I have become increasingly immersed in the body positivity community over the past year.
I started to get interested in following Instagram and YouTube personalities who promote happiness at any size and self-love — I think it’s utterly fantastic.
I believe we do need to expand the reductive definition of what is beautiful, but having said that, do we, from a feminist perspective, need to stop objectifying our bodies regardless of how proud we are of them?
I stumbled across a fantastic podcast by Lindsay Kite, Ph.D. that covers this topic beautifully. Kite and her twin sister, Lexie, are the founders of the organization Beauty Redefined and her podcast “Empowerment in the selfie age – an interview with Lindsay Kite” is a must hear for anybody out there looking for a different perspective on body positivity, sexuality, and feminism.
There’s no doubt that body positive social media posts spark very divided conversations, but nonetheless, they are important conversations to have.
Lindsay Kite explains on her podcast a belief which is that many women who post nude and lingerie selfie photos online may help them ultimately they feel like they “have to show their body to prove that they value their body — to show that other people’s bodies are acceptable.”
Kite also contends that self-objectification – the obsession with what our bodies look like inside our minds – is the thing that is hurting us.
That self-objectification is, in fact, the thing that is reinforcing our body shame.
She further explains:
We need to be very critical about what is being labeled “empowering.” This culture that we’re living in will give women “power” for showing their bodies. It will give them money, followers, likes, magazine photo shoots, and fame — women who have risen to extreme fame because of the way they present their bodies online. You can see how that feels like empowerment — and a lot of people think that’s true. However, from a feminist perspective … that “power” can be taken away as quickly as it’s given, because it is being determined by a culture that only values women’s bodies as objects.
What exactly does empowering mean?
As defined by Merriam-Webster, to empower means to promote self-actualization or influence.
Influence is the power to change or affect someone or something.
And the definition of self-actualization is the process of fully developing and using one’s abilities.
So really empowerment is the promotion of the process of using one’s abilities and power to change or affect someone or something.
I don’t believe that showing bodies in and of itself is a bad thing.
If bodies are a form of our consumption, then, yes, I think all bodies have a right to be promoted and seen.
But, this often becomes a ‘chicken and egg’ conversation.
If it’s the obsession of what our bodies look like inside our minds that hurt our self-image, then it is most certainly stemming from the influence of bodies seen day in and day out in the media.
To that effect, are women showcasing these selfies for body diversity the best chance we have at a silver lining of capitalism, patriarchy, and exploitation?
Kite suggests before you post an image as a statement of feminist empowerment that you ask the following important question:
Who determines your power? If it’s coming from the outside, it’s probably not real. Showing and sharing bodies online isn’t ever going to get us there. You’re still pre-occupied with your looks, and you’re still feeding off external validation.
So, the important question: what does empowerment look like?
“Being able to accomplish what you want to achieve and having self-efficacy brings empowerment …most women are not happy with themselves and judging and defining themselves based on what they think other people think about them.”
The bottom line: We have to set goals for ourselves that yield actual feelings of accomplishments outside of what other people see when they look at us.
My last question is this: Is there a way that external validation can encourage internal validation in a healthy manner?
I say there’s nothing wrong with feeling happy and comfortable with yourself nor is there anything wrong with posting photos on social media.
The central questions of this post are strictly these:
1. Are pictures of nude and semi-nude female bodies at any size just a continuation of the general objectification of women?
2. How, as women, can we create a shift away from external validation to create lasting feminist empowerment and ultimately reject the notion that what a body looks likes should ever matter in the first place?
Please listen to this podcast; it is a 40-minute conversation worth having.
To learn more about Beauty Redefined, you can visit Lindsay and Lexie Kite’s website www.beautyredefined.org to find out more about body image “resilience.”
How do you feel about the body positive selfie movement? What’s your take on “empowerment”? What does it mean to you?