Debate: “The Body Positivity Movement Is a Failure Because It Says That “Everyone Is Beautiful” When It Should Say “Your Worth Is Not Dependent on Beauty”

There’s a whole lot of talk these days about the body positivity movement and what exactly defines beauty.

But is it a bad thing because it puts too much emphasis on society believing that the self-worth of humans revolves around their looks?

Something to think about…

Is the body positivity movement a failure?

Here’s what AskReddit users had to say about this.

1. Here’s a thought…

“Historically, Western women’s worth was tied to their beauty, because according to society their role in life was to attract a good man, marry him and make him happy.

The problem is that even after women started being recognized as equal to men and entered the workforce, their beauty continued to be unjustly tied to their personal worth in a way that’s just not true for men. (Consider the much harsher standards of physical appearance that female politicians have to endure.)

The modern body positivity movement reacted to this problem by trying to expand the definition of beautiful, and telling everyone that they are attractive. Instead, it should have told women “your attractiveness is irrelevant, your intelligence, courage, and skill are what matter.” I don’t worry about my appearance too much besides dating, health, and basic hygiene, and I think my life is better off for it.

Expanding the definition of beautiful isn’t wrong, but it seems impossible to me. I get that beauty standards are subjective and have changed before, but that evolution has always been organic. I don’t think Instagram influencers and activists are going to change people’s perceptions of what bodies are beautiful, but they could make a difference by admitting that physical beauty is a worthless goal.

Now you might be thinking, “body positivity isn’t about changing cultural expectations, it’s about helping individuals accept themselves”. But I’d argue that self-worth is always based, at least to a point, on social feedback. Humans are social creatures, and I am never going to be able to think of myself as attractive if other people (especially the ones I’m attracted to) don’t treat me that way.

How can you possibly convince someone who’s overweight and struggling to find a date that they are just as attractive as a supermodel, when the actions of the people around them tell them the exact opposite? You can’t. What you can tell them is this: You are not as attractive as a supermodel, but you have other good qualities.

To sum up, body positivity asserts that everyone is equally beautiful in tbeir own way, but the truth is that some people are more attractive than others, and that’s okay, because your physical beauty doesn’t define you.”

2. Another view.

“The problem is that “your worth is not dependent on beauty” isn’t a good counter to people that have been told all their lives “your worthless because you’re ugly”.

You can’t counterbalance that kind of message with indifference telling them “Well, those people who said you’re worthless are wrong… you’re not worthwhile or worthless!”.

If half the people say “You suck because you’re ugly” and the other half of people are saying, “I’m indifferent to ugliness” it still nets out to a very negative experience.

I think you’ve made a mistake a lot of people do about how successful the body positivity movement is. I agree that if body positivity was the ONLY viewpoint out there, that it is unnecessarily positive. But the reality is you’re dealing with people that have been shamed their whole lives and made to feel worthless.

And that shame has gone way past the point where it could be helpful and is to the point where it is counterproductive because it isolates people and can often even make them turn to more eating for comfort.

Having a small community that say, “You know what? You’re big and I love that about you” doesn’t make overweight people suddenly forget that there is a whole world of ridicule waiting for them in the outside world. But it does help them stand up against the sometimes unbearable pressure of shame they might face the next day.

Even if it is just one person they can tell themselves, “Well, Jeff thinks I’m big and beautiful, to hell with what everyone else thinks”. Don’t worry, they’ll still feel PLENTY of shame, but this is about giving them some degree of acceptance to help lessen that overwhelming shame.”

3. Things are changing.

“I think it’s hard to describe the body positivity movement as a failure. US culture around beauty has changed drastically in the last decade.

I’ve been watching old seasons of America’s Next Top Model recently and the difference is shocking. Obviously that’s a show all about being conventionally attractive, but even with that lens it’s easy to see the differences.

They frequently have people on the show they call “plus size” models only because they sort of have an a**. Models, all of whom are rail thin, are congratulated when they lose weight on the show.

That would never happen now. I’m sure it happens backstage, but you would never hear any television personality go on TV and talk about beauty in the way they do on the show.

When I’m shopping online, I consistently see larger models modeling clothes. Brands are shamed if they don’t make clothes in certain sizes and they apologize when called out.

I don’t think the body positivity movement has accomplished all its goals, but it seems like it has drastically changed the conversation around beauty.

That’s why there are so many people online mad about the body positivity movement, because it’s a real part of the world now and some people disagree with it.”

