Why the Body Positivity Movement Isn't That Positive

Updated on November 21, 2016
Women Pose in Lingerie at an event for the #Bodylove Campaign in Germany. Men and Women both participate in the event.
Women Pose in Lingerie at an event for the #Bodylove Campaign in Germany. Men and Women both participate in the event. | Source

Women's search for self-esteem and dignity has been a long one all across the globe. Movements rise and fall, different cultural standards fall into place, and different impacts shake the ground beneath women's feet. At the turn of the centuries, Feminism has heeded to the call of women who desire suffrage, support, security, and sympathy. It was an admirable movement and in many countries it still is. But like with every good thing, there are some that will take its name in vain. The last few years in America have seen a distortion in the feminist movement. It seems that the repertoire once gained by true leaders has been taken and distorted by a new generation of social media soldiers.

This article will be discussing the Body Positivity and Fat-Acceptance Movements as a whole. I do recognize that there are parts of these communities that do not falter in the ways that I will describe. I am expressing my opinion on the subject as someone who does care about body image, self-assurance, and the right that everyone has to feel comfortable in their own skin. While the body positivity movement should be producing impressive results, I have done extensive research into why it has inevitably failed so many women today. Here are 13 reasons why:

Women pose for an ad run by the Dove Beauty Campaign, one of the first commercial entities to promote body positivity. The campaign had its share of both successes and failures.
Women pose for an ad run by the Dove Beauty Campaign, one of the first commercial entities to promote body positivity. The campaign had its share of both successes and failures. | Source

1. It's Not That All-Inclusive

When you look at pages that focus on body positivity or the communities that promote it, they seem to feature one specific group of people more than anyone: Overweight and/or obese caucasian women.

It almost seems strange that a movement lead by feminists trying to represent women of all backgrounds (and even fighting for the ability to be the voice of women of color) would not feature more Asian, Latino, and African-American females in their communities. Although more and more African-American women are joining the campaign, women of other races still seem scarce.

Among my time in these forums and pages that follow the creed of body positivity I noticed that the overweight, able-bodied white female reigned over all. Minorities exist more frequently when the movement is being represented commercially, but within the communities themselves these women are not represented--and sometimes not valued--the same as the other members. But the exclusion of multi-cultural women is only the beginning of what makes this "open-minded" club not so diverse.

The other large group of people whom the movement seems to ignored is the disabled. The body positivity movement is no place for veterans missing limbs, sufferers of scoliosis, or those with vitiligo or other skin conditions. It's not for the deformed faces of those who have suffered horrible incidents, those with Down's Syndrome, women who have had mastectomies, the elderly, or the bodies of those recovering from anorexia or bulimia. Can you find examples of these people? Of course, but they are few and far between.

The body positivity movement gives prestige to those people who, while flawed, are still a certain level of attractive in one way or another.

Your body may have stretch marks and rolls but if you've got a decent face and take nice photos, you're pretty much golden. Being pretty and overweight "sells" nowadays. Being anything else doesn't. It's an insult to those who the movement claims to care about. At times it even seems that some of their biggest supporters--the LGBTQ Community--have a hard time finding widespread exposure, let alone fame and glory. As a whole, the body positivity movement has a limited scope of representation.

Celebrity Kylie Jenner poses in one of her Instagram pics at age 16. She's been known for her sexual presence on social media from a young age.
Celebrity Kylie Jenner poses in one of her Instagram pics at age 16. She's been known for her sexual presence on social media from a young age. | Source

2. It Encourages The Sexualization of Young Girls

How do you be body positive? It depends on who you ask. If you were to ask a psychologist, they might recommend you to methods of cognitive behavioral therapy, grounding techniques, and the construction of positive emotional support from family and friends. If you were to ask someone from a body positivity group, they'd probably tell you to post a selfie. There's an unspoken guide to residing in the body positivity community and it involves a lot of superficial proceedings. These pages are wrought with mirror selfies of girls in their underwear and the cavalcade of compliments underneath. The most disturbing part about this, however, is that it's engaging underage girls in this ritual as well.

Because the movement is centralized on young women, you can very easily find girls under the age of 16 who openly post suggestive photos of themselves on these public forums for all to see.

I'm not just talking about a girl showing off her swimsuit either. I'm talking about the sexually charged self-portraiture that the movement seems to encourage the most. The idea is that to be sexy is the ultimate form of confidence. For a lot of people that is true and it's not wrongful for them to find comfort in their sexuality. But it is dangerous for girls of younger ages to be posting photos of themselves nude or in lingerie, bending into sensual poses and expressing their sexual values (ex. kinks/fetishes) on public forums. The sexuality isn't the primary issue, it's the time and place of its expression. I could go into any of these groups where girls, mostly 13-16, are being bombarded with comments from grown men who find them attractive.

Some of these men find them invigorating because of the fact that they look like fully developed women and express themselves as such. The rest of these men, however, take an interest in these young girls specifically because they are underage.

