Every single person is unique due to a set of physical features. Like our fingerprints; the cut of our eyebrows, the slenderness of our fingers, the colour of our pupils, the shade of our lips, the tan of our skin and the texture of our hair are unique and inimitable. Some have it chiselled while others boast dimples, and each original face draws attention. On this earth, your mirror reflection cannot be recreated by anybody else.
Our body is the signature image that we impress on the mind of the beholder. People imagine, remember, recollect and cherish us as much by our bodies as our temperaments. Our body is a beautifully carved sculpture God has presented just for us and so we have the right to be proud of how we look.
Human bodies in all their diverse shapes, styles, curves and sizes are an aesthetic allure to the world at large and that which fascinates usually commands obsession. We’re constantly monitored about how we should feel about our body, by forces that dominate our perception, imagination, emotions, and physical sensations. From a young age, mass media daily exposes us to cultural messages that objectify and distort our views of beauty, health, and individual worth. We feel scared to treat our bodies as something that is constantly growing and changing.
We’re programmed not only by movies but by magazines and tv commercials, an entire community of gloomy cynics around us believes that we’re just not good enough for that size, colour or shape. We are made to treat our body as an obstacle which doesn’t permit us to embrace that too-perfect ideal. Our natural peculiarities, be it the underarm hair for women or a skinny torso for men are projected as problems that need to be resolved.
Walking around with ugly remarks from next-door aunties is like carrying permanent proof of your worthlessness. Our body has been so scrutinized and shamed by society that it is no longer our own.
To become like the favourite model or top athlete, we feel forced or pressurized to attend to unhealthy diet plans and steroids. Men and women have encountered physical problems, including bulimia, anorexia, low self-esteem, and depression. Tv commercials such as that “Fair and Lovely” fool us into believing that our coveted job or dream life partner only belongs to the one who is fairer in the skin and the natural dusky Indian colour is an unwanted stain that must be washed off if we don’t wish to lose the game. The infamous ‘Before and After’ pictures advertised by dieticians and gymnasiums subliminally send negative messages by portraying a thin and unhappy before and a bigger and happy after.
We’re not born to blindly follow the media’s and society’s unrealistic thumb rules. Our bodies are not boarded game pawns to move through the blatantly diced opinions of unimportant strangers.
The body-positive movement, therefore, becomes important in our lives. Body positivity is an ideological fight against the feeling of being powerless in the face of the scrutiny of the human body be it male, female, straight, bi or gay.
Body positivity encourages us to think that we as humans are more than bodies to view. Positive body image isn’t knowing that your body looks good but your body is good regardless of how it looks. We have to be able to see more in ourselves and everyone else. Only then we move on and be able to be more. More than objects, more than beautiful, more than a body.
(Lindsay Kite at TEDx Salt Lake City)
Historically Body Positivity movement originated for encouraging people to take weight loss off the pedestal and feel peace with their existing bodies. Body positivity although doesn’t just end with size. BoPo has become more complicated with added insecurities of skin tone and visibility of body marks.
Body Positivity is about coming to terms with our bodily features that have been branded as flaws. Body positivity acknowledges that fat, skinny, dark, wrinkled or freckled aren’t abuses but ‘descriptors’ just as ‘tall’, ‘short’ or ‘blue-eyed.’
It’s unnecessary to hide those veins, scars, marks, pimples, and blackheads because BoPo redefines physical beauty in terms of health. A beautiful body supports different kinds of foods and encourages joyful movements like dance, boxing, swimming, and walking. Besides, health and fitness are achievable, fluid and empowering.
The brand ambassadors of the Body Positive Movement are the various forces of pop culture who have consciously come forward to change the narrative of what constitutes beauty. For instance, popular designers, clothing labels and fashion shows are increasingly using diverse models.
Taking a detour opposite the fashion conventions that disfavour curvy size clothes, globally acclaimed couturier Sabyasachi boldly revolutionized our visual sensibilities by beginning to feature plus-size women in the classic Sabyasachi bridal wear. The ace designer who’s beloved by the celebrities like Reese Witherspoon, Isha Ambani, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas redefined picture-perfect bridal mystique by advocating that a beautiful bride is not defined by the size of her waist but by her immeasurable confidence.
“Half Full Curve” a popular Indian apparel label chose to showcase their clothes at the Lakme Fashion Week on regular people instead of models. Founders Rixi and Tinka are committed to the cause of inclusive fashion. New York Fashion Week designers proved that their beautiful clothing is a reflection of their beautiful hearts by featuring disabled models in their show titled “Loving You.” London Queer Fashion Show’18 became a showcase of LGBT+ talent as more than 100 models of all sizes, sexualities, genders, and disabilities walked down the runway. It proved that gender exists beyond the binary, and that clothing does not exist in male and female forms. Zendaya put a size-diverse, all-black cast on the runway and made history through her first TommyNow collection with Tommy Hilfiger at Paris Fashion Week. The models on these runways stole the spotlight not because of their wheelchairs, size, skin colour or sexuality but because of their beauty and elegance. For those who never felt confident, comfortable or energetic enough to exercise, Body positive movement encourages the creation of a space for individual expression.
The emerging trend of Curvy Yoga is a solid example. Anna Guest-Jelley, blogger and yoga teacher influenced by BoPo founded the revolutionary yoga practice which embraces fuller figures via movements that are kind to body and mind.
“My Mad Fat Diary,” a tv adaptation of the book “My Mad, Fat Teenage Diary” by Rae Earl digs deep into the complexities of the person who lives with the narratives against her body type. Protagonist Rae isn’t the typical skinny woman from adverts and cover pages. Rae has serious problems accepting her chumpy and chubby body because of the shame, abuse, and judgment it guarantees her.
Body shaming is as uncool as smoking a cigarette or contributing to global warming. We need to train parents, teachers, school nurses, guidance counsellors, and principals to recognize and intervene with body-based bullying. Because the insults, pranks, weeks and months of enforced silence and deprivation of healthy relationships and social status might lead to the loss of one’s lifetime of confidence.
Like with most forms of abuse, victims must overcome their instinct to blame themselves, to think they are the only ones who have been the targets of cruelty or betrayal. You’re never bad enough for your husband, wife or society because of your body.
Body Positivity simply means that losing weight, tanning, bleaching or plastic surgery are personal lifestyle choices and not status symbols.
Special thanks to Sabyasachi Mukherjee for giving a stimulating speech at LFS Conclave’19 and thus inspiring me to write this article.