What's Wrong with Body Positivity?
Over the past decade or so, the term "body positivity" has begun popping up everywhere. From casual conversations with friends to million-dollar campaigns by top brands, it's something that everyone seems to have an opinion on.
However, despite its popularity, the term isn't without its controversies. For one thing, though it's intended to include all body types, the movement has mainly featured white women who are smaller sizes than the average American woman. Additionally, many people struggle in learning to love aspects of themselves that society has taught them to hate. That's where body neutrality comes in.
What Is Body Neutrality?
We all know that body positivity is about feeling positive about your body, regardless of cultural standards. So it makes sense that body neutrality is also about exactly what it sounds like: achieving a neutral, impassive relationship with your body.
"Body neutrality is a movement that encourages individuals to free up all the energy and attention that people often devote to body angst so that they can care about other matters instead."
Though we tend to think of body positivity as the best possible way to think about your body, it's still thinking about your body. Imagine for just a second that you never have to think about your body looks again. Think of how much extra time and brainpower you would have!
"'Neutrality is the freedom to go about your day without such a strong focus on your body. We have only so much energy, where do we want to use it? There are lots of other things that need attention. You don't want to neglect your body, so you listen to is, and are aware of the function it serves.' -Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., director of the Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute"
In other words, body neutrality allows people to find a nice middle ground between hating their bodies and loving every part of them. Views of the body become more centered around how it functions rather than how it looks. But body neutrality is more than just an interesting way of thinking about ourselves. It's also an important tool for those who feel left out of the body positivity movement.
Why is Body Neutrality Important?
"Many individuals feel betrayed by their bodies and have a hard time filtering through their emotions. Asking individuals to love and embrace their bodies might be too hard of a request, therefore, the body neutrality movement asks individuals to associate neutral feelings of acceptance."
"Additionally, body neutrality allows individuals to make peace with their bodies instead of pressuring them to love and embrace it."
More and more people are also turning to body neutrality because, let's face it, loving yourself can be hard! And telling people that they have to love their bodies can make them feel like they've failed if they can't manage to get there. Practicing body neutrality lets people exist without putting pressure on them to feel a certain way.
Now that we've established what body neutrality is, let's look at it compared to the more widely-known body positivity movement.
How Are Body Positivity and Body Neutrality Different?
"'Body positivity focuses on empowering oneself to shift [their] mindset to one that encourages celebration, gratitude and love for your current body regardless of weight, shape or appearance.' 'Body neutrality, on the other hand, promotes the idea of shifting thoughts about one's body from criticism and possible hatred to a neutral state. With body neutrality, the idea of celebrating and loving one's body is not the end goal, but rather it is finding a middle ground of acceptance'" -Melainie Rogers
Overall, there's no right or wrong way to unlearn hating your body. It's important for individuals to adopt a mentality that allows them to live their life without stressing about your weight or the size of your thighs. For some individuals from marginalized groups (like Black women or trans women), wholeheartedly loving yourself is a subversive act, making body positivity a, well, positive experience. For others, such as individuals who had or are recovering from an eating disorder, a view of their body free from any judgment might feel healthier. Either way, body neutrality is a movement that deserves our attention!