By Sarah Molloy
The body neutrality movement has gained a lot of attention lately for being the next progression in how we go about self-acceptance. With praise from many high-profile celebrities, such as Taylor Swift and Jameela Jamil, what actually is it? Is it truly a better alternative to body positivity, or is it just another passing craze? The idea behind body neutrality is for us to appreciate our bodies without any judgment, whether it’s positive or not. Supporters of the movement want us to recognise that we need our bodies because they are our vehicles of existence, not because they feed into our vanity, insecurity or self-worth. On Twitter, Jameela Jamil wrote, “It’s about liberating ourselves from this cultural obsession. It changed my life. For people with body dysmorphia and ED, it’s like a vacation away from your mind. It involves almost no mirror time. It frees up your mind immensely. Self–hatred is very time consuming #bodyliberation”.
Taylor Swift has supported Jamil’s activism for this movement. In an interview, she said, “We have amazing women out there like Jameela Jamil saying, ‘I’m not trying to spread body positivity. I’m trying to spread body neutrality where I can sit here and not think about what my body is looking like”. It is comforting to think that we can bring our relationships with our bodies to a place where ridicule has been replaced with respect, or simply indifference, but what’s so bad about loving ourselves? Where does this leave body positivity?
When Anne Poirier coined the phrase in 2015, she did it with this thought in mind; sometimes, loving yourself is too difficult. For people who have serious issues with how they view themselves, body neutrality may be an easier alternative to body positivity. In fact, the body positivity movement has come under criticism in recent years for losing its core values. Encouraging someone to look in the mirror and expecting them to find things they love could just lead them to obsessing over their appearance even more. The movement has become overly commercialised and we are constantly bombarded with it, which means it is never out of our minds.
While body positivity encourages us to look at ourselves and love what we see because we are beautiful, body neutrality asks that we love ourselves because of who we are. Although, for some people, neutrality may be a useful stepping stone to loving the way you look. Neutrality doesn’t mean you shouldn’t like your appearance, it’s just freeing you from the pressure of it. It can allow you to focus on appreciating what your body does until you’re ready to focus on what it looks like. In an interview with The Guardian, Rebekah Taussig said body neutrality “has the power to be really useful in particular to people with disabilities. Those people are pretty frustrated with the demand to love their bodies when they feel betrayed by them. Being neutral could feel like a relief”.
Body neutrality clearly can provide a lot of benefits for your mental health, but how do we implement this philosophy into our thoughts? Ignoring something you’ve been conditioned to think about every day is easier said than done, so don’t be hard on yourself for finding it difficult. If you find your mind drifting to insecurities about your appearance, try to replace these thoughts by asking yourself how you feel. Are you happy? Are you looking after your needs? When you get dressed, value comfort above how clothes can show off or hide your body. Think of your body as a machine that needs to be looked after and filled. Are you giving yourself enough nourishment, rest and movement? You are more than a body; focus on your life and the joy you can get from it!
The body neutrality movement has appealed to some people as the middle between the two extremes of love and hate. While it won’t be the right path for everyone, if you think it might help you, it could be worth giving it a try!