Why Lizzo Wants Us To Move Away From Body Positivity
Lizzo recently spoke out against the body positivity movement, saying that it’s become too commercialised and that it doesn’t serve all bodies anymore.
The singer said she was looking to be ‘body normative’ instead, but what does that term even mean, and do body positive experts agree that it’s time to re-assess the movement?
Lizzo said all of this in an accompanying article for her Vogue cover.
In her own words, she is the “first big black woman” on the cover of US Vogue, so it was pretty surprising of her to take a swipe at the body positivity movement.
Time To Re-assess The Movement?
Lizzo basically argued that body positivity has been co-opted by brands and appropriated to the point that it’s no longer progressive.
She said that the body positivity hashtag on Instagram especially, had been overrun by smaller framed girls, curvier girls and a lot of white women, and she wanted to move away from it because it no longer seems inclusive enough.
It’s a really interesting discussion about a social movement that a lot of us take for granted as, basically, just being really helpful for promoting media representation of bigger bodies.
So, What Are The Problems With Body Positivity That Lizzo’s Touching On Here?
We spoke with Sarah Harry about this. She’s the founder and director of Body Positive Australia, as well as a psychotherapist.
Sarah Harry: “It’s been hijacked a little bit by forces in capitalism, so that doesn’t help when major advertisers – who kind of made the whole fat activism necessary to begin with – start using the word and co-opting the word.”
Sarah told us that the body positivity movement, which began as a feminist activist movement a few decades ago, has seen some dramatic changes in the time she’s been researching it.
Body positivity had a massive explosion on social media around 2012 with activists, bloggers, authors and creatives all contributing some incredible material to the space.
That social media success has been incredibly important and productive for some media representation, but it’s also meant that body positivity has become entrenched in the advertising industry.
Body Positivity Has Become Entrenched In The Advertising Industry
Sarah told me that’s made it exclusive and much less useful because the bigger models are still adhering to strict beauty standards.
SH: “They tend to be quite beautiful and gorgeous but also have some spectacular things in common with the form of ideal beauty we might see in slim women … which is that they will come in at the waist and have a beautiful curve and you would not see too much cellulite which advertisers don’t like.”
Body positivity is also an overwhelmingly white movement and Sarah said she rarely sees larger women of colour benefiting from it in the same way that Caucasian women do.
She also pointed out that socioeconomic status has to be a part of body positivity conversations. Because clean eating and ultra-healthy diets are so expensive, being slim is easier for people from privileged backgrounds.
SH: “We as activists must be aware that there is much intersectionality, as we see in feminism, as we see in racism, we also see in body positivity. There’s so much intersectionality here and we must acknowledge it.”
But What Does It Mean To Be Body Normative, Like Lizzo Was Talking About?
Sarah told me it’s basically just about accepting that people come in different shapes and sizes.
The definition of a ‘normal’ body is incredibly broad and activists want people to recognise that, instead of subscribing to a very basic, very commercial-friendly form of body positivity.
Lizzo said she wants to see girls with back fat, bellies and overlapping thighs benefiting from mainstream body image movements again.
The co-opting of body positivity for commercial interests has changed the movement’s success by just replacing thin ideals with a bigger ideal body.
People are starting to reject that concept and want to see body positivity return to its activist roots – by acknowledging the need for intersectional conversations about things like race, and by representing all bodies, not just the ones advertisers think look good on posters.