Body Neutrality is a term I use a lot. It encapsulates everything we do at FWV, which is why I’m so excited to talk about it today. But before we talk about Body Neutrality, we need to talk about its popular but sometimes unhelpful cousin, Body Positivity.
The Body Positivity movement (although it had not been named that yet) first began in the 1960s by activist group NAAFA (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance). At the time, it was a radical, fringe movement started as a way to push-back against size-based hate and the rapidly growing diet industry. The basis of the movement was simple. To love a body widely discriminated against as a form of radical protest.
Over the past decade, Body Positivity has been swept up by corporate marketing teams and social media algorithms, and in many cases twisted into something that, at times, is more harmful than empowering.
The co-opted version of the Body Positivity Movement continues to center the same bodies celebrated in mainstream media (thin, white, CIS, non-disabled). As a result, this version of the Body Positivity Movement overlooks the experiences that lead marginalized people to feel the things they might about their bodies, shifting the blame for the “Body Negativity” away from our society and onto the individual.
While positive affirmations like “I look beautiful” and “My body is perfect ” may be valuable to some, for the majority of people, especially for folks living in a society constantly telling them the opposite, feeling positive about your body isn’t always realistic. In fact, constant positivity can feel forced, and pushing down very understandable feelings of negativity due to internalized stigma can have serious repercussions on one’s mental health and well-being.
This is where Body Neutrality comes in. Unlike Body Positivity, Body Neutrality allows room for both positive and negative thoughts about the way our bodies look and move. Body Neutrality is not necessarily about feeling *shrug* towards our bodies 24/7, but instead creating some non-judgemental space to acknowledge both the highs and lows of having a body. Body Neutrality is a lens that removes the focus from how our bodies look, and places it instead on what they help us do.
Keep in mind that whatever term is empowering for you as an individual is what you should stick with. But for anyone who feels they don’t connect with Body Positivity, know that there are other routes to self love out there. Consider giving Body Neutrality a try.