A recent BBC article stated that plus-size beauty pageants are rising in popularity with four times more women applying to participate than in years prior.
Many view the rise in plus-sized pageants as a victory for inclusiveness and loving oneself, but it is also a means to objectify more women.
Unfortunately, overweight people face a lot of discrimination, and while battling that discrimination is always worthwhile, objectifying women of all sizes is the effect many efforts have in trying to promote body positivity.
Plus-sized beauty pageants are an extreme case. Other efforts such as ad campaigns, photography collections and magazine covers, like the recent Tess Holliday Cosmopolitan cover, showcased plus-sized models in seductive poses. Oftentimes, the models are women and the numerous ads, photos and magazine covers strive to show that it is okay for women to not always be a size zero.
While these campaigns succeed in those aspects, it is also promoting the fact that efforts such as these disempower women. Whether it is a size zero model or a plus-sized model, it does not change the fact that it is targeting women’s sex appeal and, either way, sex sells.
Many people are attractive in their own way, but a woman’s body is placed to a high standard in order to sell sex appeal. These campaigns that are supposed to be spreading the message of body positivity are currently failing in that mission.
Body positivity advocates the desperate need to label all women beautiful which in turn knows that women cannot afford to not be beautiful.
There is a place for acceptance of all kinds that does not have to be overly sexual or objectifying. A movement where inclusiveness for all body types could be found in everyday places such as work, politics and popular culture – a movement that resembles the stand against fat shaming for men and the newfound appeal for “dad bods.”
Take “Dancing Man” Sean O’Brien, for example, from 2015. O’Brien was shamed for dancing at his weight and the internet flew to his side and hosted a big dance party for him in Hollywood. This movement did not reassure O’Brien that he was beautiful because he did not need to be reassured, unlike many women who do need that reassurance.
The Body Positivity movement needs to stop with the objectification of women. Movements need to showcase that women do not have to be sexy and that they do not have to please others.
The Body Project at Illinois State strives to accomplish a non-objectifying approach by introducing media literacy and self-awareness exercises, how to embrace a healthy ideal and one’s own body image, promote body activism and “embrace non-appearance related characteristics in themselves and in others.”
People are valuable no matter what they look like. Instead of reassuring people that they are beautiful at any size, there should be a push for reassurance that they do not have to be. Size zero or plus sized, men and women are not objects.
Finding an ideal in one’s own self is probably the best thing a person can have. In a society where there are set beauty standards, this can be difficult. Of course, these beauty standards are being smashed but the objectification is still there.
The goal is to erase the exploitation and present the reassurance of value within all humans.