Why The Body Positive Movement Has Done Nothing To Change Societal Beauty Standards

Why The Body Positive Movement Has Done Nothing To Change Societal Beauty Standards

The Body Positivity Movement is great in theory, but is meaningless and effective when not approached correctly.

Ironically, in the age of the Body Positive Movement, it seems like people couldn’t be less happy with their looks. Plastic surgery rates are increasing, (they are up 3% since 2013, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons) while the success of mobile apps such as Facetune and Airbrush, which are used to augment personal photos (such features include face and body reshaping tools, eye-color change tools, and “smoothing” tools, which are used to perfect complexions), suggests that people aren’t as accepting of their flaws as they would like to be.

I’ll be the first one to say I can relate. Just because we’re told that we’re beautiful no matter what does not mean that we’ll believe it. In this day and age, we are taught to love our bodies—curves, dimples, wrinkles and all. We are taught that our hair does not need to be manageable (or that we don’t need hair at all), that our skin does not have to be as smooth as a baby’s bottom or a specific tone. We are taught to consider every one of our physical characteristics as unique and beautiful. But how can we assimilate this belief if society constantly negates it?

Yes, it is okay to be fat, but we also don’t want any fat girls on our runways (plus-sized models aren’t even considered regular models. They have their own league just for bigger girls. Aren’t all of our characteristics supposed to be equally beautiful?). Yes, it is okay to have acne, but we also won’t place any man or woman’s face on our magazines and billboards without their skin being perfectly retouched. Yes, it is okay to have darker skin, but we also continue to promote and market skin lightening products.

An ad for “Snowz Seoul Secret,” a skin lightening cream

Our insecurities are fueled by societal beauty standards, while our insecurities force us to submit to these standards, ensuring that the system stays in place. We want to believe that not being conventionally beautiful is okay, all the while still striving to be just that. We spend money on procedures and apps to change our appearance, and support and admire those that are conventionally attractive.

How many "ugly" women are famous singers and actresses? Very few.

Take Kylie Jenner for instance, who is only famous because of her physical appearance (which isn’t even natural, by the way). She has had surgical work done and uses body enhancement tools (waist trainers, “flat tummy” tea) to appear more attractive. She has millions of followers just for being conventionally pretty, while "ugly" men and women are never openly celebrated. If we truly believe in our body positivity principles, why don’t we apply them in the real world?

The epitome of conventional beauty

There are thousands — no, millions — of other young women who are more talented than Kylie Jenner, but will never have the opportunity to amass the amount of social media fame as her, simply due to their appearance. Compare Kylie Jenner to Tayja Jones, a teen from Philadelphia who was bullied online after posting pictures from her junior prom.

Online users spewed verbose amounts of hate towards Tayja based on her weight

According to our body positivity principles, shouldn’t both ladies be equally beautiful? What makes Kylie Jenner better than Tayja Jones? What makes Kylie more interesting and more deserving of respect and admiration? (The answer is nothing, because I’ve watched her reality show and the girl is as dull as dishwater).

We push the narrative that defying beauty standards is great and makes us even more attractive, but continue to influence the oppression and negativity fueled from said standards by submitting to them. If we want to be accepted for our flaws, maybe we should, I don’t know, actually accept people for their flaws? And I don’t mean half-ass it, I mean ACTUALLY do it.

I want "ugly" people to be on T.V. and in movies, to be plastered on every magazine cover.

I want "ugly" people to be the face of beauty, because they are beautiful.

We are taught to see certain characteristics as unattractive, simply because we are told that they are. When did we learn to see body fat as unattractive? (It was actually highly desirable at one point in history.) When the modeling industry became big and the only people who were allowed in were either stick thin or extremely fit. We have to demand to see more "unattractive" people in the limelight, to show that there isn't just one type of beauty. We have to support "unattractive" people just as much as we support those that are attractive.

We tear down beauty standards by refusing to lift them up. If we truly want total body acceptance, we have to change ourselves and our thought processes. We have to stop isolating and lessening the worth of unconventionally beautiful people. We have to stop trying to fit into these standards.

The next time you look in the mirror and you see a flaw, embrace it. Don’t try to hide it or cover it up; don’t let it hurt your self-esteem. By doing so, you’re allowing them to win. Society doesn’t get to tell us who and what is beautiful—we do. Each and every one of us has the right to feel pretty or handsome, regardless of what society has to say about it, and we have to protect and uphold this right.

The next time you see someone and you judge them based on their looks, love all of their flaws. View their terrible skin, cellulite, and love handles as if you were looking at gold. Stop believing that certain features make people less than they actually are. After all, our perceptions of beauty aren’t even our own. They’ve been determined by the powers that be. When we stop feeding into these perceptions, we have the chance to look past the guise of conventional beauty and see people for who they are. We get to appreciate them on the deepest and most personal level. As cliche as it sounds, it is what’s on the inside that matters. Maybe if more of us took the time to look past the guise of conventional beauty, we’d see that some of the most attractive people are actually the ugliest.

My hope for the future is that every person will wake up every morning and feel beautiful, because we should. Our bodies, all uniquely made, are living and breathing right here on this Earth, at this very second. There is nothing more beautiful than that.

Cover Image Credit: Jeremy Bishop

Popular Right Now

Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.

You won’t see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won’t laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won’t go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They’ll miss you. They’ll cry.

You won’t fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won’t get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won’t be there to wipe away your mother’s tears when she finds out that you’re gone.

You won’t be able to hug the ones that love you while they’re waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won’t be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won’t find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won’t celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won’t turn another year older.

You will never see the places you’ve always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You’ll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it’s not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don’t let today be the end.

You don’t have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It’s not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I’m sure you’re no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won’t do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you’ll be fine.” Because when they aren’t, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

For help, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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An Open Letter To My Body

Thank you for the acne and flat chest.


Your beauty marks and scars don't go unnoticed. You've done everything for me. You make everything possible. You are a spectacular work of art. From your cells, to your bones, to your nerves, to your skin, to your fingertips and toes, you embrace me. You let me cry, scream, laugh, dance, hug, kiss, love, and be. Not only are you so unique, you give me so much opportunity that I will forever be grateful for.

I will nourish you. I will take care of you. Sometimes people get so caught up in living, that they forget to pamper you. But I will. I have learned how valuable you are recently, so I will dote on you with the exercise, vitamins, and minerals necessary. From the peak of my head to the soles of my feet, I will love you.

Some people do not appreciate you. Some people want to change you. That is okay. You know what you need to do for yourself. I don't want to change you. You give me feelings, hope, joy, and movement.

How do you do it? You keep me going. Even though there are days of sadness or laziness, there are even better ones filled with singing and talking and living. I have never been so grateful for my light brown eyes, my slight dimples, the way my hair falls, my calm smile, the beauty mark on the back of my left thigh that matches my mother's.

You've been through a lot, and I thank you for keeping me okay. You've fallen but you've got up. You have taught me so much throughout the years. Some of that being confidence, but there have been insecurities as well. Parts of you have embarrassed me. But why should that matter when you allow me to do the things I love to do when I wake up every morning? You don't need to look perfect all of the time. What matters is that you function the way you are supposed to.

When I stand up straight, stretch my muscles from head to toe, suck in a huge breath of fresh air, and slowly exhale it all out, I think of how amazing you are. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for being able. Thank you for being you. The next time people go for a run, dance, hug, or do what they enjoy doing, I hope they take a step back and realize what they have been given.

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