4. Who knows…

“I legit didn’t think that the way I look was attractive and even years after I got married I figured my husband was just settling for me because I’m funny and he’s tolerating my appearance.

It wasn’t until I found out about other women he crushed on and realized they all had similar features to me. My experience in society before body positivity was a thing was that there is one standard of what is beauty and you either fit it or you don’t.

Or you ki**ed yourself trying to make it happen even when it’s impossible (bones man, they don’t get slimmer). This is simply untrue. People have different tastes. People have different bodies. All tastes are valid and all bodies are valid.

I think having a better representation of diverse bodies in media will help peoples tastes broaden more as well. I think I lot of people are like you and prefer the old mainstream definition of beauty because that’s what you were shown and told was beautiful your whole life.

Imagine if beauty had many different forms earlier on in your life. Maybe you would feel differently? Who knows…”

5. This, too.

“I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that the number of different body types I find attractive has just increased. I actually wasn’t very big into the super thin women for a long time, but nowadays I’m kinda into them.

That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped being attracted to the bigger women I used to be attracted more to, I’ve just found more reasons to find someone beautiful.”

6. A dismissal of the problem.

“The flaw in this construct is that it dismisses beauty standards rather than reframing or expanding them, which can’t work for most people as they have a deeply internalized belief that beauty does matter.

It’s not just external either, they probably notice others and consider them beautiful or ugly, so to say “beauty standards don’t matter for your worth” is an incoherent idea when the person being spoken to is still using beauty standards to judge others’ worth.

Take it from a former fat person: fatphobia is just as prominent among fat people as it is among skinny people. There is a tremendous amount of self-hatred that is projected onto others, which in turn feeds their own self-hatred. It’s a vicious cycle.

So you can’t say “beauty doesn’t matter”, as that will be received as a bold-faced lie. Beauty does matter, otherwise the idea of beauty wouldn’t occupy so much thought and discourse. The relevant question here isn’t whether it matters or not, it’s what defines beauty and what it means.

Consider the idea of having a “type”. There are countless men out there who prefer heavier women as s**ual partners, it’s more attractive to them. So to say “you are not as attractive as a supermodel” begs the question – attractive to who? To you? To the editors of fashion magazines?

If I were to tell Kendall Jenner “you’re not as attractive as a heavy woman, but that’s okay, because you have other good qualities” would that not be plainly cruel and misleading even if I’m saying my personal truth? Who are we to be arbiters of what is beautiful and what is not when beauty itself isn’t a concept that can be objectively defined?

If you acknowledge the idea of a beauty hierarchy, especially on a skinny-fat continuum, but say it personally shouldn’t matter…you still get men who are attracted to fat women but don’t date them because they’re afraid of the way it would be perceived, same with women and fat men.

You still get people who adopt eating disorders to pursue an acting or modeling career. You still get children who are afraid to go to school because others will regard them as ugly.

In others words – it’s not a solution. It’s a dismissal of the problem.”

7. It’s about helping people.

“The body positivity movement did not start out as some feel-good session for ugly women. Body positivity was about scarred and disfigured people, and not allowing themselves to be defined by what they had lost.

I don’t think people can really appreciate the damage scars can do. I’ve never considered myself all that attractive, and I’ve generally preferred to keep my shirt on because there’s not a lot of muscle to show. Now, there’s not only the guilty paunch of a man who’d rather be drinking beer than lifting weights, but there’s also a significant amount of scar tissue.

Those surgical wounds did little for my self-esteem, especially when factoring in the other consequences of my operation. The drive home was enough to leave me in agony, I couldn’t walk the dog because doing a lap of the housing estate broke me, and food I used to enjoy now made me violently sick.

Because the surgery had altered my digestive tract I suffered from irritable bowels, which also made me paranoid about leaving the house in case I’d soil myself.

I am fortunate in that the worst of my symptoms passed with time, and I don’t mind the scars anymore. But it means that I have some inkling of what it might be like to go through something worse – something that won’t heal.

You don’t always get better – I didn’t, not back to where I began. But I can easily hide my scars, internal and external. Body positivity was meant to be for the people who can’t do that – whose suffering is on display for the world to see, and for whom their ‘new normal’ is a marked deviation from what they had.

Lost limbs, severe facial scarring, mastectomies; the kind of injury that makes people stop and stare. The kind of injury that not only upends your day to day life, but also completely changes how the world looks at you.

