Is body positivity out of fashion? | Fashion trends

Singer Ariana Grande on Tuesday spoke out against commenting on other people’s bodies and physical appearance on TikTok. “We should be humble and less comfortable commenting on people’s bodies, no matter what,” Singer said, “there are ways to appreciate someone, or to ignore something you don’t like, which I think we should help each other do. Just For the goal of being safe and keeping each other safe.

Ariana Grande calls on TikTok followers to stop commenting on people's bodies, including her own (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Picture Alliance)
Ariana Grande calls on TikTok followers to stop commenting on people’s bodies, including her own (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Picture Alliance)

“There are different ways to look healthy and beautiful,” Grande also said.

Although Ariana Grande and other singers like Lizzo and Meghan Trainor have embraced body positivity, has society come close to embracing new beauty standards in recent years?

At this spring’s Paris Fashion Week, ultra-thin models made a big comeback, according to various media reports. Vogue Business found that 95.6% of the looks at the latest runway shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris were presented by so-called straight size models, which correspond to US sizes 0-4. The average size of an American woman is currently between 16 and 18.

What happened to the concept of body positivity, which promotes acceptance of all body types?

Size inclusivity seemed to be part of the concept of fashion designers in years past, with plus-size models celebrating new looks on the catwalk. Jean-Paul Gautier, for example, promoted its perfume La Belle Fleur Terrible with model and DJ Barbara Buch, a lesbian activist campaigning for fat acceptance.

How body positivity all started

Body positivity is often considered a recent social media phenomenon. Still, the movement is much older and has its roots in the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s in America, according to cultural scientist Elizabeth Lechner, “Riot, don’t diet!” Author of the German-language book on the title.

Resisting traditional beauty ideals has been an issue in feminist circles for decades. In 1967, people gathered in New York City to protest, eat cake and ban diet guides. The activists had a political concern: “It wasn’t about loving yourself around the clock; it was about demanding fair treatment for fat people, no matter who they are,” Lechner told DW.

They made concrete political demands, such as “Don’t behave badly in the hospital because everything is blamed on your weight, which can lead to fatal consequences. Or not to be discriminated against in the job or housing market, in dating, with insurance in all areas. Of life,” added Lechner. “It was really a structural critique and it’s not about easily marketable self-love.”

Advertisers prefer standard bodies

Inclusivity activists see the trend of size 0 models on catwalks in the US and Europe as a backlash against body positivity.

Lechner believes social media is also to blame, as it prioritizes profit over enabling political resistance.

“Platform capitalism demands the same standard bodies for selling advertising products. It’s a completely unregulated market,” she said, which is why she also finds it problematic to use social media to counter the trends promoted by those “deeply capitalist” platforms.

As well-known body-positivity activist Lizzo also points out, there is a lack of diversity among those who claim to promote inclusivity, as the majority of so-called body-positivity influencers continue to be relatively thin white women, while people of color. Men are underrepresented.

If there is still much to improve, the fact that body-positive activists like Lizzo are world stars indicates that progress is being made. As Lechner notes, when she was growing up, role models for other body types didn’t exist.

What comes after body positivity?

Studies have proven that body positivity has many beneficial effects on mental health and self-esteem.

Now a middle-of-the-road approach is also gaining popularity: body neutrality, or being able to accept and respect your body.

Philosopher Jessica van der Schalk of the Dutch think tank FreedomLab discussed the concept in a 2018 article, noting that it’s possible to neither love nor hate your body, just not worry about it too much. In her opinion, even when a person loves their body, they place too much of their self-esteem on appearance and can blame themselves if they fail to love every aspect of their body.

Viren Swamy, professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, writes in The Conversation, “Body neutrality doesn’t focus on appearance, it allows us to better appreciate all the things our bodies can do.”

In science, the term “body function” is used to describe everything the body can do. All forms of physical activity strengthen people’s self-esteem and help people realize what their bodies can achieve.

As van der Schalk notes in her article, the main “downside” of body neutrality is that if people completely lose interest in beauty ideals, it will be more difficult for social media, as well as fashion and beauty companies, to capitalize on them.

But until widespread body neutrality is achieved, thin models remain popular. As fashion designers and magazines know, it’s body shape that sells.

This article was originally written in German.

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