Any of these people can send lewd messages and photos to these girls in just a few clicks. They can offer a compliment to incite the girl to accept a friend or follow request, at which point they have access to almost everything they'd need to know about her. They can find out where she's been, what school she goes to, who she knows, where she hangs out at. The threat of kidnapping, sexual assault, and other significant harm is still a very real, very prominent issue facing youth today.

People also don't realize the legal complications that can occur when communities like these arise where boys and girls who are mostly under 18 end up as "Facebook Famous" or "Tumblr Famous" internet celebrities. In many states you can be charged with the possession or distribution of child pornography for racy selfies, especially those posted online. Any person could anonymously report them to authorities for this behavior, at which point the laws of the state can decide what happens to them. Even if there are no legal consequences, the long-term implications of posting these kinds of photos online are often ignored for the sake of their status in the online community.

Again, the problem isn't with young people being inherently sexual. It's the fact that the body positivity movement teaches them that, despite the battle to not be seen as "sex objects", their highest value is in their physical, sexual appearance. To be "sexy" is the greatest achievement you can muster no matter how much you weigh or how many flaws you have, as long as you have an audience for it. This is a by-product of not just the body positivity movement but of the millennial-heavy new age of feminism. It easily becomes addicting to a young insecure girl who, in just a few good photos, can be caught up in a flurry of compliments, followers, and attention.

Moreover, it has been suggested that women viewing commercials that include average-sized models might experience greater self-awareness of their own bodies due to the explicit focus on “real” women, triggering a fear of fatness. Also, these women may still be reminded of the thin beauty ideal even when viewing average-sized models, heightening their general awareness of beauty ideals (Anschutz, Engels, Becker, & van Strien, 2009).

— Angela Celebre, Ashley Denton|"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty"

3. It Contributes to More Insecurity

You might argue that I'm saying being sexy is bad. It's not. The problem is that the body positivity movement—in most circles—only teaches one method of finding confidence: Being sexy. It's certainly a confidence booster and that's been the case for centuries. Even I do admire many women who are sexual icons. But to narrow people's insecurities down to something that relies purely on superficial representation on social media is insulting to the depth of our human confidence. It's no wonder that these girls still suffer, often vocally, with their insecurities every day despite the growing number of "fans" they receive or photos they post garnering upwards of 300 "likes".

The body positivity movement teaches you how to market yourself through social media, how to blur the line between confidence and narcissism, and how to base your entire self-esteem on what a group of strangers think. The body positivity movement does not teach you how to work proactively on your emotional distresses, find value in your appearance when a crowd isn't watching, seek emotional support through people who are truly present in your life, or how to not leave the fate of your self-esteem up to social media.

This movement is obsessed with image, which inevitably leads to insecurities about image. Once you've gained a following you're checking over your photos time after time again and seeing who's liking and commenting on your things and at what volume. Living through social media makes us forget what it's really like to live. It's like being invited out to dinner with your friends but not going because your face broke out and there's no way to really cover it up. It's like sitting at the edge of the pool while everyone else has fun because you're worried about people seeing you in your swimsuit. It's like going on a roller coaster at a theme park and having your day ruined because the wind messed up your hair. Instead of reveling in the experiences life can bring, you find yourself hinged on the question of: "What do those people on the internet think of me?". What's the point of being a sensation online if you're still insecure and apprehensive in real life? What true benefit does that do for you?

An advertisement for Swimsuits For All, a plus-size swimsuit company, featuring model Ashley Graham.
An advertisement for Swimsuits For All, a plus-size swimsuit company, featuring model Ashley Graham. | Source

4. It Believes Plus-Size Models Are More "Realistic"

Carolyn Coker Ross, MD, is a physician, author, and speaker on eating disorders, obesity, and addiction. In one of her articles titled Why Do Women Hate Their Bodies? she states:

"Today, the media is a far more powerful influence than ever before, sometimes taking precedence over friends, family or other real women. Whereas women used to look at role models who were average-sized, women are now comparing themselves with images (some of which are merely computerized conglomerations of body parts) that are unrealistically thin. In the old days, a young girl grew up wanting to look like her mother or best friend. Now she wants to look like Angelina Jolie.

Herein lies the real damage. The more an individual is exposed to the media, the more he or she believes it is reflective of the real world. What most people still don’t realize is that the majority of the pictures they see in magazines are altered in some way and that looking like their role models is physically impossible. It is a setup for self-hatred."

The context of the article involves discussions on how young girls from age 7 and up react to frequent exposure to thin icons from actresses to toy dolls. But the idea of how media negatively influences a girl's self esteem carries over to the fat-acceptance and body positivity movements.

Every model who has her photo posted commercially, whether she's 100 pounds or 300 pounds, goes through post-processing. It's a part of marketing and isn't often done with malicious intent, however many people don't know how to handle the visual information they're receiving. Those in the body positivity movement would say that plus size models have a great advantage over thin models in the community because they're of a more relatable size, thus making their image "less damaging" than that of a thin model. But the only thing that makes them any different from a thin model is the fact that they're overweight. They still had to sit in a makeup chair for hours, they still had their waists cinched, their bosom enhanced, and their skin completely airbrushed of every flaw. Despite the fact that they have more fat on their bodies, the desired shape is still the same: Hourglass. They are just as "unrealistic" as they claim thinner models to be. People take this idea at face value and live by it without realizing how harmful it is.

