How do you feel about your body? For those of us who identify as women, this usually requires a pretty complicated answer. Everyone has their own story, but most of us grew up feeling we were never quite the right shape or size or shade or weight, or anything. I am privileged enough to mostly fit societal beauty standards – white, cis, straight-sized – yet I still spent most of my teenage years agonising about how I looked. I have now wholeheartedly accepted the body positivity creed, yet still have times when I reinforce unhealthy tropes.
For example, when my weight fluctuates, I inexplicably feel happy, like some innate biological sense. I find it terrifying that sexist body standards are so deeply ingrained in my psyche that I automatically feel a sense of pride and joy if my trousers are looser. What the actual fuck? Even worse, we feel guilty for these insecurities. But it is not our fault – the blame lies
The toxic duo of capitalism and the patriarchy have set pretty much every unsustainable body standard for women. Fear of body hair? For that you can thank Gilette, who, in 1915, realised they could double profits by branding female body hair as unhygienic. Every “fashionable body type” since then has been unachievable for the majority without a mountain of products. This is my issue with corporate and individualised versions of body positivity popping up on social media.
How are we, as individuals, supposed to “love ourselves” when there are multi-million industries built around fostering our insecurities? Britain’s diet industry alone is worth over £2 billion; meaning there are immense vested interests in convincing women to dislike themselves. The same goes for shaving, make-up, ‘fitness,’ skin-care, and more.
Capitalism is waging a war on our bodies, and it is winning. It tells us that to be “real women,” to be our “best selves,” we must spend, spend and spend some more, and never be happy with the results.
Originally, body positivity challenged this, but capitalism got wise and adapted. The language has insidiously changed, as corporations co-opt feminist and ‘body positive’ rhetoric to make money.
It is ok to be “curvy,” but only the right kind: welcome waist trainers. Brands boast of inclusivity when using plus-sized models, but rarely include women of colour, or with stretch marks, or visible bellies.
Companies tell us to love ourselves with one hand, whilst with the other, they tell us what we can purchase to make ourselves more lovable.
Industries use the softer language of self-care, marketing products not just to change our looks, but our lives. But the message remains the same: women are not good enough. Individualised ‘body positivity’ cannot beat the millions of marketing dollars spent on telling us we are intrinsically wrong.
So do not beat yourself up for feeling insecure. When an entire industry is capitalising off making you hate yourself, it takes a lot more than individual
confidence to fight back.
We must collectively challenge this system, rejecting girlboss feminism and fighting capitalism and the patriarchy together
Image: Timisu via Pixabay