While some argue that social media has made a positive impact on body image with the variety of shapes and sizes displayed, others claim it added more pressure on women to fit beauty standards. However, people were obsessed with what an acceptable woman's body looked like long before Instagram existed. The only difference now is the reach of a post and the speed at which we can comment on someone’s body.
Take Issa Rae for example, pregnancy rumors spread fast when she appeared to have gained weight in a recent photo.“I am not pregnant f***youverymuch,” tweeted Issa Rae after the gossip circulated about her weight gain. The actress went on to tweet, “ LET A B***H EAT DRINK AND BE MERRY.” She has a valid point there. Women should be able to enjoy their bodies without being talked about negatively or positively.
But since the conversation on body image is an ongoing one, there are two concepts that should be differentiated from one another which are body positivity and body acceptance.
The fat liberation movement kicked off in 1969 when a young engineer named Bill Fabrey created the National Association to Aid Fat Americans (NAAFA) to advocate for fat Americans. Fabrey was inspired to start the organization after witnessing the poor treatment of his overweight wife. The NAAFA laid the foundation for the body positivity movement through its message of fair treatment for fat Americans.
The body positivity movement took this message further when marginalized people from the Black, queer, disabled, and larger bodies decided that their bodies were beautiful too. They believed that no one had a right to discriminate against them for looking different from the models in the magazines.
“One of the goals [of body positivity] is to challenge how our society, particularly all forms of media, presents and views the physical human body,” says Kristien Fuller, MD, in her article on Verywell Mind. Though this idea has been around since the 1990s, the movement didn’t gain media popularity until 2012.
As body positivity grew worldwide, so did its critics. People began to resent the idea of always smiling at your body even if you weren’t feeling up to it. Critics felt that body positivity felt more like a task rather than being at peace with the body. Body positivity didn’t leave room for them to experience their insecurities. This is where the body acceptance movement came into play.
Body acceptance means that you always accept your body, but you don’t have to always be happy. It allows space for insecurities and frustrations while focusing on the care and respect for the body. Through body acceptance, you can reflect on your negative feelings toward your body and find peace without needing to change it. It's about not dwelling on your body in a positive or negative way. It’s about being kind and caring for your body despite the changes.
Negative body image affects more than half of women between the ages of 25 and 45. Moreso, eating disorders affect approximately 30 million Americans. Both body positivity and body acceptance have played a role in treating depression, low self-esteem, and eating disorders.
African waist beads and Body Image
African waist beads have also been used to promote body positivity and acceptance. Though the reasons for wearing waist beads differ, waist beads are for women of all shapes and sizes. As a symbol of femininity, maturity, and sensuality, women can feel confident and beautiful while wearing African waist beads.
The beads ride up and down the waistline giving real-time data on body changes. Some women not only view their body as beautiful or sexy while wearing the waist beads but they also learn to accept their body as it is.