Even amongst the communities themselves, you'd be hard-pressed to find photos without filters or careful lighting and angles. These communities teach you to live through the veil, to engage in all of your emotional healing through the cookie-cutter compliments of strangers online and the soft filter of your front-racing camera. This doesn't exclude you from feeling insecure. It's easy to compare yourself to other girls who may be getting more attention than you, or the one or two people who said something rude on one of your pages. Sure, you may feature your flaws up close and personal but the reigning success is found in semi-professional makeup-saturated selfies. It is all a setup for disappointment.

Children of younger and younger ages are becoming susceptible to harassment online.
Children of younger and younger ages are becoming susceptible to harassment online. | Source

5. It Makes People Vulnerable

Living out your identity on the internet invites more opportunity to be faced with negative attention. While many seek solace online because of the negativity they face at home, many more don't even consider that their participation in these groups can be more harmful than good. I would support anyone interacting with people (online or off) who encourage positive attitudes. I personally understand what it's like to have some of your close friends reside on the other side of a screen. But when you're dealing with such a sensitive subject like body positivity in public forums, it could be a recipe for disaster. People on the internet can be cruel, and you may find that your posts are taken and made a mockery of. You could receive negative backlash for upsetting the wrong person or revealing your age (if underage). Girls in body positivity groups can easily gain thousands of followers in just a few days. As quickly as people are ready to support them, they are ready to tear them down as well.

Of course it's possible to find honest friends on the internet, people you can actually count on. But these communities that spread like wildfire only gain the attention of more and more people who have little to no supportive value. It turns from a tight-knit group of friends with good intentions to a spectator sport of insecurity.

The body positivity movement makes you feel personally victimized or vulnerable, even if you've never experienced the level of oppression some claim to exist. Everyone has been bullied for something and everyone has their reasons to feel insecure. The community will take even the most extreme cases of maltreatment and apply it to your life. They circulate experiences not just as individual occurrences but as inevitable consequences of anyone who is overweight/disproportionate/flawed in any way.

"I finally asked that boy out in my class and he turned me down. He probably doesn't like fat girls."

"My favorite store didn't have that dress in plus size so I tried on a smaller one. I could hear some girls laughing at me."

"This girl at work just got the promotion I've been trying at for months. It's probably because she looks like a model."

"My boyfriend started liking this other girl's pictures and she's way prettier than me. I'm so hurt, I should have known."

These complaints turn into full on headline articles of discontent to be spread among the masses, scaring them into believing that it could happen to them too. Some even believe that they are systematically oppressed for their weight, vaguely equating it to the racism faced by certain people. Being in these communities makes you sensitive and not in a good way. It makes you sensitive in the way that you're expecting the worst to happen to you because of your appearance. You subconsciously start pruning through your daily life for instances of "oppression". You assume anyone with a slight stare is judging your appearance negatively, or that anyone who turns you down does so because of how you look, or that an employer snuffed you for your weight. You're taught to believe that you should be empowered by your appearance but also fearful of it as well. Again, this leads to real-life anxiety about online experiences.

Justin Bieber and Lara Stone pose for a Calvin Klein ad.
Justin Bieber and Lara Stone pose for a Calvin Klein ad. | Source

6. It Ignores Men's Issues

Whether those devout followers of the body positivity movement want to admit it or not, their movement is not about including men. While some of their mantras seem to revolve around men they are not often inclusive of them. They may say that they sympathize with the body image problems that men face but the truth is that their movement does not reflect this. Transsexual men seem to (sometimes) be the exception while other men are at a loss. The depreciation of men's bodies and emotional relationship to their bodies has been a problem way before the movement gained popularity on social media. A study conducted of 394 men at The University of the West of England found that 80.7% of those men expressed anxiety in relation to their personal appearance and that they found significant flaws in their image. Similarly, 75% of women in the study expressed the same ideas. Researchers also found that, not surprisingly, men were severely less likely to talk about their body dysphoria than women.

The coddling of females in regards to their body image begins at a young age and stems from the idea that they are fragile and must be protected. Alternatively, boys are raised to be less fragile, less emotionally outgoing, and all-in-all more contrasting to girls based on the notion that certain characteristics are exclusive to one gender or another. Studies done in classrooms all across The United States and Canada have shown a power struggle between the proficiency of boys and girls. For those traits that young girls are praised for (soft-spoken, sensitive, neat, and obedient), boys are separated from through biased education or lessons from home. The same goes for body image.

Girls are more directly taught to value their physical appearance, while boys are taught this subconsciously without any indication as to why and how they should find appearance important. Nearly every aspect of a girl's life is attributed to body image, from the dolls she plays with to the makeup and diet commercials she views every day. She is taught to be hypersensitive to matters involving body image by her mother, her friends, and her teachers. Other boys see this type of social structure and mistakenly believe that body image is a "woman's issue" only. Boys who do not receive appropriate emotional training and exemplification, not only in regards to body image but to other aspects in life, are left empty-handed when faced with their own insecurities. Girls are offered help with their self-esteem at every corner and are praised for expressing their insecurities to others. Boys? Boys aren't so lucky.

