Empowerment supposedly sits at the heart of body positivity. The movement claims to help women find their self-confidence and uncover self-love that they've never been able to claim before. The rail-thin supermodel figures that ruled the 1990s were deemed unrealistic, and for good reason. While those women hit the genetic jackpot, the truth is, the majority of women in our country don't look like that, and it's unfair to make women believe that the ideal body type is Kate Moss.
That's why the original body positivity movement that swept the mainstream culture had merit and a reasonable place in our society. It taught women to find confidence in themselves if they didn't fit the impossibly thin, size 0 mold. But things are very different today when you look at the world of body positivity.
Modern Day Body Positivity Is Different from the Original Movement
There has been a shift in recent years led by celebrities and influencers alike. Figures like Lena Dunham, Lizzo, and Tess Holliday promote the kind of body positivity that encourages women to strip naked and pose nude for the camera as if it's an empowering act. They claim that being comfortable in your skin and having self-love is the driver behind wearing risqué outfits or showing your naked body on Instagram. This is a very different type of self-confidence than what we saw in the early days of body positivity.
Body positivity used to encourage women to feel confident about their C-section scar, curves, or their size 10 dress. In the early days, the women who promoted body positivity didn't claim that nudity was the way to prove your self-confidence. It was more about accepting yourself, loving your figure, and not allowing yourself to feel discouraged by the thin supermodels who donned the cover of every major magazine.
Lizzo sends a very different message to women today, though. She's been dubbed the queen of self-love and body positivity, and her Instagram page is full of nude photos and videos and gratuitous twerking while scantily clad. At the same time, she preaches constantly about loving yourself.
"We should be unconditionally loving of one another, starting with being unconditionally loving to ourselves," she wrote in a caption of an Instagram video in which she was completely naked. "Take a moment today and think about the conditions we hold so tightly to that keep us from the freedom of true love. Do you really wanna be so tightly wound? Free yourself in love. You deserve it."
And then there was the famous Instagram video in which she was walking up the stairs onto a private jet, and she was wearing nothing but lingerie that left her bottom completely exposed. Even some of her followers commented and asked her to cover up. Some people asked why she felt the need to be half naked in front of the camera.
Lena Dunham has posted similar content on her Instagram as well. In December 2020, she wore a small bikini and wrote a long caption about learning to love herself and what it was like to grow up "chubby, fat, thicc, whatever you wanna call it."
While there's nothing at all wrong with wearing a bathing suit in front of the camera, it leaves me wondering why so many of these body positivity figures always associate nudity (or even half-nudity) with self-love and acceptance.
Then there was the viral moment of Florence Pugh attending a Valentino runway show wearing a beautiful pink sheer dress—which exposed her bare nipples to the world. She also penned a letter on her Instagram insisting that she has "come to terms with the intricacies of my body that make me, me." Again, that's a beautiful, worthy, and poignant conclusion to come to as a woman. But it leaves us with the same question: Why does self-love have to mean you show your private body parts to strangers on the internet?
Self-Confidence Shouldn't Equate Exposing Yourself to Strangers
It may sound archaic, backwards, and oppressive to some, but we shouldn't be afraid to say that being confident in your own body shouldn't equate with exposing your body to the world. Florence looked stunning in that pink dress. Her words about self-acceptance were moving and probably resonated with many women who have struggled with their body image. But there is no need to show your bare nipples to the whole world in the quest for self-acceptance.
And while Lizzo may be a champion of body positivity for some women, her routine choice of nudity on social media leaves many wondering why women have objectified themselves in order to preach self-acceptance. Women shouldn't have to show their sacred body parts in order to feel confident. If anything, knowing that your body is beautiful and healthy should mean that you don't need to prove that to anyone else.
Young women deserve to know that their bodies are special, and that their sexuality is something to be earned and cherished, not thrown away on the internet to random men who just see them as a piece of meat. And true body positivity should help young women not only embrace their natural bodies, but treat themselves with respect.
While women may think that they're claiming their confidence and developing self-love through nudity and exposing themselves, what they're actually doing is telling the world that their private parts belong to everyone and nothing about their body is sacred. Women deserve better, and young women especially deserve better guidance when it comes to loving yourself and accepting your natural figure.