In a society that places so much of a person’s worth on how they look, body positivity is a revolutionary movement. However, it’s imperative that we critically examine supposed body positive campaigns in order to determine whether or not their message is harmful to certain body types. True body positivity must be inclusive and intersectional. Here’s a breakdown of what to watch out for when determining whether an image is truly body positive, or it’s just body shaming in disguise.
Images like these are a form of skinny shaming. It puts thin women down while uplifting curvy women, calling into question the sex appeal and femininity of thin women. Not only does this type of body shaming harm thin women, but it also harms women as a whole. It reduces a woman’s attractiveness to her fuckability, to “bones or bounce?” which is objectifying and over-sexualizing.
This phenomenon harms men, too. We shouldn’t shame men or anyone for what they find attractive in a woman. Saying, “skinny girls are for wimps” is an attempt to challenge a man’s masculinity based on whom he’s attracted to.
Not to mention, “real woman” rhetoric is often used against trans women. Instead of considering a real woman as anyone who identifies as such, it perpetuates transphobia by creating a list of criteria women must meet to have their gender respected.
But, keep in mind that although there are many different kinds of body shaming, they are not all created equal. What I’m trying to say is that skinny shaming does not have the same impact that fat shaming does. Yes, every thin girl knows how annoying it is to have people accuse you of being anorexic, but that skinny shaming happens on the personal level whereas fat shaming happens on the systemic level. No matter how many times thin girls are told to “just eat a burger,” they will always be able to turn on the T.V. or open a magazine and see their body type being celebrated.
Oh boy, I gotta stretch before taking on this one.
There are way too many movies with average looking dudes with super sexy girls as their arm candy. Regardless of what the caption says, the first image with the ponytailed dude and the sexy girl is normalized, at least in American media. This is because society’s beauty standards for women are much higher than they are for men, and we perceive men as shallow whereas women are expected to abide by the “it’s what’s on the inside that counts” philosophy. Examples of the “Ugly guy, hot wife” trope are found in Sex and the City (the inordinately beautiful Charlotte finds love when she gives up searching for handsome guys and lowers her standards for the chubby and bald Harry), That 70s Show (Bob Pinciotti who started the series with a hot wife and also romanced Jackie’s mother who was played by Brooke fucking Shields), and in advertisements (Del Taco had an ad-campaign that featured the slogan "Here's to every 4 who married a 10.) I could go on and on.
Seeing an ugly woman with a hot guy is much less common in media, and it’s portrayed differently. The ugly guy with a sexy girl is often seen as a hero, whereas an ugly girl and her man candy are seen as a joke. This supposed anti-body shaming Tumblr post even ends their argument by calling the plus-sized girl the “human embodiment of a sloth,” which shows that fat-shaming women is considered normal.
I’ve seen this picture everywhere, usually accompanied by some pissed off thin girl’s essay on how both campaigns are beautiful and we shouldn’t skinny-shame models. However, the reason so many people give props to Dove’s campaign over Victoria’s secret campaign is the fact that here is diversity in the former. Victoria’s Secret models, yes they’re beautiful, but they all have the same body type. The Dove girls have a variety of hair lengths and styles, many body types and a broader range of skin tones.
Cookie cutter humanity is boring. It is important to represent all different kinds of women because that expands the beauty standard and doesn’t leave girls feeling alone and unworthy because they don’t look like Victoria’s Secret models. That’s why brands like Neon Moon that promote body positivity are so important.
Real body positivity is celebrating different body types of any shape, size, color, or gender. It is for people with disabilities, people of color, queer people, everyone with a body. It’s a movement against the exclusionary beauty standards perpetuated by society and for radical, vibrant self-love.
What do you think of real body positivity and body shaming in disguise? Let us know in the comments section below!