How often did I see overweight or obese men in those body positivity pages I observed? None. Not any. I actually had to specifically search for "men's body positivity" to find separate pages for which they could find representation, and even then it was on a small scale. In a matter I'll save for another argument, many of the women for these body positivity groups not only ignored the representation of men but actually objectified them. Between the glamour shots of plus size models, the feminist pseudo-news articles, and the scantily-clad selfies of followers, were sexist Buzzfeed articles or images of hunky men followed by sexually-explicit comments. The women of the body positivity movement seem obsessed with what men think of them but not with what men think of themselves.

Victoria's Secret models pose for an ad on their website. Victoria's Secret is usually the target for criticism by body positivity groups.
Victoria's Secret models pose for an ad on their website. Victoria's Secret is usually the target for criticism by body positivity groups. | Source

7. It Undermines and Insults Thin Women

The movement loves to circulate those articles featuring Disney Princesses with "realistic waistlines" or fake quotes by Marilyn Monroe (who, in actuality, spent most of her life with a 22" waist at 115 pounds) or images criticizing Victoria's Secret models. These forms of propaganda don't push the idea of "acceptance" as they would like to believe. In the community, to criticize the image of the "unrealistically" thin woman is to encourage bigger girls to not feel so bad. Not only is this an insult to intelligent women who don't need to see a thin woman degraded to feel better about herself, but it's an overall spit in the face to girls who are actually those "unrealistic" proportions.

I almost never see girls with thigh gaps in these groups, or girls with their ribs showing or a faint six pack on their abdomen. Women who are born very thin or work to be very thin simply don't exist in the community. On some other side of the internet, recovering anorexia and bulimia patients or pro-anorexia sufferers can find almost no consolation in the so-called "body positivity" movement despite its large voice and heavy following. They are left with the extreme "pro-ana" community that is shunned by everyone else for their (albeit harmful) values. It seems that the only basis for the fat-acceptance movement is the degradation of thin women in one way or another. They suggest that their mere existence is harmful to the fragile self-esteem of those who can't even look at a Barbie doll without feeling inadequate.

To say that being thin, at any degree, is "unrealistic" is invalidating women all over the world for their natural build. I've seen girls who eat almost twice their weight in food and still hover around 100 pounds because of their metabolism. I've seen girls express their frustrations at the inability to gain weight in a society where "thick" girls are the new trend. I've seen girls receiving comments insulting their weight when they dared to show what they looked like beneath baggy sweaters and jeans. I've seen women's hard-earned achievements reduced because they apparently had "thin privilege". I've seen skinny shaming propaganda being spread on social media like wildfire, including images showing fake "facts" stating that women with thigh gaps have "loose vaginas" or that they're more infertile and therefore less desirable to men. The movement teaches women, in one way or another, to treat thin girls as a threat. Any benefits a girl reaps while being thin is scoffed at, because it's assumed to be because of her weight.

Thin women can suffer from the same kind of discrimination and shaming that larger women do in the public, in the workplace, and even at home. Thinness can often be falsely attributed to drug use or malnutrition. A skinnier girl may not be given the same job opportunities during employment because she's perceived to be weak or frail. These women are approached under the assumption that they find superiority in their figure. These women have stigmas attached to them just like any other person can. They are not immune to being turned down by people or being told that they're not physically or sexually appealing.To say that to be skinny is to always be ahead in society is simply false. All women of all sizes will face some sort of discrimination and/or degradation at some point. Our issue should be with why someone would spread any message of hatred towards anybody.

Being "accepting" or "admiring" of skinny girls seems to come with an air of effort. When you admit that you don't inherently hate skinny girls you're met with either a "Why?" or a standing ovation, because the fact that girls with small waists doesn't bother you is somehow baffling. I've seen certain models get verbally attacked because they dared to lose weight. Plus size models can exercise and eat healthy all they want and it's a gleaming achievement, but the moment they stop being "plus size" they've lost their credibility in the community. This brings me to the next level of thin degradation:

A poster showing Elsa from Disney's 2013 film Frozen. Her character was the new subject of scrutiny for her (obviously) cartoonish proportions.
A poster showing Elsa from Disney's 2013 film Frozen. Her character was the new subject of scrutiny for her (obviously) cartoonish proportions. | Source

8. It's Obsessed With Fictional Women

Why is the slander of the thin female image such an integral part of their campaign? I do believe that these images have an emotional impact on people, but the instances of depression or even suicidal ideation due to not being able to "live up" to an imaginary standard is at the hands of the observer, not the observed. This isn't to say that certain weak tendencies are all completely controllable by said observer. However, this goes back to the harboring of insecurity that the body positivity movement is often so good at. When people in the community have a popular blogger telling them that they should feel insecure about something, they will often follow suit without question. It makes you wonder as to how often they really thought about that issue to begin with. In my day to day life I must admit I don't think about Cinderella's waist size or what that has to do with me. But if I was part of a body positive community who posted adamantly about the issue, I might start to think: Wow, this upsets everyone else so it must upset me too! I'm sure that the majority of the hundreds of thousands of little girls that dressed as Elsa (from Frozen) for Halloween didn't think twice about their decision because they didn't have a 12" waist. It's adults who make an issue out of the way imaginary characters look and we all know how children like to follow whatever their parents are saying.

