We Are Witnessing The Death Of The Body Positivity Movement

After Lizzo's lawsuit came to light, many of her fans turned against her. But it seems like the body positivity movement has been losing its popularity for some time now. Was Lizzo's scandal the last straw that broke the camel's back?

By Gina Florio8 min read
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Getty Images/Gareth Cattermole

In 2022, People shared a list of Lizzo’s “most empowering quotes to get you feelin’ good as hell.” Upon reading the headline, you’d think that you were about to read something inspiring and perhaps even motivating. The third quote from Lizzo, which came from a Rolling Stone interview, was, “We eventually get used to everything… So people just gon’ have to get used to my ass.”

Someone encountering Lizzo for the first time may think she is being hyperbolic, but the singer has made it clear that she does in fact expect people to get used to seeing her naked body. In 2019, she attended a Lakers game wearing a black dress that had a huge cutout, exposing her tiny thong and bare behind to the world, including the many families with young children who were in attendance. “This is how a bad b*tch goes to a Lakers game!” she yelled into the camera, with zero care that many were disturbed and disgusted by her salacious act.

People were rightfully disgusted by the display. When you're enjoying a sporting event and a beer, the last thing you want to see is a huge, bare ass jiggling in your face. But Lizzo is allowed to get away with gross exhibits such as this because she has been named the body positive queen. Apparently, if you're fat, you can show your naked body to the world unprovoked.

That wasn’t the last time, though. In the summer of 2022, while her hit single “About Damn Time” was gaining popularity on the Billboard charts, she walked onto a private jet wearing a bra and leggings with a huge cutout on the back, yet again exposing her thong and her entire cottage-cheese butt. She used the video as a promotion of her new shapewear line Yitty, which she marketed as a beacon of body positivity, because nothing sells bodysuits better than unsolicited nudity.

People were lamenting over the fact that every single time they have seen Lizzo's unsavory naked body (and it's been many, many times), it was against their will. They wanted to scroll through Twitter peacefully, not be accosted by nude obesity. While these moments have resulted in Lizzo going viral and being in headline news for weeks, it left many women feeling confused about what nudity and obscenity have to do with body positivity, and many others seriously questioning the direction that body positivity has taken us. It has become synonymous with indecency and nudity, and it’s now driven by mean girls who want nothing more than to see you fail. 

The Origins of Body Positivity 

The body positivity movement has a complex history that began decades ago. In 1969, a young engineer named Bill Fabrey in New York became angered at how society treated his fat wife, Joyce. He created the National Association to Aid Fat Americans (NAAFA), known today as the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, the world's longest-running fat rights organization.

On the opposite coast, a group of California feminists, motivated by the Civil Rights and equality movements, formed the Fat Underground. They developed a revolutionary Fat Manifesto in 1973, demanding equal rights for fat people and declaring diet culture as an enemy. The movement grew steadily, and by the 1980s, enthusiasm for fat liberation was spreading globally. The '70s, '80s, and '90s witnessed activists on talk shows, arguing against the diet industry. Picketing and public demonstrations, such as at San Francisco’s Pride Parade, became common. Their confident self-expression challenged societal norms and inspired others.

The early 2000s ushered in the use of social media that was supposed to be a “safe space” for fat acceptance activists, where they posted selfies with hashtags like #OOTD (outfit of the day) and made political statements about body acceptance and beauty standards. That’s where the influencers came into play. However, as the movement grew, the early proponents were concerned that the original message was being diluted and the most visible role models were not fat enough. This is when people started getting shamed for not being obese enough as they were using the body positivity hashtags. 

What may have started as a trend that just wanted fat women to be accepted into clubs and certain women’s spaces has turned into a venomous movement run by catty girls and dishonest influencers. 

Body Positivity Has Turned into a Toxic Trend 

Today, body positivity is a toxic, emotionally manipulative trend that somehow convinces women that being obese is not only beautiful and virtuous, but healthy. The famous Cosmopolitan magazine cover that featured obese models in athleisure had the headline “This is healthy!” Meanwhile, nearly half of Americans are obese, and 6 out of every 10 Americans have a chronic illness. In fact, 4 out of every 10 Americans have two or more chronic illnesses. Obesity is a leading contributor to causes of death such as heart disease, stroke, many cancers, and type 2 diabetes. It's downright false to try and twist this basic information and claim there are benefits to obesity. 

Body positivity is toxic because it pretends to be rooted in compassion and kindness, but it encourages women to engage in very destructive behaviors, such as overeating, being obese, and being averse to personal responsibility and discipline. This movement keeps women in a prison of bad habits and self-harming activities, while telling them they’re perfect just the way they are. It uses beauty as a shield, so if you say anything about a woman’s weight or health status, the body-positive goblins will jump down your throat and accuse you of being mean, judgmental, and desperate to control and police women’s bodies. 

