How The Idea Of Body Positivity Is Actually Toxic To Women

We are being taught and told by society and the media that we aren't ever going to be good enough.

women of different races and body types standing together Jacob Lund / shutterstock

By Emily Bernstein

I grew up watching "The Little Princess," where every girl is a princess, and reading stories of strong women taking the world by storm. I grew up knowing women had the power to do great things and be forces of nature.

But I didn’t grow up knowing that to do great things and be a force of nature, I had to fit into a size two ball gown or be curvy yet also skinny.

I didn't know there was a beauty standard for greatness.

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As I’ve grown to be a woman, a curvy and not-so skinny one at that, I’ve slowly learned to put walls around myself. I try to make my body smaller because, according to the media, I’m huge. I tamp down the urge to be a force of nature because I think that I don’t fit the bill — literally.

However, the world is changing and we’re slowly empowering women who have not-so-skinny curves and flaws and scars and accepting these women when they own them. These women have loud voices and are sharing their stories and bodies with us, and aren’t ashamed.

Think Demi Lovato, Amy Schumer, Meryl Streep, and Carrie Fisher. These women are inspiring all the little girls of the next generation out there to be beautiful no matter their size.


We call this body positivity. This is the idea that no matter what body you have, no matter its shape or size, you own it.

And this is working wonders for young, impressionable girls who are just learning to love their bodies. This is something I never got the chance to do because, by the time this movement started, I thought I already knew what society wanted from me to be beautiful.

And because we’re trying to be more body positive for the women my age who have more curves, we have begun to victimize those who are naturally skinny — the women that can fit into those size two ball gowns.

By creating a society that fits those curvy, not flat-stomached women, we are excluding skinny women. This is not body positivity, and this is perpetuating the problem.

This is why it’s hard for me to be body positive. For girls my age, we’ve already seen what society thinks is beautiful, after it’s gone through Photoshop and airbrushing. We see only what the media wants us to see, so even the girls that could be models think they aren’t good enough.


For everyone, and I really do mean everyone, we are being taught and told by society and the media that we aren’t ever going to be good enough. None of us are the right size.

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Why, you ask. Why are none of us the right size when some people are the same size as the models, and the girls on TV? I’ll tell you exactly why. The girls who are fitting into that ball gown, the girls who are the perfect size, feel like they’re being victimized by the “body positive” movement.

When curvy girls speak out and say things like, “I tried being skinny once, but I didn’t like it so I stopped. I’m better this way, anyway” (think Meghan Trainor, here), they are making all the girls who are naturally skinny, or who have worked hard to be skinny, feel horrible about themselves.


Because of this, body positivity has become this empty phrase that is toxic to some people. The celebrities, and regular people, in general, that are trying to make body positivity an actual positive thing don’t exclude people.

These people want to include everyone. That’s what Demi Lovato, Amy Schumer, and all those amazing women are trying to say.

It’s not just about the curvy girls, or the girls who can’t look in the mirror. It’s about everyone.

But body positivity is actually excluding a lot of people — the people who don’t have Photoshop or Instagram filters for their everyday lives.

It’s excluding the skinny girls, the fat girls, the curvy girls — all of the girls who just don’t like what they see in the mirror every morning.


It’s excluding the people who want to own their bodies but still don’t know how, no matter their size.

I look up to the women that are strong forces of nature that may or may not fit into that ball gown I dreamed of as a little girl — be it family members, celebrities, or even my friends. And for all I know, they’ve all struggled with the way their bodies look when they stare into the mirror.

Or maybe, they own their bodies with no problem and strut their stuff every day. These are the women that are supposed to inspire me to be myself; but when they are being excluded from body positivity — from owning their bodies — how are they supposed to help me, when they need to help themselves first?


Let’s all try to love ourselves a little better this year.

RELATED: I’m So Sick Of The Body Positivity Movement Telling Me I Have To Love How I Look

Emily Bernstein is a writer whose work focuses on mental health, pop culture, love, and family. Her writing has been featured in Nature, The New Yorker, Interview Magazine, Healio, Five O'Clock, among others. Follow her on Twitter for more.