Why is it that they nitpick so ferociously at skinny fictional female characters? It's a cartoon, a character drawn by someone (God forbid it was a man that created her because then another issue arises). If a children's toy or a video game character fractures someone's self esteem that badly, I don't feel like they're well-equipped enough to be on the internet. They don't point fingers at the muscular male heroes of Marvel or DC but it's a national disaster when a female character has a small waist and big breasts. Even though the sexiness of the hourglass figure is promoted by the community, they damn it's representation in illustrated form only because the characters are skinny.

The main issue is that they claim these figures aren't "realistic". Well, of course they're not; They're illustrations. To expect elements of obvious fiction or fantasy to be more "realistic" is to be deranged. Despite this, in the cosplay community you can often find girls that have almost exactly the same proportions or shape as the "unrealistic" characters that they are portraying.

A popular quote often seen circulating social media. The idea of bigger women being more sexually appealing than thin women is still promoted, however, in different forms.
A popular quote often seen circulating social media. The idea of bigger women being more sexually appealing than thin women is still promoted, however, in different forms. | Source

9. It Teaches Narcissism

A person's beginnings in the body positive community are tame. They post a few photos of themselves and include their story and are met with freshly-prepared batches of compliments and encouragement. After awhile they'll gain more followers and support, at which point they'll start adopting more and more narcissistic tendencies.

Taking and posting a lot of photos isn't direct evidence as to how self-absorbed or "stuck up" someone is or isn't. In the end it's your attitude that tells you how egotistical you are. Apparently, the body positivity movement treasures those who have an "I'm better than you" approach to life. Once a girl reaches internet "stardom" she is encouraged to put down her opposites in order to get ahead. Overweight and obese models who claim to be more "real" than Victoria's Secret models or who shut down naysayers by calling them "jealous" or "unappealing" are generally great heroes of the movement. I've seen a lot of subliminal encouragement from the community for people to talk down on others in order to feel better about themselves.

The members of these movements as well as the leaders all showcase traits similar to those who have narcissistic personalities. In regards to the studies of Alfred Adler, a psychoanalyst, Professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph. D., writes:

"People who feel inferior go about their days overcompensating through what he called “striving for superiority.” The only way these inwardly uncertain people can feel happy is by making others decidedly unhappy. To Adler, this striving for superiority lies at the core of neurosis.

We now think of this striving for superiority as a feature of narcissistic personality disorder, that deviation in normal development that results in a person’s constant search to boost self-esteem. The two kinds of narcissists are the grandiose (who feel super-entitled) and the vulnerable (who, underneath the bravado, feel weak and helpless). Some may argue that at their core, both types of narcissists have a weak sense of self-esteem, but the grandiose narcissist may just be better at the cover-up. In either case, when you’re dealing with someone who’s making you feel inferior, there’s a good chance that narcissism is the culprit."

A popular misquote featuring Marilyn Monroe, an actress idolized by the body positivity movement despite never being plus-size during her career.
A popular misquote featuring Marilyn Monroe, an actress idolized by the body positivity movement despite never being plus-size during her career. | Source

10. It Teaches You to Be Shallow

Shallowness in a person can be defined as someone who only places importance in physical appearance or as someone who has little emotional and/or intellectual depth. Many of these communities don't even realize that they are promoting both of these features. It's very easy to forget what makes a person truly secure in who they are when you're scrolling through the waves of plus-size selfies that equal social media gold. I won't lie to anyone and say that looks don't matter at all--they do. Appearance is very important to us, but there needs to be a balance between loving and celebrating what's on the outside just as much as there is loving and celebrating what's on the inside.

The body positivity movement likes to say that they aren't defined by a scale or a measurement. More often than not the members still round up the sum of their identity to what size they are. For example, one might say that being a size 14 doesn't define them. But when it comes to jumping on the campaign's bandwagon then they seek to relate everything to their size. This dialogue can be something like "I'm a plus-size blogger/dancer/model/etc." with their size being the central focus of their presence. In most cases this is likely not done on purpose, though it can be if one was seeking more traffic or attention online.

With a society already obsessed with image, the body positivity movement only shows an alternative obsession. We should encourage people who are inspiring through their actions, their talents, their behavior, and their methods of self-care. Though the campaign claims to be all about the idea that women are more than what they look like, they seem to do a poor job of showing it outside of trendy quotes and memes.

This all goes back to the idea that security in your appearance relies solely on the way you look--something that couldn't be farther from the truth. It's why many female icons of today continually go through several phases of plastic surgery even if they've attained an "ideal" as perceived by the public and their fans. Many of these women express that they still continue to feel insecure, no matter what level of beauty they apparently have. This is because if you're unhappy with yourself as a person then improvements to your appearance can only take your self-esteem so far. The body positivity movement ignores the major element of your self-esteem that comes from your psychological framework instead of your physical perception. They trade these true methods of cognitive healing in exchange for God complexes and the empty admiration of strangers.

