By Alexandra Prim
Caitlin Marceau sometimes finds herself thinking body-shaming thoughts.
“Ugh, I’m so fat,” and “I don’t have a good enough body for this dress,” are phrases that have passed through every woman’s head at some point but Marceau, who considers herself to be a body positive spokesperson, actively fights this mentality as much as she’s able.
UNDERSTANDING THE MOVEMENT
“Words are so important,” she said, “and they can be so damaging when talking about other people and their bodies. I try to be aware of the language I use, both online and in person. So I don’t censor myself, but I make sure to use language that frames [people] in a positive and inclusive light.”
As a professional freelance writer and editor Marceau, 25, often writes for Bustle, which is a website “for and by women who are moving forward as fast as you are,” according to its “About Us” page. The site focuses on fashion, pop culture, news, and lifestyle – all with a feminist spin.
“I really love Bustle,” said Marceau. “I find they’re really great for [body positivity] because they have great representation in their staff.”
Body positivity is a movement that has seemingly dominated the internet in the past few years. It’s defined, by body positivity activist Marie Southard Espina, as at “its most basic level, the idea that all bodies are good bodies.”
This mentality has spread across social media in waves of love-your-body memes, Facebook groups, and hashtags, the latter perhaps most notably in the form of successful plus size model Tess Holliday’s viral campaign called #effyourbeautystandards.
Of the tens of thousands of denizens of the body positive movement, some hashtag their contributions with #bodypos. Others use #bodyposi or #bodypositive. Regardless of the designation, these body positive proponents all work toward the same goal: spreading self-love and acceptance of others.
Marceau sees the effects of the movement on a regular basis.
“I see fewer and fewer articles about getting your body ‘beach ready’ and more pieces on ways to feel fabulous come summer,” she said. “I’ve also seen a rise in feminist magazines, which promote body positivity, and websites. And, of course, the amazing [aforementioned] Tess Holliday, who showed the world that big is absolutely beautiful.”
Marceau added that she’s noticed an uptick in celebrities who preach feminism and body positivity. People like comedian Amy Schumer, singer Demi Lovato, and Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence have all been known to speak out in defense of diverse bodies deserving a presence in Hollywood and the media.
Marceau acknowledged that these vocal celebrities are helpful in giving body positivity a legitimate voice but said that “there’s still a long way to go.”
SOCIAL MEDIA NEGATIVES
According to the official Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) website, only five percent of American females actually naturally inhabit the body type most commonly celebrated in advertising and Hollywood. In a country where the female population is 157 million, that’s only 7.85 million women.
Conversely, about 47 percent of women questioned for a 2010 Girl’s Attitude survey confessed that the most negative part of being female is the intense pressure to appear outwardly attractive. Out of America’s 157 million females, that translates to around 73.8 million.
Julianne Adams, a 29-year-old Boston-area speech language pathologist, lamented the drawbacks of another form of social media: Online dating.
“Before I met [my boyfriend], I did a ton of online dating,” she said. “The worst part was choosing my pictures. I could charm the pants off of any man through my words. I know what to say, I like the way my voice sounds on the phone, and I know how to behave on a date.”
But Adams felt guilty, like she was manipulating her romantic prospects, when crafting a dating profile. “I chose to use all ‘good’ pictures of myself,” she said, “but I was so focused on which ones made me look fat that I wasn’t showing the real me. I would cut out my adorable outfit because I was afraid my hips looked too wide.”
Happily, Adams found someone who appreciates every aspect of her. But her insecurities when it comes to online dating are a daily reality for thousands of women online.
ONLINE ROLE MODEL
Skorker regularly posts photos of herself in various stages of undress, intent on showing the world that her body is a normal body, that every body is a good body.
“Often I [post] pictures on social media of things that I would typically hide pre-[finding] body positivity,” she said. “My belly, my back chub, et cetera. I take pictures in my underwear, from odd angles, pictures of my stretch marks, and say ‘this is beautiful;’ ‘I am beautiful.’”
If you repeat these mantras enough, said Skorker, you start to actually believe yourself. Basically, practice makes perfect.
In person, Skorker makes a conscious effort to correct people’s language when they’re negative about their bodies.”I kindly remind them how wonderful and amazing their [bodies are] and how we need to be kind to our bodies,” she said.
Skorker acknowledged how overwhelming the normalcy of the “Eurocentric ideal of being thin, light skinned, [and] free of stretch marks [and] acne effects” is in the United States. This is why she finds body positivity so crucial.
“By being positive about different sizes, abilities, [and] gender expressions,” she said, “we all have an equal say in what is beautiful and we don’t need to have the media or society dominating that or telling us what we are worth.”
Gwynnie Bee, an online subscription service that allows for renting or purchasing of clothes sized 10 through 32, was not a venue through which Anne Tranquilli-Bausher expected to make positive human connections. But that’s just what happened to the 37-year-old education consultant.
“In the past four years, I’ve found a plus size clothing service that not only allows me to have super cute designer clothes constantly rotating through my closet, but has given me a community of plus size women who are unapologetic, fashionable, and supportive,” she said of Gwynnie Bee and it’s interactive community online. “I now know where I can shop for cute stuff, whether super nice and expensive, or cheap fast fashion.”
The Gwynnie Bee website boasts a blog page called The Hive where subscribers are regularly featured in their rented or purchased wares, modeling Gwynnie Bee products in the real world.
Another facet of Gwynnie Bee that allows subscriber interaction is various Facebook pages devoted to the site, both official and unofficial. This is how Tranquilli-Bausher primarily connects with other subscribers.
“The clothing subscription service has member events where I’ve gone to fabulous hotels and just spent the afternoon trying on clothes and having people tell me how good I look,” she said.
The best part of Gwynnie Bee, for Tranquilli-Bausher? How body positive shopping there has made her feel.
“I’m happy that I’ve become unapologetic about looking good,” she said. “I like having adorable clothes. I like my preppy, hipster stuff. Wearing nice clothes that fit, that I really like, has done wonders for my self-esteem.”
A ROSY FUTURE
“I think we’re on the way to becoming more accepting of different bodies,” said Marceau of the body positivity movement’s effect on society. “I think people want to be; people are trying to be. But it also takes time to unlearn everything society has taught us.”
Marceau knows that battling this norm is the only way to overcome it. “I always try and fight that conditioning.”