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What is body neutrality? Is it a confusing or helpful message?

Content warning: discussion of body image.

Body neutrality is an emerging movement that diverges from the pressure that some feel body positivism places on them to love their bodies. Instead, it advocates simply accepting your body. For many, this approach has been seen as a stepping-stone on the way to body positivity, the ultimate aim of which is self-love. For others, body neutrality itself is the end goal.

Body neutrality activists argue that it is more achievable to acknowledge your insecurities with the understanding that your body does not define you. This lessens the significance placed on how you look. Recently, body positivism has gained popularity, with its activists vocalising the need to celebrate all body types, aiming to encourage self-love regardless of race, gender, age or conformity to beauty ideals.

This can be a highly positive message as it helps many people gain self-confidence. However, as it has become increasingly prominent, certain groups have felt decreasingly included in the body positivity movement. In some, it can promote feelings of shame if people cannot attain the kind of self-love it promotes.

In an interview with The Guardian, writer and blogger Stephanie Yeboah explained that the movement “has alienated the very people who created it. Now, in order to be body positive, you have to be ‘acceptably fat’ – size 16 and under, or white or very pretty. It’s not a movement that I feel represents me any more.” As a more inclusive alternative, body neutrality displaces society’s focus away from the body and onto more important qualities, like well-being and health. This allows people to gain confidence from means other than their body or appearance.

One of its aims is to overturn the idea that someone’s health can be judged purely by their appearance. This includes fighting against the promotion of dieting and moving away from the fitness blogging inundating social media, which is often promoted by influences who claim to be part of the body positivity campaign

However, the idea that body neutrality advocates the celebration of bodies for what they can do, rather than what they look like, has been disputed, because of its exclusion of people whose bodies cannot do certain things, due to disability or illness. In response, activists reassert the need to value yourself for qualities other than your body.

Yet, some people have argued that this idea is unrealistic in its attempt to remove the body as a factor which increases someone’s confidence. Ina society so rooted in the value of appearances, body neutrality may seem easier said than done, certainly, a lot needs to be done before this mindset changes

The body seems to be a constant topic of conversation, and the different movements can complicate how people feel they should treat their bodies.

Body neutrality aims to take the focus away from the body. The movement allows people to have insecurities without feeling ashamed or punishing themselves for it, emphasising that your body is not your defining factor and you are more than your physicality. It is important to remember that whatever its shape, your body is your own to love.


Image: IvonaBPhotography via Flickr 

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