A quote frequently seen in the "fitspiration" campaign. The campaign is centralized on living a healthy lifestyle through positive reinforcement.
A quote frequently seen in the "fitspiration" campaign. The campaign is centralized on living a healthy lifestyle through positive reinforcement. | Source

11. It Neglects Healthy Practices

Study after study has shown that being overweight and obese comes with obvious health complications. While it's not always a direct indication of someone's health, there are so many factors that play into how the human body functions it would be hard to call someone absolutely healthy when they're in a high BMI range. I, for example, have a BMI of 32 yet have perfect levels of cholesterol and low blood pressure. However, I am very easily fatigued, I have low amounts of strength, I've got a higher percentage of body fat, and I often get joint and muscle pains. The last time I dieted and went jogging regularly I noticed a night and day difference in all of those things. Pursuing healthy lifestyles isn't just a gimmick sold by the media—it actually makes a huge difference in nearly every part of your biological functioning.

I have often seen members of the community actually demean fitness programs and doctor recommendations under the notion that these things are attacking their image. They will sometimes claim that doctors, nutritionists, and fitness instructors all have a personal vendetta against fat people and that they don't want them to find representation because they hate them. You can find stories of "martyrs" in the body positivity movement who retaliated against doctors and nurses who dared to suggest that they lose weight for the sake of their health. The same reason why doctors ask for your biological gender before they treat you is the same reason why they ask for your weight: Because they need to know what's going on inside of you so they can help you. A frequent athlete may not have knee pain for the same reason that an obese person does (and vice versa). These aren't personal attacks and they aren't trying to embarrass you. I highly doubt that most people who went to over eight years of college want to talk about your weight for the sole purpose of shaming you. These people know more about health than anyone and for angry teenage girls to insult their practice for the sake of their fragile self-esteem only makes their operation look even less reasonable than it already does.

The body positivity and fat-acceptance movement seems to only deal in physical sizes. There are some in the community that do engage in healthy practices and there are some who---due to rare diseases or genetics---have trouble losing weight. But in most of the community the process of losing weight only points to one result: Being skinny. They throw out the overall proven health benefits of shedding fat off of your body in lieu of the frightening notion that they could possibly be the very image that acts as a threat to them. To be at a healthy weight isn't "perpetuating stereotypes" or "abandoning values", it's honestly doing your body one of the greatest favors you possibly could. Again, this goes back to the obsession with external image. They forget who the person is, what they act like, or what values they hold. If you want to lose weight you're accused of "falling for the trap" set by the media. It's as if leaving their exclusive club of social media justice warriors makes you worthless to their cause, the cause that cries out about acceptance and equal opportunities as long as you're one of them. Losing weight would lose your status in the community. If any of their obese heroes had gastric bypass surgery and shrank down to below 200 pounds, would they hail them the same? Would the woman's loyalty to their fans, their uplifting attitudes, or their overall good personhood matter at that point? I find it hard to believe that it would.

With the epidemic of obesity in both our children and adults in America, we need to realize that you can love your body and take care of it at the same time. I want people to love themselves in the process of living healthy. If you gain weight it's not the end of the world. One doesn't don't have to throw themselves into these shallow communities to take on ineffective values in lieu of actually helping themselves physiologically and psychologically. The obesity epidemic in this country hurts our education, our economy, and our development in what used to be an admirable place to live. These new wave movements seek to bury these things in the ground for the sake of feeling privileged.

Actress Lily James on the red carpet (left) and in her corseted dress in the 2015 Disney film Cinderella (right). Lily James was attacked on social media following the premiere for her thin waist in the movie, despite the historical setting.
Actress Lily James on the red carpet (left) and in her corseted dress in the 2015 Disney film Cinderella (right). Lily James was attacked on social media following the premiere for her thin waist in the movie, despite the historical setting. | Source

12. It Encourages Entitlement

The body positivity movement is less concerned with personal development and more concerned with the world conforming around the deficiencies of others. They want to see more "fat representation" and tell bogus stories of "thin privilege" to scare its followers into thinking that they are personally victimized all the time. They petition against stores for not providing extreme plus sizes when many clothing stores have actually become increasingly accommodating to plus sizes in the past five years. They often seem to want things completely replaced with more "fat-friendly" visuals. Clothing store mannequins, billboards, magazine covers, etc. Again, it all goes back to them ignoring the true origin of self-esteem issues. When you work on your thought processes you no longer see skinny mannequins or thin models as a threat the way that the body positivity movement would have you believe. The community will look for any reason to claim that they've been victimized or triggered.

Another aspect of this new movement is the way that they handle their personal endeavors. The members of these communities feel that they are entitled to the attention and attraction of every man they come across. When men turn down these women for any reason, it's automatically assumed it's because they were overweight or flawed physically in some other way. I have seen men on social media who express their preferences in women or even compliment a woman who is thin and be completely trashed by those who follow the movement. These same women who drool explicitly over male models on their own pages will not stand for men who dare to express what their type is. Despite the fact that a lot of men are into bigger girls and openly express this, thin women are still seen as a "threat".

