Beware of Faux BoPo

Written By: Erin Bach

In case you haven’t noticed, body positivity (BoPo) is all the rage nowadays. Another way of saying that is that it’s “trending.” Oh, how I loathe that word. Inevitably, when something begins trending, that leads to marketing execs catching on, realizing there’s an opportunity to monetize the shit out of it, and ruining all the fun.

In its original and purest form, body positivity is a movement to promote the acceptance and celebration of ourselves and our bodies no matter their size, shape, color, ability, sexual orientation, etc. You have a body? Be positive about it. Good deal.

As of the writing of this article, there are 465,232 posts under #bopo on Instagram. These posts range from curvy babes rocking swimsuits (without hiding cellulite or stretch marks...gasp!) to anorexia recovery stories and everything in between. Inspirational quotes abound, and everyone is feeling pretty pumped about their meat suits (thank you yoga goddess Kathryn Budig @kathrynbudig for that amazing term for the human body).

All of this is well and good until media and marketing come into play. A few days ago, a headline on my iPhone news app caught my eye: “Julianne Hough shares body-positive photo: 'Celebrate being confident.’” I was curious what her “body-positive photo” was, so I clicked the link (yup, they got me), and it took me to an article about her recent Instagram post.

Now, let’s be clear. The photo Hough posted is GORGEOUS. She’s in a full face of makeup, looking like a Baywatch bombshell in a red bathing suit. She says she hesitated posting it because of what people would think but then decided to love on herself instead of giving in to self-doubt.  

That’s awesome. She has every right to feel confident and beautiful and post confident and beautiful photos. But the website latching on and labelling that as “body-positive” to get clicks? That makes my stomach churn a bit.

Yes, body positivity is meant to celebrate ALL bodies. That includes fat bodies, thin bodies, differently abled bodies, athletic bodies, and yes, beautiful celebrity bodies. But (and it’s a big, juicy but) we need to ask ourselves: what is the effect of labelling this kind of photo as #bopo and publishing it to the masses? Is it honestly helping anyone? No, it’s just increasing website traffic, which in turn can lead to higher ad sales. I’d say that’s a BoPo no-no.

My point is this: be mindful and curious when you see something marketed as being “body positive,” and then look with a critical eye at what images and messaging they’re really selling you.

Take, for instance, the Zara ad that says “Love your curves” but then uses standard-issue hanger-sized models. Thankfully, people noticed the hypocrisy. For a larger bodied person trying to actually embrace their curvier build, seeing this ad could be damaging. The public responses, however, are refreshing.

None of this is to rain on your BoPo parade. By all means, love your body, post pictures, celebrate your story. I’m also 100% for companies jumping on the body positive bandwagon, just as long as they steer clear of the faux BoPo bullshit.  

Who’s doing it right? Take a look at underwear company Dear Kate, who responded to Victoria’s Secret “The Perfect Body” campaign with their perfectly real and perfectly awesome version.

At the end of the day, remember this: the health/fitness/beauty industry is always trying to sell you something. Body positivity is about realizing you are already enough.