Body Positive, Body Neutral & aesthetic pressure on social media

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Carla Fajardo Martín - Colectic
  • Aesthetic pressures are related to gender patterns and especially affect women.
    Aesthetic pressures are related to gender patterns and especially affect women. Source: Anna Shvets (Pexels). works to dismantle the sexist stereotypes that permeate all aspects of our society.

Social media are a reflex of gender patterns and aesthetic pressure, but they also channel social movements standing up against this. This is the case of Body Positive, a movement that promotes full acceptance of the diversity of bodies showing them empowered.

“It’s a reaction and a cry against an incapacitating and stifling set of aesthetic rules that aims to bring visibility to diversity and celebrate this as something beautiful”, they explain at, where they do social awareness and facilitation work to bring down the sexist stereotypes that impregnate our society.

Although Body Positive has been a revolution and has opened up the spectrum of what is considered beautiful or desirable, it still perpetuates a set of rules: “You can be ‘curvy’ but your curves must be of a certain proportion”. Meaning this leaves out all that doesn’t fit with the new margins allowed” and it “doesn’t place the focus on the collective problem that is perception and discrimination”.

To deal with these issues, a new movement emerged, Body Neutral, which doesn’t look to celebrate nor stigmatise bodies, but accept them as they are. This movement took it one step further: “it is much more realistic and respectful with the processes of accepting and loving (or not) your body. It’s a good strategy to rethink our image, placing it on another level of importance, and to reclaim the value of other more intrinsic values of each person”.

But this didn’t please everyone either: “Our body isn’t neutral. Beyond aesthetics and beauty norms on what we consider beautiful or desirable, bodies go through their cycles, they get ill, they change, they have limits, they suffer aggressions and at the same time we enjoy and take pleasure in and through our bodies”. And this inevitably conditions us. The looks, the comments, the violence against our bodies, this all has its consequences”.

The violence of beauty norms

To understand this pressure, “we must understand how the sex-gender, and gender roles that have been constructed on what we understand as being a woman or being a man play out (and any other way of being, identity or expression that falls outside the norm and may be received with violence)”.

As expected, women always loose out: “for men, it’s all about strength, experience, personality and aesthetic comfort; for women it’s beauty, being desired, complacent, caring, sacrifice and the aesthetic discomforts like waxing, wearing high heels, bras, dieting and wearing makeup".

All these forms of pressure hiding behind stereotypes are forms of violence because they condition our appearance, the way we act, and even who we should desire. They also come with consequences such as loss of self-esteem, and disorders like anorexia and bulimia, the loss of political and social power, the acceptance of abusive relationships, rape and sexual abuse, and the shaming of victims, among many others.

To fight this, the idea is to start thinking about the way we communicate to boost our virtues and love above the faults, and transform social imagery. The activities organised by also encourage a debate on topics such as the historic burden that beauty has on women by witnessing our behaviour, for instance, when we pierce young girls’ ears or when we talk to girls saying they are “pretty”.

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