The body positive movement is problematic in many ways

by Catherine Van Weele, Contributor

The body positive has proven to be a boisterous social movement. One that aims for women and girls to love their bodies no matter what size they are.  While good in theory, the body positive movement has been largely problematic due to its lack of inclusivity and failure to challenge the status quo.  Women are left in a paradox of finding self-love while seeking outward validation from an unchanged society.

The movement is focused on normalizing all body types from skinny to fat, but even that has its restrictions.  A size 8 and above is considered plus size in the modeling industry, despite the fact that the average American women wears a size 14, according to Cosmopolitan.  The representation of the female body must better reflect the whole population of American women. The means normalizing natural body features including cellulite, stretch marks, acne, hair and scars.  Such blemishes can be easily edited out with programs and apps such as photoshop. These technologies are accessible to the average user who then create these filtered and altered images to share them on social media platforms.  

The body positive movement on social media has been quite problematic, especially given the rise of fitspo, short for fit inspiration.  Fitspo has created an even more unachievable standard for women. Not only is there a pressure to be skinny, but to have a toned body as well.  It plants the the belief that through hard work one can transform their bodies into the ideal. Under the mirage of healths motivation, there is still a message that implies that one must conform to love their body.  If your body does not look the way you want, it means you haven’t worked hard enough.


There is also the issue of weight discrimination that the body positive movement fails to contest.  Doctors will often blame a person’s health issues based on their weight. People with obesity face discrimination in the workplace.  They are often overlooked during the hiring and promotion processes.

The body positive movement also fails to address ageism. The beauty industry and the media continue to promote anti-wrinkling and anti-aging products.  Hollywood celebrities try to maintain their youthful for as long as possible. There remains this idea that beauty has an expiration date on it, especially for women.  Aging is something that is to be resisted, rather than embraced as a natural development.


The body positive movement also fails to center the movement around intersectionality.  It doesn’t promote the idea that people of color, people with disabilities or transgender people can be truly beautiful.  Most of the models of color have Eurocentric features and there is little to no representation for people who are disabled or transgender.  Additionally, men with muscular bodies are predominantly displayed in the media, while men with what are referred to as dad bods are left underrepresented.  The concept that men can be insecure about their bodies is widely ignored.


The body positive movement will not be able to progress forward and give people the opportunity to genuinely love their bodies, when the media continues presenting a limited image of beauty.  These images are still not an authentic reflection of the human body. The movement continues to focus on the way people look as opposed to the feeling of beauty; that our value as a person remains dependent on the way people look and present themselves.  Self-worth must move beyond image. Beauty is what makes up a person in their entirety. It is a sense of empowerment, it is an inward feeling of self-appreciation.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email