It’s not about beauty, and it never was – it’s about helping people understand that they are not a freak. They are not a one-breasted woman, or a skin graft. They are a person, and they can learn to love themselves again.”

8. Good point.

“It’s important here to understand how intellectualizing this issue divorces one from the experience of it.

The experience of being made to feel worthless because of your weight is far more than intellectual; it’s a felt experience ingrained in habits, emotive responses, AND conscious thoughts.

Psychological approaches that only deal with reprogramming thought do not adequately treat the former. You can’t just talk yourself into feeling better about self-worth, because self-worth is a felt thing. Similarly to how you can’t talk yourself into falling in love with someone.

The body positivity movement focuses far more on the felt-experience of self-acceptance; allowing yourself to feel beautiful, something you’ve been deprived of for most of your life, is far more powerful for a person deprived of that thing than the intellectual exercise of dispelling physical ideas of worth as a whole.

Remember that ideas of worth are FAR more than just our intellectualized ideas of them. They’re embodied ideas that extend far beyond us and impact us in ways beyond thought. Someone may put in the work of rejecting physical traits as bases for worth, but they’re inevitably going to exist in a world that continues to tell them otherwise for the rest of their life.”

9. Plays a big role.

“I find the idea that beauty standards have always changed organically to be hilarious.

Ads have changed our beauty standards for a lot longer than the internet or the body positive movement has been around. You can literally trace the history of underarm and leg shaving in the United States back to specific ad campaigns that came out in Harpers Bazaar in the early 20th century.

Knowing that advertisements are perfectly capable of restricting beauty standards, it seems logical that they can be capable of expanding them too.

I don’t see anyone except speciality tumblr bloggers claiming that fat is actually healthy, only that you’re still a valid and worthy person even if you’re fat. And when people feel like they are worth it, they’re more willing to work on themselves.”

10. Always evolving.

“Another thing to consider is how beauty standards change.

In the Renaissance period, larger women were considered “beautiful.”

In the 20’s, incredibly thin women were considered “beautiful.”

In the 30s, curvy hourglass figures were considered “beautiful.”

In the 80s, athletic bodies were considered “beautiful.”

In the 90s, extremely thin women were considered “beautiful.”

Have you noticed your own preferences changing over time? I definitely used to have preferences that fell right in line with the standards of the time. Likely because I was very heavily influenced by media and by being around women who tried to keep up with modern beauty standards.

Now, I’m older and I’m more attracted to “mom-bods” (for lack of a better term). Likely because the type of people I’m around whose personalities are most attractive to me tend to have that type of body.

If you can recognize how beauty standards change and how you’re own preferences change, it should be pretty clear that “beauty” is INCREDIBLY subjective, and that any one person could be beautiful depending on the eye beholding them. Hence, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.””

11. Missing the point.

“I think you are sort of missing the point of the body positivity movement. We were born into a world with a ridiculous amount of open disgust for fat people.

I remember finding girls attractive when I was in high school, but not being interested in talking to them because they were too overweight. It wasn’t that I wasn’t attracted to them, it’s that I didn’t think they were attractive.

That’s an important distinction. I was physically attracted to them, but mentally I didn’t label them as attractive because they didn’t fit my model of what “attractive” meant.

I was ashamed of my stomach until I started dating someone who was happy I have a bit of a gut and was/is disappointed when I started dieting because they find a few extra pounds really attractive.

Part of the body positivity movement is recognizing that there is no one standard for what people find attractive.

One of my friends has exclusively dated girls who are short and chubby. It’s crazy. All his girlfriends look exactly the same in a dim room. Same hair, same height, same body.

That’s clearly his type. It isn’t society’s favorite type, but it’s his.

Yes, there is a societal standard of beauty, but that standard will change.

There was a long time in America where being tan was considered unattractive, then that entirely flipped.

There was a long time where being thin as a board was the hottest thing for women. That’s not true now. Now our culture want a fat a** and curves.

Part of the idea of body positivity is saying that every body is beautiful in its own way as a way of pushing back against a single societal standard.

Honestly, this has somehow worked on me. I think of different people as hot for different reasons.

I don’t think this is the norm. I think that our societal standards of beauty are still in play, but they’ve shifted drastically in the last ten years and they are still changing.

I think it’s too early to call the movement a failure. It’s been working really well for a long time, I anticipate it will continue to influence American culture over the next decade.”

What do you think about this topic?

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Thanks a million!