Additionally, the movement is run by complete frauds. Most of the women who write about and promote body positivity online are thin and fit. They have a personal trainer, run half marathons, and would never dream of being a size 16. But these are the ones who are instructing women to simply accept their obesity and rage against the beauty standards, while they themselves choose something healthier. They pretend to support women who are “larger” by showering them with praise. 

Body positivity uses the same kind of emotional manipulation that an abusive boyfriend might.

Body positivity uses the same kind of emotional manipulation that an abusive boyfriend might. He convinces his girlfriend that not being able to see her friends or leave the house without his consent is good for her and their relationship in the long run, the same way that body-positive advocates convince women that remaining obese, overeating, and refusing to lose weight is the virtuous, impressive route to take. Just like the emotionally abusive boyfriend tells his girlfriend not to listen to her mom or her friends, the toxic body-positive girls tell obese women not to listen to society’s beauty standards or doctors’ orders. They twist the truth and manage to make it sound like the right choice, by wrapping it all up in fake care and compassion, but virtually anyone can see that it’s nothing short of belittling. 

“[Body positivity] is toxic from several standpoints,” YouTuber and cultural critic Jamie Hanshaw tells Evie. “Overweight women are less likely to attract mates. Single, unhappy women spend the most money, so from a ruthless capitalist standpoint, it is better to keep them fat so that they consume as much food and products as possible.”

The movement may be marketed as a compassionate endeavor that is meant to improve women’s self-esteem, but it’s nothing more than a money maker that helps bloated companies turn an even bigger profit off women’s insecurities. Unhealthy customers in need are the best kind of customers for a greedy society. Hanshaw reminds us that this is also the case for the medical industrial complex. “My grandmother was part of the Phen Phen class action lawsuit that gave her permanent heart problems,” she shares. “From the ‘health’ and diet industry standpoint, it is better if people don't have the knowledge or tools to stay in shape on their own. Fat people are literally cash cows for many diabolical industries.” 

The body positivity movement and its proponents have been successful at convincing women that they want them to feel good about themselves, but in reality, they’re just buttering them up to spend more money on products or subscriptions that will generate more revenue. Meanwhile, these female consumers are genuinely looking for ways to help themselves feel better and find a sense of peace about their bodies and their health.

“I believe it is more cruel to encourage people to remain overweight,” Hanshaw declares. “It's pretty sadistic when you think about it; telling someone they look good when they don't is gaslighting them, and by keeping them unattractive, they remain no threat in a competition for mates. Who is the real ‘mean girl’—the girl who gently offers correction and tells the overweight girl she can be better and helps her achieve her goals, or the envious insecure girl who says ‘you're beautiful at any size’?”

If we truly cared about women’s health and helping them live happier, more fulfilling lives, wouldn’t we tell the truth in love instead of lie for profit? Dr. Taylor Burrowes, retired marriage and relationship counselor, believes there’s a way to accept traditional beauty standards while still appreciating the beauty in others. 

“The body positivity movement doesn’t just advocate for accepting and appreciating all body types, challenge unrealistic beauty ideals, and encourage a more inclusive and diverse perception of beauty,” she tells Evie. “No, it encourages women to be fat, ugly, unkempt, and unhealthy. How does this help women?” 

She references Meredieth Fuller, psychologist and author of Working with B*tches, who identifies three main reasons women are nasty to each other: 

First, “because they project their unwanted parts onto the other women, especially their fear, envy, jealousy, suspicion, resentment, rage, anxiety, or lack of self-esteem and confidence.”

Second, “because they can get away with it—as a sport, fun, panacea to boredom, delight in spite, or because their lack of curiosity/tolerance of difference suggests they probably don’t like people anyway.”

Third, “because they don’t have the interpersonal and intrapersonal communication skills to recognize or alter their behavior.”

These are not healthy behaviors upon which an entire movement should be built, but sadly, it seems as though body positivity has become synonymous with cruelty, encouraging women to be complacent and unhealthy in their lifestyle choices, according to Dr. Burrowes.

The Body Positivity Queens Have Been Dethroned 

More women are waking up to the lies of body positivity. In fact, most are fed up with this bloated trend, and there seems to be a shift in the culture, especially after witnessing the lawsuit against Lizzo that was filed by her former dancers Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams, and Noelle Rodriguez. The trio alleges Lizzo and her team subjected them to religious and racial harassment, false imprisonment, and weight-shaming, among other offenses. Incidents cited include disparaging remarks about Davis's weight and coercive, explicit activities in an Amsterdam club. The fallout saw Rodriguez resigning due to feeling disrespected, while the others were dismissed. Davis alleges wrongful termination after recording a meeting due to health reasons. The lawsuit demands compensation for emotional trauma, unpaid wages, and other related costs but does not state a specific amount. The controversy contrasts with Lizzo's prior endeavors to champion inclusivity, as seen with her "Big Grrrls" initiative.

