Body neutrality over body positivity

Body neutrality, the act of accepting and acknowledging the physique for its natural disposition and remarkable aspects over society’s impractical demands, has matured into the next chapter of self-love.

Nipping at the heels of its preceding movement body positivity, body neutrality illustrates itself as capable of surpassing its predecessor.

Throughout the past decade, the term “body positivity” has rooted itself in everyday life and social media.Body positivity affirms that all individuals deserve to feel confident and proud in their own skin, no matter their weight or appearance.

Despite being around since the 1960s, body positivity is a relatively new movement to the general public, especially in an era where harmful notions regarding weight and dieting lurk behind every commercial and magazine stand.

While the campaign has been incredibly beneficial to society’s perception of weight and promotion of harmful body standards, this movement cannot be the end-all be-all of self-acceptance.

Recently, the body positivity movement has come under fire for allocating too much focus on appearance and the notion that one must love their body at every moment, or else they have failed and even wronged themselves.

Many believe it is finally time to let the fixed structure of body positivity fade, ushering in a new era of neutrality in its absence.

Body neutrality, a phrase coined in 2015 by author Anne Poirier in her book, “The Body Joyful,” “prioritizes the body’s function, and what the body can do, rather than its appearance.”

One instance of body neutrality’s impact can be seen within the eating disorder recovery process. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, using an appreciative lens and focusing on “looking at yourself as a whole person,” and “appreciating all that your body can do” can have meaningful results.

Despite this expression appearing as a watered-down service of the previous movement, it holds the potential for a broader group to feel seen when it comes to their bodies.

DePaul sophomore Lily Somers describes body neutrality as a means of reconstructing the way she perceives herself.

“I want to focus on all the amazing things that my body does for me, like battling illness and regulating my temperature amid this cold Chicago winter,” Somers said. “Our bodies are amazing, and how they look should be the least important thing about them.”

DePaul sophomore Ella Hageman supports this shift and maintains that impartiality should be more than a mere alternative to positivity.

“I believe body neutrality should be prioritized over positivity because it’s a big ask for somebody who dislikes their body to change their perspective instantly,” Hageman said. “I think body neutrality’s outlook is as vital as it is attainable.”

Like many trends and movements from the past, body positivity’s primary source of traction was generated from social media — particularly Instagram and Twitter. With over 9 million photos tagged using the hashtag ‘body positivity’ on Instagram, it’s not surprising that the movement’s message of unapologetic confidence touched the minds of a wider audience.

“It’s important to treat body neutrality the way we did positivity,” Hageman said. “It’s essential to share and discuss this concept online while keeping in mind that there should be a diverse group of people promoting it.”

Yet, not all feel body neutrality will be as progressive or accepting as it purports to be.

DePaul sophomore Mikyhia Worsham fears this shift will leave out people of color and individuals with disabilities.

“I do believe that body neutrality will be more welcoming to people of all body types and genders,” Worsham said. “My concern is when those said individuals start talking about their differences, will they be hushed into a corner, ignored, excluded?”

She expressed doubts that the body neutrality movement will be inclusive of those who are not already accommodated by society.

“Will the body neutrality movement welcome survivors of illness or violence, most cases in which a person may be left disfigured, maimed, or disabled?” Worsham said. “What about those of us that do not have any physical characteristics on our body, but mentally instead? Will those of us with melanin in our skin be allowed in this movement or will we yet again have to make spaces of our own?”

A primary critique against the body positivity movement has been its obsession towards a predominantly white female demographic, ostracizing individuals who do not meet such impractical standards. Regardless of its guarantee of a singular accepting community, major steps concerning recognition of the lived experiences of people of color and people with disabilities still need to be taken.

“My many identities and relationship with my body are intersectional; they can not be separated from one another because to do so would be undeserving of the other,” Worsham said. “For example, I cannot separate my identity as a Black person from my identity as a woman; I don’t get to choose which label I wear day to day as my white counterparts; it’s a package deal.”

Body neutrality’s message is one of deviation and nonlinearity.

Despite the shift towards neutrality, the concept still possesses a way to prove its acknowledgment and acceptance towards an expanding demographic. Body neutrality holds the potential to generate a society focused on individuality over materiality through mindful alterations to exercise, such as moving in ways that make you feel good rather than what society has deemed acceptable and pacifying talk regarding physical features. By providing a unique approach to self-love, body neutrality focuses on what is already there rather than what needs to change, encouraging individuals to simply exist within their own skin.