I’m Tired of Performative Body Positivity

CW: mentions of weight, weight based discrimination

Have you ever found yourself scrolling relentlessly through Instagram and come across two pictures of a woman posing and, supposedly, not posing, seemingly trying to prove that the app is fake? I’m guessing most people would have answered yes to that question considering the amount of ‘body positivity’ that is floating around on the Internet. Whilst many might think that this must have a positive effect on those who may lack self-esteem, there are many criticisms to be made of the social media movement. 

Originally, the body positivity movement was created by plus-size people to fight against weight discrimination that occurs in daily life and in the workplace. The activism that once was used to make a real difference to the lives of mid-size and plus-size people is now being used as a trend to gain popularity on social media. People who are visibly a size 8 contorting themselves into ‘unflattering’ positions to show off ‘thick thighs’ or some ‘stomach rolls’ does not count as body positivity. If you need to work that hard to have what is seen as an ‘unconventionally attractive body’, then that is not what you look like naturally. It feels like a mockery of the movement and misses the point of body positivity.

Being mid or plus-sized is not just about self acceptance and being able to look at yourself in the mirror. It’s about dealing with abuse not only online but in real life from strangers and from those that are supposedly closest to you. It’s about dealing with prejudice in the workplace. It’s about being ignored by medical professionals because of your weight. Posting a picture online with #bodypositivity underneath is nothing more than sticking a plaster over long term insecurities. And the problems only continue to be highlighted in the comments section of a mid or plus-size person’s social media. For many influencers, people commenting ‘wow so brave’ or ‘it must be difficult to post like this’ under a photo of someone just showing off their OOTD does nothing to help the movement. Plus-size people do not need to be made into body positive icons for just existing. The assumption that everyone above a size 8 needs reassurance about their weight is condescending. Please just let us post our cute selfies without forcing us to be brave icons.

Social media platforms seem to lack the necessary tools for nuanced conversations about weight. The fine tuned algorithms favour the conventionally attractive, and attacks on those who do not fit the standard go unnoticed. For some, body positivity posts may help. For many, they feel fake and performative. Listening to those who experience weight based discrimination and asking them what society can do to make them feel more accepted is the route we should be taking, rather than assuming we understand the difficulties that they face.

Image courtesy of Annie Spratt

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