Body Neutrality And Our Aging Bodies
Two things happen to women once they pass society’s acceptable age for being thought youthful and desirable, some are bombarded with comments complimenting their ability to look young for their age, while others receive unsolicited advice on best ways to look young and desirable for their age.
As a society, we’ve taught women that no matter their accomplishments, internal struggles, or contributions to society, their entire existence is tied to their ability to maintain a physically desirable and youthful appearance.
Mature women are excluded, or maybe even forgotten during conversations on self-love and self-acceptance, until it’s time to showcase that rare unicorn who seems to be defying visible signs of aging through plastic surgery and other anti-aging practices.
The ability to maintain a youthful look even when going through life-altering changes, is seen as success. While deciding to embrace the natural process of aging, and look “old” is frowned upon, as if making peace with having visible signs of aging is sign that you’ve let yourself go, or punishment for bad behavior.
Ageism and fatphobia are two of the most accepted forms of prejudice worldwide. Old and fat jokes are the safest and most accepted type of “funny”. What would not pass the vibe test if said of other groups, is comedic gold when said of old and fat people.
It was not too long ago that the concept of body positivity, which began in the 60s, was reintroduced on social media to encourage conversations on society’s inability to accept and respect bigger bodies, and highlight the dangers of diet culture. For those living in bodies that’s been marginalized by society for being fat, disabled, or other, body positivity was introduced to demand visibility and respect for all.
I remember explicitly when the body positive movement became popular on social media, it was early 2010, creators of all shapes, sizes, and imperfections began to use their corner of the internet to stand proudly in their skin, determined to redefine and reshape the narrative on beauty, and give voice to those often pushed aside as undesirable and unpretty.
As mother to two young-adult daughters, I was elated to witness such a movement and did my part in spreading the word far and wide. But, like all movements surrounding empowerment and upliftment of women, physical appearance remains the building block for determining worthiness and value.
Beneath well-intend think pieces, catchy jargon, and youth-obsessed pictures, and videos is a reminder that when it comes to change and addressing issues ailing women, change is more digestible when presented in a younger, thinner body. And, no body is more empowering, valuable and worthy of existing than that of a 20-something woman.
What began as a movement to humanize marginalized groups, specifically those living in bigger bodies, turned into a desire to prove that one can be beautiful and fat, at the same time. Positive self image became synonymous with feeling, and declaring ‘I am beautiful’, even when you didn’t feel it. Inherent beauty was push to the backbunner, giving a bigger platform to beauty as it relates to our shell.
You can love yourself and still have days where you don’t feel beautiful, and that’s okay.
When it comes to changing the narrative and our perceptions of beauty, rarely is aging included in conversations surrounding uplifting and accepting the natural aging process. It is as if those who are outside the unrealistic age-specific beauty standards, are no longer viable members of society, and therefore, do not need space for pep talks, empowerment, and acceptance.
But there is a new kid on the block, body neutrality which is said to be the middle ground between body positivity and body negativity is slowly winning the hearts of body-positive advocates, taking space on many blogs, where social media creators are seeking to change the narrative on unconditional self-love, to include body neutrality.
It is believed that the term “body neutrality” appeared online in late 2015. It grew in popularity when Anne Poirier, a certified intuitive eating counselor and eating disorder specialist, began using the phrase to help clients build a healthier balance between food and exercise. Poirier defined body neutrality as “prioritizing the body’s function, focusing on what it can do instead of its appearance.” It supports the concept that we don’t have to love or hate our bodies. We can feel neutral about them, without shame or need to explain those feelings.
Ageism is rooted in a cultural belief that aging is all negative. We’ve convinced ourselves that It’s bad to age, so it’s best to not bring it up, or only bring it up when complaining about its challenges.
Aging, with all its ups and downs, is incredibly humbling. Making peace with the fact that your physical appearance may not mirror how you feel or think about yourself, is a challenge in and of itself. Being part of a community, or movement where bodies are celebrated for their function, without judgment or expectations to present as someone no longer part of your now, is both refreshing and incredibly empowering.
- Body neutrality is appreciating your health and what your body is capable of doing, instead of focusing on or placing value on yourself for how you look.
- It’s making peace with the fact that you won’t always feel beautiful, and that’s okay.
- It’s being grateful for a body that didn’t give up on you, even when you wanted to give up on it.
We welcome body neutrality, as it celebrates bodies that have been with us through thick and thin. It encourages us to appreciate bones that continue to hold us up and move us forward, even when we didn’t think we’d make it pass our 20s.
Body neutrality encourages us to embrace fine lines and scars representing all the dreams and people we’ve birth to life. It forces us to dig deep and ask ourselves those tough questions, like, who taught you to define your worth based on unrealistic aging standards?
It doesn’t have to be one or the other, you can support and appreciate aspects of body positivity and speak life into yourself, all while realizing, beauty, as defined by society, is fleeting.
Body Neutrality And Our Aging Bodies