Wednesday 13 November 2019

What is body positivity?

Ashley Graham
Ashley Graham

Liadan Hynes

By this stage, body positivity, or BoPo as it is also known, has been hijacked by the internet at large, and adopted as a sort of general, think positively, love yourself, life philosophy.

This is not what body positivity is, or at least was. Body positivity is about celebrating marginalised bodies, bodies which are rarely, if ever, seen in the mainstream media; in advertising, on TV, in the fashion world. It is focused on embracing diversity, rather than striving for a perfect type as decreed by society. About representing bodies other than those usually seen in mainstream media - typically, white, slim women. And about self-acceptance over diet culture.

This does not mean bodies which are not built along the lines of catwalk models. Embracing your JLo bum, your flat chest, your petite but curvy figure, while great, is not body positivity. Because in those cases you might not be a supermodel (frankly who is?), but you are not marginalised by your physicality.

Originally, the fat-acceptance movement began in the 1960s, body positivity first came about in the 1990s.

Some critics say the movement has become too focused on the fashion world and a commercially driven packaging of body positivity, while neglecting to push back against size discrimination in other spheres (the work place, transport, to name two). However, body positivity can claim responsibility for certain magazines agreeing to stop airbrushing women, abandoning hard-line drop-a-dress-size type articles, and widening the range of women, somewhat, shown in ad campaigns (although a certain amount of cynical jumping on the bandwagon is going on here).

In 2016 supermodel Ashley Graham (pictured left) was the first curvy model (she rejects the term plus size as divisive), to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimwear issue. She has been a massive campaigner for the movement.

It's easy to constantly knock social media but Instagram has been hugely important in spreading the word, in Ireland, Sarah Tyrell and Rebecca Flynn, amongst others have spoken eloquently on the matter.

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