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Opinion: Has Social Media Buzz Blurred The Essence Of Body Positivity?

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When we talk about body positivity, we see a lot of discussions going around. But how truly do we as individuals follow it? The whole idea behind the long-used term is acceptance. As it’s well known, Body Positivity is a social movement, started way back in the year 2012 that states the acceptance of all individuals regardless of their weight or size.

Social Media
Representational Image. Some of the conversation on social media around body positivity is negative and detrimental to the cause itself.

While the movement has flooded our timeline for years, few oppose the idea stating it encourages ‘obesity’. Well, about the practice of collective intelligence in the new media, it is natural that conflicting views or rather differing opinions about a concept are born. What we as an individual can do and should do is reflect upon our psyche, understand the varied perceptions revolving around us and follow the right and harmless path. However, the path is likely to be subjective.

We live in a society where accepting oneself wholeheartedly is a long, tough battle. Body Positivity as a movement is a testament to this fact. Despite the endless conversations, advertisement campaigns, awareness films, brand initiatives, multiple blogs, we as a society haven’t emerged victorious in this battle of self-recognition.

Honestly, none of these initiatives can help us if we as individuals do not dismantle the barriers inside our heads. A lot of things start changing around when we change things inside. As Rumi once said, “Everything that is made beautiful and fair and lovely is made for the eye of one who sees.” Moreover, The conversations in the media if pushes one towards self-loathing, then it also teaches us to introspect, collect our withering remains and stand up all over again. 

Talking about different brand initiatives, Vogue is one such brand that has explicitly involved itself in the movement. To date, the brand’s cultural conversations, awareness campaigns, the inclusiveness of different sized models have encouraged women all over the globe to embrace themselves.  Moreover, gone are those days when we used to only see petite, slim models being an icon of fashion brands. Over the past few years, we have seen a huge shift in the representatives of the brand. Unlike what is showcased in the traditional media, the all-inclusive nature of the brands in the digital age has been a significant gateway, thereby opening the prisoned minds of millions.

Vogue is a brand that is actively involved in this movement.

Body positivity as a concept is trying to engineer the consent of accepting oneself and not weighing one’s worth based on physical appearances. The movement boldly states that “all bodies are beautiful.” It does not support an unhealthy lifestyle or an obese culture. It instead is trying to inculcate the habit of loving the skin you are in.

However, if we look at the other side of the coin, the social media buzz around the term has resulted in Body Positivity losing its initial essence and purpose. Now it’s bottled down to a tool for creating hype. Right from Lane Bryant’s plus-size ad campaign targeting Victoria Secret’s Angels to influencers on social media glorifying obesity and taking pride in it, to influencers including the message of weight loss within the umbrella of the term, has only resulted in further blurring the concept, values, and integrity of Body Positivity.

The movement was initiated with very simple goals, i.e, challenging how society views one’s body, not looking at oneself through the eyes of a different person, promoting acceptance of all bodies, moreover helping people build confidence and address unrealistic body standards. Furthermore, these goals were designed only to combat issues like depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders, which were problems that were emerging under poor body image.

Now the only thing that comes up in our minds is that in such bewildering situations, What we as an individual can do? We don’t necessarily have to run behind these large terms or just blindly update such concepts on our social media. What we should instead do is practice dismantling perfectionism and idealism in our personal lives. We need to normalize ‘neutrality’, emphasize self-care, self-love, and self-acceptance. Because we need to learn to detach ourselves from worldly pleasures and be our very own lovers first, for ‘ we deserve the love that we all the time keep giving others’!

The next time you doubt yourself or attach your worth against your physical appearances, remind yourself that in a garden, various flowers bloom with different colors, sizes, and fragrances, yet we are fond of them all!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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