Body Positivity: Is Capitalism Ruining This Movement?

It’s 2018 and your social feeds are flooded with #selflove campaigns: inclusivity promotions, brands trailblazing the way with unedited photos and real women advertising products to real women. Body positivity is a movement that’s showing no signs of slowing down. The fuck-it attitude towards one’s appearance is applaudable, commendable and a long time coming. Impossibly unobtainable beauty standards are being given the finger and of course, I’m all for it. But there’s something problematic about the movement, bubbling underneath the surface of a new wave of positivity – it’s being used as a capitalistic trend.

Major fashion players are jumping on a bandwagon that has been strenuously fought for by many commendable influencers and media types and the body positivity movement is time and time again being used to sell us stuff. Frankly, it’s being used to sell us s**t we don’t need, under the pretence of being positive. Whilst it’s refreshing to see that the online retail giant Missguided has pledged to only use unedited images of models on their site (stretch marks, cellulite and all), while you browse for your next unnecessary purchase (full of YassKweens and clapping emojis), aren’t we kind of missing the point?

We’re still being sold to.

Is inclusivity really about buying a cute halterneck top that only goes up to a UK size 14? Something about that doesn’t quite scream body positivity to me.

Frankly, it’s being used to sell you s**t you don’t need, under the pretence of being positive.

A positive movement that is packaged up in a beautiful shiny, instagrammable bow is dangerous. Because we all know the reality is not so shiny. The plus size bloggers, the body positive influencers and the all-inclusive, all accepting social stars have beautifully curated polished feeds. Plus size bikini pics set against beautiful backgrounds, press holiday trips to the Maldives, gifted lipsticks carefully arranged next to a bunch of flowers and a caption encouraging you to “#justbeyou”. Whilst I am not denying that diversifying your feeds, learning to rebel against social expectations and encouraging us to look upon the way humans have been represented in the mass media for years is great, sometimes it’s not quite reality. A new moisturiser isn’t going to change the years of inbuilt body dysmorphia and self-confidence issues we often struggle with. Making the road to self-acceptance look glamorous is just another lie we’re being sold. 

Multinational clothing corporation Urban Outfitters currently has a v cute baby pink ceramic mug in their stores, emblazoned with the words Self Love Club in an embroidered heart. Cool, right? Unfortunately, this design has actually been stolen from Melbourne based artist Frances Cannon, well known for her doodle-like drawings and paintings of the female form. Frances creates art that celebrates femininity and sexuality, with an honest approach, encouraging her fans to literally join a club about self-love. Deservedly, the artist has racked up a seriously loyal following of 142k who are continuously inspired by her refreshingly honest art. However, where there’s a trend there’s profit and a positive movement has been stolen, ripped off and sold for a mere £9.

Then there is the release of comedian and actress Amy Schumer’s new film I Feel Pretty. The whole premise is so problematic I’m not even too sure where to begin. Under the pretence that loving yourself and body positivity is just about changing your mindset, the whole film completely misses the mark. Whilst Schumer isn’t known for being acutely aware of her own privilege, the movie underlines the issue of benefiting from a capitalistic self-awareness trend. The “unattractive protagonist” who is seemingly having a rough time with life, jealous of her “thin friends” and has low self-confidence goes to an exercise class, falls and hits her head, then wakes up thinking she is drop dead gorgeous. Suddenly her life has changed for the better because of her change in self-esteem.

Just a quick flick through a comments section of the trailer on Facebook, thousands of people tagging friends and stating that the new release looks “hilarious” and “omg wish I could hit my head”, is the tip of the iceberg to why this film is a representation of body positivity falling so short. Not only is Amy Schumer a white, able-bodied, well-dressed Hollywood star, she is packaging herself up as a misrepresented body positive influencer that intends to debunk social beauty myths and make a giant profit whilst she’s there. The result is offensive and falls completely flat.

The Body Positive trend, in simplistic terms, is a movement that encourages people to adopt more forgiving and affirming attitudes towards their bodies, with the goal of improving overall health and well-being. I am very much here for it, but what sits not quite as comfortably is the #BOPO influencers that are cashing in on the trend. A short browse of the hashtag on Instagram is accompanied by #AD. If the fundamentals of the movement are to debunk unrealistic ideals about beauty, then why are we selling product/lifestyle that is supposed to make you look or feel a certain way? Capitalism ultimately relies on you feeling uncomfortable about yourself, and making money from a trend that has been built on insecurity feels hypocritical. 

Follow Katie on Twitter @katiemux


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