Why I’m swapping ‘Body Positivity’ for a more chilled-out ‘Body Neutrality’
17th Jul 2019
Geraldine Carton examines how people are seeking out body acceptance today, and explains why Body Neutrality hits the sweet spot.
“I am PROUD of my thighs!”
“I LOVE my love handles!”
How many times have you read some variation of the above on the front cover of a glossy mag, or in an interview with a famous (more often than not, female) celebrity?
This is an example of “body positivity”, the act of showering your body with endless love, appreciation, and – you guessed it – positivity, regardless of any perceived “flaws”. As the name suggests, the trend is a distinctly positive one; encouraging us all to rid ourselves of any aesthetic self-doubt, and instead to bask in delight as we recognise all the fantastic things our body can do.
As someone who’s gone through some questionable variations of body confidence (and being honest, who hasn’t), I really tried to embrace the body positivity gospel of “learning to love yourself, flaws and all”. I remember standing in front of the mirror and wincing through the awkwardness of having to announce, out loud, to an empty room, “MY BODY IS GLORIOUS. I SMILE DOWN AT MYSELF WITH LOVING KINDNESS. MY BODY IS A MIRACLE”.
I remember waiting for the effervescent joy and self-acceptance that social media promised me would follow. Except, it didn’t.
What about those of us who just want to accept what we have and move on, without the big song and dance?
To be honest, the whole experience just felt so forced. And the irony is that in attempting to LOVE oneself; to embrace one’s flaws; to champion one’s pot belly, you can find yourself doing a lot of navel gazing – both figurative and actual. This can lead you to direct even more focus on your physical form… which is great when you have the whole positivity thing down pat, but not so great when you don’t.
Related: A poem to share in honour of World Mental Health Day
Don’t get me wrong, the body positive movement has done wonders for people all throughout the world, and has given many individuals the peppy push they need towards increased self-confidence. But what about those of us who just want to accept what we have and move on, without the big song and dance? Indeed, what about those who suffer physical disability and feel their body has failed them; or those who have grown up being constantly told by society that their physical form is unworthy? Having the likes of #fitspo influencer Louise Thompson telling them to “be body positive” feels like it’s somewhat missing the mark.
This is utter bullshit and just another moment in the ongoing abuse of the body positive movement for commercial gain https://t.co/gJ8pyhvoQG
— Roisin O'Connor (@Roisin_OConnor) November 29, 2017
In these instances it seems like taking the focus away from the body altogether would be the most helpful. And that’s where Body Neutrality comes in.
Whilst body positivity is a shop clerk shouting “HAVE A STUPENDOUS DAY” as they run and do that heel-click-jump thing in the air; body neutrality is more like a subtle nod and warm smile from the barista as I fumble to pay for my morning coffee.
The term “body neutrality” first started appearing in the online sphere from around 2015. Its aim was to encourage people to spend less time focusing on their bodies, and consequently give themselves the mental space to think about other more important things.
Body neutrality removes all emotion from the realm of the body and recognises that human beings are so much more than our physical form; we have personalities and passions and an intelligence that will serve a lot better when it’s not being preoccupied with the way our thighs look in a pair of shorts… It holds that the sooner we let that realisation sink in, the sooner we can feel the weight of “shoulds” lift off our shoulders, and the more intensely we can start enjoying life.
This line of thought is, in essence, telling everyone to chill the f*** out when it comes to the human form. Whilst body positivity is a shop clerk shouting “HAVE A STUPENDOUS DAY” as they run and do that heel-click-jump thing in the air; body neutrality is more like a subtle nod and warm smile from the barista as you fumble to pay for your morning coffee. Getting the picture?
Because when it comes to our bodies, why can’t we all just chill out a little? Why can’t it just be the vessel in which we get from A-B, which we accept and nourish and inwardly appreciate for what it does for us every day, without all the hoopla? Whilst the previous relationship between my mind and body might have been akin to that of the Ally forces and Germany mid-WW2, the peace that comes now with both sides being a variation of Switzerland, is quite something.
As Ellie Wiesel put it; “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference”. Thus, I choose to treat my own body, and that of everyone else I meet, with the indifference that it deserves. And now that we’ve established that, let’s move on to more pressing matters of the world, shall we?
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