A Vintage Perspective on "Body Positivity" and Body Acceptance

Shown are Google image results for body positivity.

Why does the current "body positivity" movement appear to be mostly focused on younger women, often posing closely together, in their undergarments? Do you have to be under 35 to feel good about your body? Is it possible to be modest yet love your body, or do you have to strip down and showcase yourself online and off to prove that you feel good about what your body looks like? 

Those are some questions that I think are fair to ask if you simply figure the ubiquitous imagery of scantily clad young women as representative about what "body positivity" means. It all started with Dove's campaign for "real women" which I detailed in my book. The difference between then and now that it's no longer acceptable, thankfully, to use the inherently offensive term "real woman" which heavily implies that there is such a thing as a fake woman based upon the her body shape and weight.

It wasn't until this past winter when I read a chapter in the 1978 book Act Thin, Stay Thin by Dr. Richard B. Stuart, the Psychological Director of Weight Watchers, that it all came together for me.


Inside is a "Body Acceptance Scale."


I was kind of blown away when I read it because it seems so progressive! By replacing "feeling fortunate" about your body with "body positivity" I picked out what I think is missing today:

Your Sex

1978

Addresses both men and women.

2016 

Men seem mostly absent in the campaign; almost all imagery is of women.

Your Age 

1978

Age is considered part of your body, because why not?? Shouldn't an aging body be accepted and something to learn to feel good about?!

2016

Where are the images of middle aged, senior and elderly women in these campaigns, articles and memes?

Dr. Stuart points out that based upon a study, body acceptance scores are likely to increase as weight is lost. Today the message is that you should feel positive about your body at any size (but provided you are young and female?)

I wanted to put this up here to open a discussion. What jumps out at you when you read this outdated body acceptance scale? Do you think the current "body positivity" movement is positive?

Comments

  1. I don't see the current body positivity movement as including men and we ladies over 35. (I am loving my 40's!) I see this so called outdated scale as matching how I feel. They seem afraid to grow older gracefully in this day and age...something we lost along the way these past two or three decades.

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    1. I dreaded turning 40 before I turned 40 because it has such a bad name. I love my 40s, too!! Thanks for commenting!

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  2. My conclusion as to why "body positivity" is aimed at young girls has been gleaned from talking to several women over 60. Apparently, when you hit 60 you don't give a rip what anyone thinks anymore. They say it's quite a wonderful compensation for the aging process. If advertisers pay to find what age and gender group would be the most concerned with a bar of soap making it easier for them to accept their bodies they must have come to the same conclusion.
    On the other hand, I think people are properly freaked out by how large everyone looks these days, and everyone's inability to control weight gain. I was in a group casually discussing this and brought up how much a book by a lady named Averyl Hill helped me. Everyone was interested until I said it was about not eating so much. There was staring, a few blinks, and then a couple of gasps as if I had said something racist. Calorie counting is firmly on the PC black list.
    Strangely enough, I think even being ok with yourself is there too even though it's called "body positivity". "What? You were able to get to "ok" without buying a product, popping a pill, or gushing about it on social media illustrated with pictures?! You should be ashamed of yourself for telling everyone how you were able overcome a problem at all!" After all, who really overcomes problems these days? There's no money in that.

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    1. lo_lo! That scene you described is something although I'm not totally surprised. Your description did make me chuckle. Science doesn't sell or make for peaceful conversation, I guess!

      Re women over sixty, I agree with you to an extent. In my late 40s I'm definitely enjoying that I don't give a ____ about what people think about what I wear, my music choices, if I'm a total bore, etc. But aging--wrinkles, sagging skin, body fat shifting where it likes to hang, etc is something else entirely. The anti-aging (age shaming) industry is gigantic. It's daily work for me to not let that kind of body shaming get to me and not internalize it. I get praise or judgey stares about letting myself go gray, for example.

      Your last comment rings so true for me. A few times I've been told that I'm one of those rare people who can "pick themselves up by their bootstraps", as if I am gifted with fairies and worker gnomes who did all of the magic for me since I didn't take pills or go on a fashionable diet.

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  3. You're right. I see your point. The marketing industry has always used young women's bodies to move product. Well, at least viagra is using slightly older if quite thin women for it's commercials. It all irritates me... ;)

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  4. "My body, has been a good friend, but I won't need it, in the end." Miles From Nowhere.

    "Getting older ain't for sissies!" Betty Davis.

    Stay active, carry your own bags, look forward, not back." Me :-)

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