There’s quite a body-positive movement on social media these days. Girls and women of all shapes, sizes and colors are posting swimsuit or lingerie photos of themselves and in the captions, sharing about their relationship with their body image in the name of body-positivity.
It is a beautiful sight to see a woman accepting her figure, dimples and curves and often inspires me to do the same. I also appreciate the increasing amount of body diversity that is being represented in ad campaigns and media in general as well as how these posts can potentially empower other women towards greater self-acceptance. I am concerned, however, that the posting of these lingerie and swimsuit shots might actually backfire by drawing more attention to our bodies and less attention to who we really are.
An over-obsession with the body without regard to personhood is self-objectification.
Most of us are familiar with the idea of men seeing women as objects through behaviors such as catcalling or engaging in pornography, but what about women objectifying themselves, and even each other?”
Self-objectifying behaviors can include but are not limited to: Excessive mirror looking, frequent selfies, critiquing one’s appearance in the reflection and photographs, and comparing oneself to images in the media and other women. The danger with self-objectification is that compelling research has found that it is associated with a number of ills including body shame, appearance anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.
So could these “body-positive” posts actually be harming us?
Westernized media chronically and pervasively displays images that portray women as objects. Because we learn from what we see, exposure to such images naturally teaches us to focus on appearance rather than character and the body rather than the person. However, it’s not just magazines, TV or movies that are the culprit, but social media has created another avenue through which women objectify themselves and one another.
One study found that young women who spend a lot of time on social media were more likely to compare their looks to other women and to “self-objectify” or as the authors define it, they “view themselves from an observer’s perspective and thus view their body as an object to be gazed upon.”
I am concerned that these frequent and intimate photos girls and women are posting of themselves in swimwear and yes, even lingerie are just another dangerous form of self-objectification.
And remember, self-objectification makes us sick.
These days, posting an empowering “body-positive” picture of oneself in lingerie or swimwear will probably generate a significant amount of “likes,” and we all know how much we like those. I am glad to say much of the dialogue or comments around these photos seems to be women cheering each other on, though that’s not always the case. The experience of posting these photos can feel empowering and exhilarating and for some is even reinforced by paid sponsorships with swimsuit and lingerie companies if one has a large enough following.
It is not mine or anyone’s place to cast judgement on a girl or woman who posts these sorts of photos of herself, but I do want to propose that there is another way to be body-positive in the twenty-first century.
We do not need to post a bikini shot of ourselves showcasing our assets or “flaws” to cultivate a healthy self-image. We can be body-positive in the quietness of our own thoughts and in the way we inhabit space in this world.
Let’s cultivate body-positivity in our everyday moments. What if we truly began to believe deep down in our soul that we are wonderfully and marvelously made and took God at His word? What if we stopped bashing our so called “flaws” in front of our friends or the mirror? What if in the silence of our day when we peer into our reflection or give a friend a hug, we appreciate the miracle that is our body? A broken, but beautiful miracle intricately designed by God to be a temporary vehicle through which we experience His beauty and goodness.
Yes, skin is in and here to stay. But a quiet confidence that runs deep down into our soul is a confidence that truly sets us free. That is body-positivity.
Allie Marie Smith is the Founder and Executive Director of Wonderfully Made and is also a professional portrait photograpHer for women and girls. She is the co-host of the Wonderfully Made Podcast and the author of two Bible Studies “Becoming Who You Are In Christ” and “Healthy Eating and Abundant Living.” Allie lives in North Santa Barbara County with her husband Paul where she loves surfing and adventuring up and down California’s golden coast.