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Humanising Women: Will We Ever Achieve Body Neutrality?

Female Bodies, Body neutrality, Female Empowerment

Leaving body positivity behind

The body positivity movement has become clique, unrealistic and borderline insulting. In the last few years, the body positivity movement has consisted of normal people being hounded to love themselves by slim, pretty, white influencers. Body positive social media accounts highlight delicate details of the human body they believe we should all love: arm hair, scalp shape, collar bone structure, and length of earlobes. The insecurities are becoming wilder and wilder, and these accounts simply accentuate the flaws we did not know we had and features we did not initially consider an insecurity. Due to this toxicity, the narrative has shifted, and people are focusing on the new concept of body neutrality. The body neutrality movement focuses on reducing the value we put on our body’s appearance and redirecting our energy to appreciating the body’s functionality.

I don't love my arms and that is okay

Women are beginning to recognise that loving all aspects of our bodies is unnecessary. As long as we can accept our body for what it is, we can continue to lead a happy and healthy life. Stretchmarks and scars are not something that necessarily need to be loved and praised, but something that merely exists due to the circumstances of living, and therefore should be accepted. The emphasis should be on the person inside the body rather than the body itself. When put into practice, we should be able to look in the mirror and appreciate how our legs allow us to walk, run, jump and transport us from one place to another; they do not need to be complimented, loved or admired. Fundamentally, there should be little to no emphasis on the body at all, but to the other personal attributes of that person. Being the funny friend should be just as admired as being the pretty one.

Only good for one thing

Without discrediting the body image issues that men face daily, it is apparent that more women struggle reaching the strict beauty standards that society sets for us. The female desire to maintain good looks, even with age, is a side effect of the patriarchy (like every other feminist issue). Women are valued more greatly for their physical appearance than other personal attributes such as intelligence and ambition. ‘Pretty privilege’ is not a new concept, and is evident in our everyday life. The more attractive individual will reap the most benefits, whether it be at the supermarket checkout or at a job interview.

According to a US study organised by the non-partisan Pew Research Centre, when asked what attribute society valued the most within each gender, 11% of the 4573 participants mentioned physical attractiveness for men, compared to 35% for women.

Physical attractiveness was in fact the leading trait for women. Additionally, while the value of men shifts over time, from traits of physical attractiveness and strength, to qualities of professional success and morality, the value of physical attractiveness for women elevates as they age, with the increased pressure to uphold the ‘ideal’ body type.

It is no wonder how critical women are of their bodies, with so much of a woman’s value being placed on purely their physical appearance, Perceiving our bodies in a more objective and neutral way is a freeing approach to improve body image issues, however, it will not set women free of the societal constraints that force us to ridicule and alter our appearance every day. Deciding not to wear makeup or shapewear to an interview may cost us the job, while all men need to do is brush their teeth and apply some aftershave to appear more appealing.

It may seem a simple solution to perceive our bodies as simply skin and bones, mere vessels that enable us to experience the world, but it would be ignorant and unrealistic to ignore the centuries of beauty standards and objectification that society was constructed on. While body neutrality is a step in the right direction to encourage women to recognise themselves as more than the body they were encased into, there needs to be a larger value shift in society, where women are valued for their intelligence, ambition, hard-work, and morality in the same way men are. Beauty is certainly something to be admired, but it is not everyone’s job to be beautiful (that’s what Victoria's Secret models are for).

This begs the question, will body neutrality ever exist?

As long as the feminist movement continues to prosper in educating the ignorant, and a women’s place in society keeps progressing, the more women will be humanised and recognised for more than their looks. It is only then that we can truly feel like more than the surface of our bodies.

Having said that, self-acceptance is a personal journey, and it first takes an individual to recognise their worth before anyone else can. Just remember, you should not feel guilty for caring about your appearance as this is literally something conditioned into us!


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