DISCUSSION: Body Positivity Culture and the Tides of Social Change

Body positivity, eh! All of a sudden, it seems like it’s everywhere. Well, on the internet at least, or all over social media, if you follow feminist magazines, or “plus size” bloggers, or loud mouth ladies who buy in to the belief that there’s not just one body type allowed to walk the face of this earth.

Pictures of stretch marked bodies abound, admonishing the masses that this is actually the norm, and celebrities like Lena Dunham – not ignoring other controversial perspectives she provides – putting out lingerie shoots, complete with body rolls and slightly droopy boobs. Hell, my mirror knows. That’s exactly how my tits look in a lacy bra.

lena-dunham

The fashion industry is seemingly on board too, or ish. Nike recently used a full bodied model to advertise its sports bra range, though when it came to the crunch, it seemed not everybody could buy the pieces advertised, with bra size 32D and over-sized out of shopping with the brand. Not so good for the wide backed and big-titted woman.

Manchester brand Boohoo.com is working with curvy celebrity Jourdan Dunn (Kylie Jenner’s best mate) too, advertising their AW16 range globally, but still can’t seem to get fully on board with supporting the larger (average sized) lady, charging extra quids for plus size fashion, apparently due to the extra material used. Bah!

Plus size bloggers are working their arses off though, (though not literally, thankfully) with national Instagram powerhouse Danielle Vanier and local ladies like Gin Fuelled Blue Stocking, supporting, modelling and promoting fashion for body types beyond the perfect ten, providing much needed examples and images of how women can dress regardless of what the media and a hyper critical society thinks.

Because we’re still struggling to accept that bodies should look any different. Thin, pretty and perfectly proportioned is still the ideal, despite long knowing that this is not the norm, and no matter how much Ashley Graham – plus sized model  and body positivity champion – posts pictures of her wide hips on Instagram, we’re still super critical of ourselves and others bodies.

ashley-graham

As women, we still criticise our bodies harshly, and treat them terribly too. Photoshopping selfies is now the norm, with apps available to contour your own face, smooth out your imperfections and shave off unsightly lumps and bumps that we just can’t seem to deal with in real life. There’s always waist trainers though – AKA corsets of restrictive, Victorian fashion fame – if you can quite squeeze your fat arse into size 12 jeans and look like the Kardashians “inspire” us to.

Body positivity at its heart is about telling ourselves – and other women, men with unrealistic expectations and children with body issues in the making – that whatever your body looks like, it’s ok. It’s about learning to love every inch and pound of your slightly lumpy or too skinny frame, and not quite big-boobed enough or flat chested body to be fanciable, in spite of what major fashion houses and their size 6 sample sizes (or your slightly critical aunt) might say about your gaining weight.

It takes people to speak up and demand an alternative to change attitudes, and many voices sharing their stories and showing off their non-conforming bodies to create social change. This is what we mouthy ladies at Ladyfest MCR are all about, so, in addition to our workshops on sex work and women in tech we’ll be hosting a discussion online about body positivity, the impact body image can have on everything from your sex life to mental health, and working with local fashion businesses to challenge attitudes to alternative body representation.

We’ll be working with some ace local bloggers and our own Ladyfest team to do so, but want to hear your stories too. Give us a shout at ladyfestmcr@gmail.com if you want to write about body positivity and representation for Ladyfest MCR too!

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Lauren Coulman is Ladyfest’s digital campaigner, a lefty feminist & lapsed food blogger. She recently acquired herself a new set of stretch marks on account of piling on significant poundage, and despite worrying about getting naked and being judged, will be proudly bearing them like a tiger that got into a fight with a particularly vicious pie.

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