For centeries women have been informed of what is the most aesthetically pleasing body shape to
maintain. For example, for many women of the nineteenth century, corsets were the accessory of
the day in the hopes of their waists shrinking smaller and smaller to fit the relevant beauty standard.
Over time variations of body positivity movements cropped up over time to fight the pressure to fit
conventional beauty standards. The movement has seen a new lease of life in recent times, perhaps
thanks to the ease of spreading a message on social media. However, with this new resurgence
comes new issues and it has the potential to become just as restrictive as the beauty standards
which it vehemently challenges.
Many people have taken issue with the commercialisation of the term ‘body positivity’ and in turn
how the roles ethnic women played in its originating state have been forgotten. Instead, many body
positivity articles feature white women who have hourglass or pear-shaped figures but can still fit
into the accepted beauty standard. Perhaps it is these issues that should be at the forefront of the
body positivity discussion and critique.
Instead, however, it feels that people are increasingly focusing on unnecessary issues based on
trends. The backlash to Kim Kardashian releasing body makeup is a prime example of when body
positivity unwittingly becomes body negativity. There is no denying that the Kardashians are icons of
pop culture. Having survived over a decade in the infamously fickle show business industry, their
business acumen and longevity must be recognised and even applauded, whether you agree with
what they are selling or how they reached the height of fame. While they seem to be everywhere,
from the fashion and beauty industry to our television screens, it is undoubtedly popular to hate on
the Kardashians. Hate current trends in fashion? Blame the Kardashians. Lament the rise in cosmetic
surgery? Blame the Kardashians. Hate the fact that Donald Trump was elected as President? Blame
the Kardashians, just as Chelsea Handler did.
There is no denying that the Kardashians have made questionable choices and said even more
questionable things. Sometimes they’re very out of touch with the everyday public, but then again
should we really expect millionaires from LA to relate their life to Sandra from Ballincollig? Body
image is one area where the family faces the most heat. The Kylie lip fillers saga still plays out today
when discussions surrounding cosmetic surgery are had on television or radio. Kim’s infamous figure
continues to be blamed for holding up an unrealistic body image standard. Rightfully, the
Kardashians are called out for promoting weight loss supplements and teas, which are known for
their problematic nature. Whether we like it or not, the Kardashians are continually interlinked with
our world of fashion and beauty, two industries which are perennially connected to our standards of
beauty and body positivity.
However, have we gotten to a point where we simply sit in wait for the Kardashians to promote their
latest wares in the hopes that they will have some conflict of interest with the general idea of body
positivity. But what happens when we are too quick to shout down the Kardashians with cries of
negativity that negate from the body positivity movement, when the family has actually done
something that will help many fans with their body confidence? In mid-2019, Kim released a range of
body makeup. Despite the collection selling out in the days after its release, people were quick to
proclaim that this was another example of a Kardashian not allowing people to love their natural
bodies and instead forcing another unrealistic body standard on their followers. One standout
response to the collection, was ardent Kardashian critic, actress and presenter, Jameela Jamil. Jamil
wrote on Twitter, “Hard pass…I’d rather just make peace with my million stretch marks and
eczema…give yourself a damn break”, in response to Kim’s launch of the products.
Jamil continued saying, “I *refuse* to have these normal human marks weaponised against me”.
Normally, many Twitter users will take any opportunity to agree with any form of backlash to the
Kardashians, but this time felt different. While many, like Jamil, felt Kim was forcing women to feel
shame for natural marks, there were many who understood where Kim was coming from. There
seemed to be a shift in people’s attitudes, as they took the time to consider the concept behind
Kardashian’s products rather than simply following the crowd and shouting it down as body
negativity. Kim has spoken for years about her experience with the skin condition psoriasis. Speaking
about the products, she said that while she has learned to live with the condition, there are days
where she wishes to hide it for her own sense of confidence. It was the hope of her new body
makeup to give that option to other people who perhaps have scars or skin conditions they wish to
cover to make them feel less insecure.
This is where body positivity can become negativity. The backlash Kim’s products received, as
outlined above, show the potential the body positivity movement has to become just as restrictive
as the beauty standards they challenge. Of course, encouraging everyone to love their natural bodies
is fantastic, and congratulations to anyone who is at peace with their bodies. However, the fact
remains that most people will find flaws in themselves that they would rather hide. In relation to the
body makeup, are we really going to attack the people who choose to use it? Just because you’re
comfortable in your skin does not mean you have the right to talk down to someone who is not
comfortable with showing whatever ails their skin. No one should be shamed for using a product
that helps them find some peace with their body. Surely that is body positivity? Thankfully, Twitter
was inundated with people discussing how products such as Kardashian’s have given them
confidence to leave the house and embrace life with confidence.
The fact is, that body makeup has been produced by other brands for years and Kardashian is not
the first to do so. However, given the family’s chequered past with body positivity, it is convenient to
attack them when perhaps they are in fact bringing something positive to the table in the form of
body makeup, especially given Kim’s own history with skin conditions. Have we gotten to a stage
where we focus on nit-picking issues such as whether it is right for someone to want to hide their
‘flaws’? The fact remains that not everything the Kardashians produce, or the beauty industry
promotes is inherently negative. We cannot simply equate body positivity to loving every inch of
ourselves and berating those who find greater peace in covering certain parts of themselves.
At the end of the day it is all about personal choice. We do not shame the many people who choose
to dye their hair or wear facial makeup, so let’s not shame those who choose to wear body makeup.
If you are confident with or without products like body makeup, then great. It is all about finding
peace within yourself regardless of what others think, and for me, that is the crux of body positivity.
So, lets focus on more pressing body positivity issues such as better representation for people of all
skin colours within the movement, rather than crucifying those who simply want the chance to find
some level of confidence. Otherwise, our self-proclaimed body positivity will merely inflict negativity
on others; thus, negating the aim of its name.