It’s almost 2020. We’ve nearly spent TWENTY YEARS in this new Millennium. Wow, I guess Y2K really didn’t get any of us, (but those frosted highlights and slap bracelets sure did.) The past decade in particular has seen an array of trends, internet challenges, and new streaming services, but today I want to talk about one of the top buzzwords of the past couple years; body positivity.
We live in a digital world full of contradiction, a world in which I definitely don’t pity the youth. We didn’t have instagram and photo filters in the 90’s, our parents just made us play outside. Today, social media is saturated with influencers and other mini celebrities based strictly off of how many people look at their pictures every day. Among all this popularity clatter, a new movement has been born. A movement to accept the skin you are in and love yourself exactly the way you are; to be positive about your personal body image. It’s a brilliant concept. Shouldn’t we have figured this out sooner? But with every new exciting buzz word comes a quickly leering, sneaky little friend; marketing. A phrase turns into a hashtag, which turns into traffic generation, which turns into companies using phrases to corral traffic to their brands. It’s effective, it’s obvious, but is it genuine?
When Strange Bikinis first came across my radar, I was already seeking honest and real brands to work with. Sponsorships and free products are a dime a dozen these days, so it’s hard to find quality brands that practice what they preach. The name caught my attention right away... “Strange”….hmmm, much like “Wicked,” it imparts a flavor to be mulled over for a moment, it leaves an aftertaste. It’s not instantly likable, cute, and pretty. Strange is more than that….more thought invoking. I thought to myself “This company is embracing differences, not just in their models, but in their mission.” I liked that. Like all small companies, they began to grow, getting larger and more recognizable. I was seeing them everywhere. Here is where many jump ship. A company has a good mission and concept, they wanted to stick with it, they really had the best of intentions….but ugh….it’s just SO much easier to stick a super skinny girl in a thong bathing suit, put up pictures of her sandy derriere and wait for the “likes” to roll in. But Strange Bikinis hasn’t done this. Sure they have slim models, just like all the other models of various sizes and shapes that don their gorgeous bikinis on their website. But they have continued making suits advertized for REAL women. Women who do REAL things, like kayaking, and swimming in the ocean, and jumping off of waterfalls. They preach body positivity and they practice it. They endorse powerful women, flaws and all, and while many corporations claim to do so, this is falling more and more to the wayside. Few remain like Strange Bikinis. They are, as I believe the kids born after 2000 would say, “The OG’s.”
The past few years have seen a remarkable turn towards body positivity, and I can think of a few brands that stand out just to name a few. Dove body cleanser and Venus razors continue to lead the pack, with the latest Venus campaign advertizing models with large scars, skin defects, stretch marks and more. Aerie, the American Eagle lingerie line employs a beautifully body diverse team of models, including models with colostomy bags, orthotic braces, and various disabilities. However, there are plenty less-than-sincere ads out there slinging body positivity around like happy hour well drinks. While I won’t point out brands in particular like I did above (because I think the world does enough of its own finger pointing) there are certainly groups abusing this marketing gold, and we know who they are. Lingerie claiming to be “something for everyone” while displaying ten models almost identical in appearance and body type. Ads proclaiming to love your curves, with models on the front so slender they clink when you bump into them. It seems once you say the words, that’s it, you’re done. No follow up needed.
Unfortunately, as self explanatory as it seemingly is, I think body positivity misses a huge market. As an activist, I spend a lot of time doing research. How can you expect people to listen to what you have to say if you don’t know and believe what you’re saying? In doing so, I’ve found a very clear trend…when one Googles body positive clothing/swimwear/beauty products/etc, it almost always relates to weight. To me, just the term in itself, “body” positivity, should encompass more than just a little bit of junk in the trunk. I think there are so many people out there looking for role models who are like them, with disfigurement, and disabilities being included. These individuals have bodies they wish to be positive about, too! Part of the reason I started Wicked Flaws was I felt a gap that longed to be filled, feeling that the body positivity movement was not inclusive to me. I believe that inclusivity should be…well, inclusive. It shouldn’t exclude any one group because they aren’t “enough” of whatever the current buzz phrase is. While so many “real bodies” campaigns only showcase full figured models, some companies are doing extremely well with the inclusivity of other markets. Aerie and Mattel have both done exceptionally well with this, including hiring multiple disabled models, and launching Barbie dolls with Vitiligo, prosthetic limbs, and wheelchairs.
So what can we do to make a difference we believe in? It’s so simple. Give these brands your business and support! I’ve been using the Dove body bar exclusively for about five years now. My skin has never felt softer! Buy from swimwear companies that walk the walk *ahem like the one mentioned above. But most of all, try in all you do to embody what body positivity means to you. You don’t have to unabashedly love everything about yourself. It’s ok to want to work on parts of yourself, it’s healthy even. I know I have plenty of physical and emotional facets currently under construction. But whatever you find is YOUR body positive message, spread it. Share it. And above all, keep it Strange.
Colette Pfeiffer is the founder of Wicked Flaws, a platform rooted in positivity and appreciating the beauty of flaws. Colette was born with a congenital birth defect that left her without a coccyx or a right booty cheek, and she shares her journey to self-love here. Follow Colette @_wickedflaws on Instagram and check out WickedFlaws.com to join in her celebration of everything that makes us strange.