History of Body Positivity


After talking about different body positivity movements on social media or around campus, I thought I’d discuss the history of the body positivity movement. It all started as a fat acceptance movement and blossomed into body positivity and acceptance for all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities.

The oldest roots of body positivity reach back to the Victorian Dress Reform movement. In this movement, women advocated for the acceptance of women’s bodies and discouraged women using extreme corsets or body mutilation to fit the standard of an extremely petite waste and or hourglass figure. This reform also argued for women to not hide their bodies underneath layers of fabric in overly elaborate dresses. Also, these women argued for their right to wear pants (as silly as that sounds in 2018, advocating to wear pants).

In the 1960s, a movement was born to end fat-shaming. Lew Louderback kick-started the movement by publishing “More People Should Be Fat.” In this essay, he critiqued the way fat people were treated in America. He explained the discrimination that he felt in the workplace and even advocated for “plump” women to appear in magazines. Just two years later, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance was created. This organization activated for the reeducation of what it means to be overweight and discouraged doctors blindly labeling any patient that is overweight as unhealthy. NAAFA promoted a healthy at every size model where health is not measured by the number on a scale but rather vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol and other things such as diet and exercise. NAAFA argued that these measurements of general wellness were better indicators for overall health than weight and body mass index.

This movement was a part of the second wave of feminism, as actors in this movement go on to create the organization, The Body Positive. The Body Positive was found in 1996 by Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott. Sobczak lost her sister and struggled with an eating disorder herself in her teen years. The organization has a lengthy mission statement that encompasses professional training and making a better world for women to live in with less standards to follow from the media.

“The Body Positive is a national organization that offers a variety of resources and programming to teach and inspire youth and adults to value their health, unique beauty, and identity so they can use their vital resources of time, energy, and intellect to make positive changes in their own lives and in the world.”

With the internet and media today, body positivity has blossomed from fat acceptance to loving yourself in all shapes and sizes. Hashtags across the internet such as #freethenipple have surfaced to normalize and celebrate the female body. Also, the movement moved overseas. The body positivity has blossomed into the various movements and campaigns I have highlighted in other blog posts such as the everyBODY with Iskra campaign, #aeriereal, and other movements that are now encouraging men of all shapes and sizes to join the body positivity movement on a global scale.  

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