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sophia Nahli Allison claims she left a documentary project on Lizzo in 2019 due to Lizzo's "abuse of power" and disrespectful behavior. Allison describes the working environment as toxic and alleges mistreatment by Lizzo. Speculation suggests the documentary in question is the 2022 release, Love, Lizzo.

Elle Baez, a dancer and artist, recently shared her experiences with Lizzo's "Big Grrrls" dance search on TikTok. Despite being a finalist, she declined to sign the contract they presented, as family lawyers advised that it would relinquish rights to her content. When she requested modifications to the contract, she was denied "special treatment" and was dropped from the program. During her application, Baez had shared two original music videos with Lizzo's team. The first, "Better With You" (2021), depicted a classroom transformed into a disco scene. Lizzo's 2022 video, "About Damn Time," strikingly resembled Baez's concept. The second, "Paint Me" (2020), showcased Baez in a nude bodysuit with art projected onto her. In a 2022 tour performance, Lizzo wore a similar outfit with an almost identical visual setup. While some speculated that Lizzo's team might have borrowed Baez's ideas without Lizzo's knowledge, others expressed disappointment in Lizzo for these alleged actions. Lizzo has yet to address the claims, but many are accusing her of being a mean girl for allegedly stealing Baez’s original artistry. 

After all of this information was released, many people who used to be huge fans of Lizzo expressed disgust and disappointment toward her. The queen of body positivity was quickly losing support; in fact, many fans were downright turning against her. Although these reactions were specifically in response to Lizzo’s lawsuit, you can’t help but notice that body positivity is losing its magic, and perhaps this lawsuit against Lizzo is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

“I think the body positivity movement is crumbling because all lies have an expiration date,” Hanshaw says. “They are waking up to the deception of all the industries connected to health and the new world order, Big Pharma, GMO food, additives, and poison in the water. All these things add to the obesity epidemic, and it must be extra frustrating for someone trying to lose weight if they are ignorant of these hidden environmental factors.” 

The leaders of body positivity have propped up a movement that preys on insecure women who are unhappy with the way they look.

Lizzo and other proponents of fat acceptance, such as Tess Holliday (who now claims she is anorexic), are now seen as accomplices in this corrupt game of deception. They have knowingly propped up a movement that preys on insecure women who are unhappy with the way they look; these women deserve to be given hope and assistance, but instead, they are presented with a fake narrative about self-acceptance. But these kinds of toxic narratives can only last so long. At the end of the day, we are attracted to beauty—and real beauty is inseparable from truth.

“People don’t want to buy things that are marketed in an ugly and unhealthy aesthetic. This reflects the human tendency to be drawn toward what is beautiful despite our insatiable appetite for consuming drama and bad news,” Dr. Burrowes explains. “Biologically, our visual senses will attract us to what we find appealing, not what we think is ugly.”

We may be initially drawn to the grotesque, which is why sensationalist news and headlines grab our attention and generate clicks and views, but we don’t actually want to be associated with it. “When people perceive beauty, certain areas of the brain in the orbitofrontal cortex associated with pleasure and reward are activated,” Dr. Burrowes continues. “This neurological activation, along with how our brain visual processing centers respond more strongly to beautiful stimuli, shows us that we are wired to appreciate beauty.” 

Closing Thoughts

We’ve been taught by movies and TV shows that the most beautiful, thin girls are the meanest ones. Mean Girls is the quintessential example; Regina George and her posse of impossibly pretty friends are portrayed as catty, rude, and toxic. She stops a random girl in the hallway to tell her how cute her skirt is, only to bash her after she turns away, calling it the “ugliest effing skirt” she had ever seen. It’s ingrained in us from a young age that the more gorgeous a woman is, the bitchier she will be, especially to girls who aren’t very pretty by traditional standards.

But is this really the case? Many women would argue that the opposite is true. Pretty women who take care of themselves and present themselves to the world in an attractive way tend to be the nicer girls, while the women who are unkempt and don’t invest any time and energy into their appearance are generally the ones who are mean and toxic. 

“Outward beauty does not always equal virtue, but a person who looks nice and healthy has demonstrated at least a modicum of self-discipline and a good stewardship of a physical body,” Hanshaw says. “Our appearance, clothes, hair, and makeup are an extension of our artistic creativity and an attempt to restore dignity to ourselves and the human race. Health and wellness start with the mind, heart, then body.” 

Dr. Burrowes agrees that we need “healthy female role models” to look up to, and these women are not only beautiful (in both their appearance and attitude), but they don’t encourage unhealthy behaviors that will ultimately lead to the destruction of others. Perhaps it’s time we turn away from the “the drama queens that are hoisted up by Hollywood and mainstream media” and set our sights on women who put effort into their health and appearance, and encourage their friends and peers to do the same. 

There is never a need to be cruel to people for the way they look or because of their poor health, but we owe people the truth, because telling the truth is the only path of compassion. We should inspire others to take better care of themselves, not take on the role of the mean girl and convince them that their slothful habits are something to be proud of. 

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