BY: Kathrin Hennigan
DATE: 19 March 2019
For decades, the arrival of spring has also meant the proliferation of headlines offering tips and tricks to women for achieving a “Bikini Body.” In recent years, however, many women and publications are pushing back against that notion. In 2015, Women’s Health magazine vowed to stop using the phrase on covers based on its negative and shaming connotation that only some bodies deserve to be in bikinis (Laird, 2015). Other publications have emphasized, “Every body is a bikini body,” which has become a common refrain following the popularization of body positivity in recent years (Brickell, 2018).
Body positivity encompasses many ideas. A simple interpretation of body positivity is the act of loving your body as it is instead of always striving to lose weight, tone, or change the size, shape, or even color to achieve some ideal. Although a wonderful idea at its core, some have urged caution that individuals who may have many body-related insecurities or even deeper problems with their self-image may find the pressure to be body positive yet another “should” imposed on them by the environment (Royse, 2019; Schreiber & Hausenblas, 2016). When speaking with Glamour, Claire Mysko, the CEO of the National Eating Disorder Association, suggested that the guilt felt when someone is unable to maintain consistent body positivity can worsen negative self and body image (Royse, 2019).
A flexible and gracious interpretation of body positivity encourages accepting that your body and the changes it goes through during life are separate from your self-worth as a person (Schreiber & Hausenblas, 2016). This perspective has also been forwarded as working toward separating your body-esteem from your self-esteem (Bulik, 2011). Another approach is to examine messages about body image you have been exposed to in the media and culture in general and how they diverge from an approach of accepting your body and recognizing its unique and varying needs (Schreiber & Hausenblas, 2016).
Body positivity should never feel like a pressure. In fact, it should feel the opposite—more like a liberation or freeing from “should” about physical appearance. Working toward your own personal definition of body positivity could put you on a path to a truly body positive future—one where you recognize that your body does not determine your self-worth; that your feelings about your body may fluctuate occasionally; and that it is wonderful to accept and appreciate your body for the hard and amazing work that it does for you.
Brickell, S. (2018). These 13 Women Prove Every Body Is a Bikini Body. Health. Retrieved from https://www.health.com/beauty/body-positive-bikini-bodies
Bulik, C.M. (2011) The Woman in the Mirror: How to Stop Confusing What You Look Like with Who You Are. New York: Walker.
Cwynar-Horta, J. (2016). The Commodification of the Body Positive Movement on Instagram. Stream: Inspiring Critical Thought, 8(2), 36-56. Retrieved from http://journals.sfu.ca/stream/index.php/stream/article/view/203
Laird, A. K. (2015). Peace Out, ‘Bikini Body’—We’re Kicking You Off of Our Covers for Good. Women’s Health. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/a19947868/no-more-bikini-body/
Royse, A. (2019). Is it Time to Call B.S. on Body Positivity? Glamour. Retrieved from: https://www.glamour.com/story/is-it-time-to-call-bs-on-body-positivity Schreiber, K. & Hausenblas, H. (2016). What Does Body Positivity Actually Mean? Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truth-about-exercise-addiction/201608/what-does-body-positivity-actually-mean