I believe that having and expressing preferences is completely normal as long as that person isn't being directly rude someone else. The body positivity movement, however, feels that men having pre-conceived ideals is hurtful to women. Almost all of us have a person who we would find physically ideal, but that doesn't mean that our attraction is exclusive to that type. While some people are this way, a great majority are not. People can find anything and everything attractive. The body positivity movement would like you to believe that men who seem attracted to anyone other than you is a personal attack. They feel that everyone should be readily attracted to anyone regardless of their personality or appearance. If you turn a big girl down because of her personality you've just earned yourself a spot on the body positivity chopping block. Even if someone isn't attracted to you because of your weight, I feel that they have every right to politely decline your advances. Like I've said before, the body positivity movement sure doesn't seem to care about how men view themselves. But how men view them? It's an every day concern.


13. It Exploits Its Followers Financially

One of the things that bothers me deeply about the movement is the way that it will sometimes treat its followers. I have honest sympathy for them when it comes to matters of exploitation from people who they are supposed to look up to. The abhorrent financial indecency that goes on with this movement is a serious problem. It ranges from the subtle to the absolutely outrageous but this economical dishonesty is a heavy factor in these communities. Not too long ago Tess Holiday, a highly-revered figure in the campaign, was accused of not sending merchandise purchased by her fans and refusing to offer refunds or reciprocations. It was also questioned how much of the money actually went to charity (as promised). At $40 per T-shirt, it was obvious why people were upset with the situation.

This is only one example of the types of issues that the members face. I've seen cheap products sold with overly-inflated price tags simply because it came with the fat-acceptance or body positivity label that so many scramble to. I've seen money supposedly vanish when it was meant to go to a charity. I've seen GoFundMe accounts raise exorbitant amounts of money for petty reasons such as false claims of discrimination, being jobless and overweight (yet capable), depthless overpriced books, pointless travel expenses, tattoo removal, clothes shopping, prom/wedding dresses, cameras, breast implants, breakup support, and poorly-executed product designs that somehow never reach fruition once all of the money is raised. I have seen all of these things done in the name of fat acceptance or body positivity. There are people of greed taking advantage of their peers and spitting on those who suffer and need actual financial assistance, be they plus-size or not. There are people who use their size and label to gain more sympathy (and therefore more money) from others. Petition and crowd-funding websites are already notorious for deception and the members of this popular campaign are of no exception.


Our physical insecurities can lead us down a long road of unhappiness and disappointment. Treating low self-esteem should be approached in the same way that we approach addiction or mental illness. It is not an overnight change and it is not something that can be simply treated from the surface. While these new campaigns show that people are more than willing to pay attention to and support issues involving body image, they have ultimately created an unstable source of relief for people who need real help. We have all of the tools available to create a progressive environment of growth for people of every diversity. To exist happily and healthily in this world we must work from the inside out and not the other way around. All people have the power to feel beautiful. I hope one day we'll have a wide-spread and efficient revolution dedicated to showing them how.


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    • profile image

      MW 3 weeks ago

      Damn, this was an excellent article! You told 'em!

    • profile image

      MommaLady 2 months ago

      This article was so spot on and so needed. Thank you

    • profile image

      Adelle 3 months ago

      I'm 16 and a size zero with a straight, rectangular body. The body "positivity" movement has destroyed my self-esteem, making me believe that guys only like curvy women with hourglass figures. I'm thinking about creating my own body positivity page aimed for the petite girls and women with little to no curves because I can't find any representation for them, and when I do, the comments are filled with hate, mockery, and shame. I'm sick of it.

    • profile image

      Kevin 5 months ago

      A very long article but informative with that Tess holiday scam and value on narcissism. Amazing how all this empowerment corrupts and how yet again how limited the actual benefits of feminism go to. But I also believe it is mainly white women who have these problems with a rigid beauty standard they put amongst each other. Men simply need money so their body image is irrelevant.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 7 months ago

      Growing up as a boy and seeing ads showing off woman's bodies I thought sure they are beautiful but they are not the people I know. The girls I grew up with that later became adult women never were flawless. They were thin and a mix of over weight bodies. My wife is plus size and struggles with weight issues partly because of an inactive thyroid. I feel her pain and understand more from reading your hub. As an adult male I never had a weight issue and never craved the muscle man look. I ran for many years and never experienced a weight problem. Now in my early fifties I have gained a little more weight. I walk instead of run. Your hub gives men a lot to think about and I try to appreciate more of what's in the inside than what we see. Carefully understanding the ads that push to sell any products. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • profile image

      Dustin 10 months ago

      Really amazing deconstruction. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Annalisa 11 months ago

      I really enjoyed reading this article! It was done well and brought up great points.

      I found this by doing my own research on the movement as I'm currently thinking about making my own "body positive" blog. I've always thought my ideas of loving yourself has been different to the movements and I want to share my views while being in the middle of trying to find self love in every aspect of my life.

      This has inspired me.

