreds of times a day that our bodies aren’t good enough. It requires a lot of effort to unlearn things that have been ingrained in us since birth. For me, being body positive means I have to treat myself kindly and talk about my body positively even when I’m feeling bad about it, and I feel bad about it often. To be body positive, some people engage in self-care acts like taking photos, dancing, exercising, making art of their bodies, all sorts of things. I think what goes into body positivity as a movement is harder to define. I think people sharing what they do in their individual body positive journeys helps to foster a sense of community with others. I think something that seems as simple as posting a picture of yourself as a fat person, or a person with any type of marginalized body, can be a radical act, when fat people are told that we should be hidden away and unviewable, it tells people, “I’m here on my own terms and I am worthy of taking up space.”
Q: What about it is important to you?
McConnell: It’s no exaggeration to say that body positivity and fat positivity save lives. When I was a teen, I had a severe eating disorder that went undiagnosed because I was fat and everyone was just glad that I was finally losing weight. When truthfully I was suicidal because of the fat hatred I’d been taught. I was starving myself and losing weight at an incredibly unhealthy rapid pace, and no one cared because my life didn’t matter as much as becoming thin did. People, and especially women, are taking drastic measures to achieve the “perfect body,” and we are losing ourselves, our health, even our lives in doing so. People deserve much better than this.
Q: What do you think causes the presence of body positivity?
McConnell: Women are killing themselves to be thin, employers are denying people jobs because larger people are seen as lazy and less hardworking as their thin counterparts. Body positivity in general exists, I think because people are fed up with being told that their bodies must be in a constant state of improvement. Women are fed this lie especially, through products and all sorts of media.
Q: The world “body positive” has been mentioned in headlines lately. Is there an example you have personally seen?
McConnell: I think the Lane Bryant lingerie ad being banned from television is a good example here. Fat bodies are seen as inherently more indecent than thin bodies. I think it’s great that we are starting to see some pushback, to see some bodies that are slightly out of the norm in the media, but that’s the issue there: mainstream body positivity is only skimming the surface, only highlighting bodies that are just slightly out of the ideal. Like hourglass curvy bodies with no fat rolls, visible stretch marks, or cellulite. I would like to see more representations of bodies that are extremely outside of the “average” or “ideal” size or shape. And I mean positive representation, not those pseudo-shocking “awful beach body” photos you see on some newspapers at the grocery store.
Q: A foreseeable retort to body positivity is that it may promote an unhealthy lifestyle. Respond to that.
McConnell: Body shaming doesn’t make people healthier. Fat shaming doesn’t make people lose weight. Loving yourself will never be unhealthy. That is what body positivity is promoting. Sometimes people will call fat positivity “glorifying obesity” and my only response to that can ever be “Screw you, my fat body is glorious.” Something really important I think needs to be included here is that all people are deserving of love, dignity and respect regardless of whether or not they are healthy. Health is not a moral imperative.
As of Recently
However, deemed small or significant, there has been recent additions along the media dialogue showing a body size that is often deemed radical.
In January, Aerie released a swimwear campaign starring model Barbie Ferreira among other swimsuit-clad models completely un-touched.
Lane Bryant’s most recent campaign, THIS BODY, features a string of plus sized models wearing outfits and much less to support body positivity. The ad was considered NSFW by ABC and NBC and not aired.
In Sports Illustrated’s 2016 Swimsuit Issue, there were three different covers released. Two of the three featured Ronda Rousey and Ashley Graham. Supermodel Cheryl Tiegs publicly rejected Graham’s inclusion on the cover, deeming her body type unhealthy.