Body Positive Movement is More Than a One-Size Fits All Approach
By Curtis Harding
For as long as we’ve had mass manufacturing and fast fashion, we’ve had to fight against ideas of beauty that have been standardized along with our clothing. While there has always been a market for plus-sized clothes—Lane Bryant began catering to the “stout” woman 100 years ago—too often they preferred to slim down bodies rather than embrace them.
It wasn’t until the ‘60s that the “fat acceptance” movement began, focusing on marginalized bodies from larger, disabled, Black and queer people. Over the next couple decades, more plus-sized brands like Avenue and Ashley Stewart stepped in. Plus-sized offerings slowly grew — but weren’t necessarily celebrated. That didn’t really happen until the rise of social media forced us to confront an onslaught of unrealistic notions of beauty, and the movement shifted from “plus-sized” to “body positive.”
It wasn’t enough just to make clothes for larger women anymore; it was time to challenge traditional ideas of beauty by celebrating and accentuating marginalized bodies. The body positive movement was finally going mainstream. But that comes with problems.
Body Positive Movement Still a Work in Progress
Lizzo has recently criticized the way the body positive movement has been adopted by every body—larger, skinny, medium. Yes, Lizzo enthusiastically agrees, everyone should feel good in and celebrate their bodies, but the movement has turned away from the people it was created to lift up. It’s shifted things right back to where they were before. I can understand the desire to apply body positivity to everyone. Body image issues are distressingly prevalent in the gay community. We’re all our own harshest critics. So yeah, it’s nice to hear affirmation that all our bodies are wonderful.
But Lizzo does have a point. She knows exactly where the movement began decades ago. It started with, as she says, “big women, big brown and Black women, queer women.” So turning the body positive movement into something for everyone is akin to saying All Lives Matter. It’s a way to reduce the uniqueness of individuals. It refuses to acknowledge our different challenges and mixes equality and equity up. Yes, we may all face body image problems – but not to the same degree or in the same way.
We need more brands like the ethical, sustainable, and brilliantly transparent Girlfriend Collective. They don’t just make clothing for all body types; they prominently feature and showcase them. They joyously celebrate plus-sized women, and plus-sized brown and Black women.
And we need more brands like Summersalt, which has taken great pains to get millions of measurements from women of all sizes. Rather than just upsizing clothing and saying “good enough,” they go out of their way to make sure plus-sized women have swimwear made for their bodies.
Maybe we aren’t Grammy-winning artists or trend-setting fashion houses, but we can still use our money to show the fashion world that we want brands to embrace all notions of beauty and uplift bodies that have for far too long been pushed to fringes. That is body positivity.
D.O.B and the Body Positive Movement
D.O.B celebrates brands who truly understand the importance of inclusion and the meaning behind the body positive movement. We will fight for a world of acceptance for all people, and continue to question definitions of inclusion.