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      Ari 12 months ago

      I am naturally skinny and have obessesed over trying to gain weight. As a teenager the real women have curves slogan actually hurt me a lot. I jusy kept thinking, I dont have any curves, i dont look like any of those women, so, what im not a real woman? Why does everyone hate skinny people? (Is what I thought as a teenager.) I wouldnt even wear clothes that showed my arms or legs, and i never wore a swimsuit, ever; I would go swimming in large t shirts and gym shorts because I was so ashamed of my body. I'm bony, I've always been bony. I've tried everything not to be bony, but that's just how my body was made. I don't understand why skinny women have to be put down just to make bigger women feel better. I've been bullied for being skinny my whole life. This body acceptance thing isn't really about body acceptance. I'm a "skinny bitch" and as time goes by (I'm 27 now) more and more people feel comfortable commenting on my weight. People will tell me to go eat a cheeseburger and say I look like a skeleton. Even strangers comment on my weight. (Thanks a lot body advocates!!!) Seriously though, the worst part is people think my feelings about this aren't valid. That somehow because I'm skinny it's not as bad when people pick on me for my weight. Almost as if I'm less human and am not supposed to feel anything. I'm a person just like someone who is 200 pounds heavier than me. Why should we be treated any differently? That should be the real focus. Not more division.

    • Maria Stbert profile image

      Maria Stbert 16 months ago

      Actually, telling artists how they should design the characters in their graphic novels is completely out of line. Comic Books are largely aimed at males, and designed by men, I think we all know that. And the works are very masculine in spirit. So, yes, the women in them are largely male fantasy. However, I think you simply have NO RIGHT to demand that artists do what you want, rather then what they feel. You can't simply demand that people change their ideals of beauty to look closer to you. Why should they? I have seen cospaly before. There are certainly women who look like those characters. Yes, they are a minority. So what? Fat people are a minority too. We have less then .05 percent of sufferers from Anorexia in the USA. Far less then 1 percent. Yet over 40 percent of women in the USA are clinically obese, and would be healthier if they lost weight. So, we do not need to live in fear some girl somewhere will be so upset she will stop eating. We have proof that girls are eating too much, if anything. So no need to try to force your ideals onto comic nook aritists everywhere. First because they have rights too, and second because it would be better if the population of America did loose weight, females especially.

    • ArdencyAdrift profile image

      Michelle W 20 months ago from Kansas

      TomWright321 thank you for your thorough, honest comment!

      On the comic book point I agree that I should do some more investigation into the psychological effects the characters in these types of media specifically have, both short and long term.

      I'm glad that you appreciated my work and critiqued it, thank you again :)

    • Tomwright321 profile image

      Tomwright321 20 months ago

      Generally great article. Agreed so much on many points. This stuff needs to get out there.



      Instead of saying the body positivity movement as a whole is wrong, it would be better to say more like a certain brand of it is- particularly the main focus on fat/curvy/slim/skinny. There are up and going channels of it which address the different points made here.

      Not all that inclusive:

      Agreed- especially as many kinds of POC/certain minorities tend to not be curvy/thick as this praised trend.

      Encourages sexualisation of young girls:

      Completely agreed. Disturbing to see. So many problems here especially relating to the taught predatory behaviour of young (and old) boys too.

      Contributes to more insecurity:

      Yes, it does. The wrong ways to seek validation.

      Believes plus size models are more realistic:

      Also true. Photoshopping and many other things are involved and separate but also connected issues.

      Makes people vulnerable:

      Still think it's good to be aware and talk about it, but I get the point you're making - of encouraging people to victimise themselves.

      Ignores men's issues:

      Agree on this. While because of the gender privilege/power imbalance in society it is not the same level or type of "bad", body posi is definitely needed for men too. Would be great to see campaigns with heaps more diversity including men. There have been movements to do this.

      Undermines and insults thin women:

      Definitely agreed. People need to be taught that empowerment is not so when putting anyone down. Thin women should not be encouraged to feel bad about themselves just because others have already been. Not solving anything at all.

      Obsessed with fictional women:

      Some points but this is also where I disagree. Real and fictional women are important in representations. Comics definitely should not be filled with skinny crazy hourglass typical sex doll types. You seem fairly intelligent so you should be able to see why that is wrong and bad for people. Every bit counts and adds up to the bigger picture problem. There's nothing wrong with a few skinny characters- but having the standard as only a particular thing is wrong.

      Teaches narcissism:

      Agreed. Confidence should not be won just from gathering likes/people's approval.

      Teaches you to be shallow:

      Agreed. Too much focus on looks. We need to aim further past looks.

      Neglects healthy practices:

      Agreed so much... obesity is such a serious issue, we need to take that more seriously.

      Encourages entitlement:

      Agreed heaps again. Traits over looks.

      Exploits Followers

      Haven't heard of this as much but agreed that it's bad.

      Comment conclusion:

      A few bits here and there I think regarding men sometimes which miss the mark for me. It gave a kinda misogynistic tone sometimes. While there are lots of double standards and times women are unfair to men, the cases of the opposite against women are overwhelming and abusive and systematically stacked and I think you didn't always acknowledge that.

      But overall great points. Will be sharing!