Can body neutrality messaging replace body positivity?
Many brands, especially in the apparel and beauty space, have embraced body positive messaging in recent years, although critics charge the movement focuses too much on appearance. Is body neutrality any better?
Anne Poirier, an eating disorder specialist who coined the phrase in her book, “The Body Joyful,” defines body neutrality as “prioritizing the body’s function and what it can do, rather than its appearance.”
The thought process moves away from intense positive or negative judgments about the body and how it looks, and focuses more on acceptance. While body positivity has been seen as beneficial to society’s perception of weight and body standards, critics argue the movement ignores the health risks associated with carrying excess body weight. Many see maintaining unwavering body positivity as an unrealistic goal and believe it can inadvertently cause feelings of failure.
Charlotte Cowles , writing for The New York Times, said body neutrality might appeal to those “who find the warts-and-all approach of body positivity to be a bit, well, contrived. Do we really need to embrace our cellulite and tendonitis? Why not just aim for a more peaceful coexistence?”
Charlotte Markey, a psychology professor at Rutgers University at Camden and founder of its Health Sciences Center, told The Washington Post that she thinks of body neutrality as “understanding that it’s important to respect and care for your body, and to divorce that from your evaluation of your physical appearance.”
Critics of body neutrality argue that pursuing such a sense of detachment doesn’t do enough to bolster self-image. For some, the path to caring less about how you look and more about how you feel is not easy when body-centric content — whether positive or not — is all over social media and commercials.
Wrote Nicola Dall’asen for Allure, “Every time I’m about to dip my toe in the body neutrality water, I hesitate because, while I can acknowledge that my body’s appearance isn’t and shouldn’t be the most important aspect of my being, I also can’t deny that how my body looks has always affected my thoughts, feelings, personality, sexuality — all of it.”
- Can ‘Body Neutrality’ Change the Way You Work Out? – The New York Times
- You don’t have to love or hate your body. Here’s how to adopt ‘body neutrality.’ – The Washington Post
- What’s the Difference Between Body Positivity and Body Neutrality? – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic
- Is Body Neutrality Actually Healthier Than Body Positivity? – Vogue
- What is body neutrality, the new trend loved by beautiful celebs? – The Guardian
- The ugly truth about body positivity – The Advance-Titan
- Why Body Neutrality Hasn’t Won Me Over Yet – Allure
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see messaging around body neutrality eventually replacing body positivity for many brands and retailers? Can body neutrality work as a marketing message for many brands?