Body Positivity: What Women Really Think About It

August 12, 2015

The Body Positivity movement gained steam in the last year. Google Trends shows that searches on the term hit the highest point in April 2015. That month had a wave of mainstream press coverage thanks to Lane Bryant’s #IAmNoAngel ad campaign, the backlash against a billboard about being “beach ready”, and two celebrities, Pink and Rebel Wilson, flipping the bird to body shamers.

As more activists and celebrities add their voice to the movement, we decided to bring the ‘every woman’ perspective to the forefront. How relatable is the body positive rally cry to women, which body positive social media campaigns do they know about, and what steps are they willing to take to become more body positive in their lives.

We loved what we learned. Like any new movement, early supporters have some confusion about what body positivity really means for them. This confusion may slow down the changes the movement is trying to drive in society, fashion, and healthcare. But it’s not slowing down the changes that women want to make in their lives. It’s exciting to see that women view Body Positive as both a campaign and a way of life.

Majority of Women Can Relate to the Body Positive Movement

In 2014, Glamour Magazine found that one out of two of women were unhappy with their bodies. On any given day, half of the women that you work with, see on the street, or sit next to, struggle with loving their bodies. Given this, it’s not surprising that 64% of women in our survey say Body Positivity is for someone like them. Women want to love and accept their bodies; who wants to feel badly about themselves all the time?

Women of all ages related to the positive message of the movement. As women get older, they do become more accepting of their bodies. However, hang-ups are always there — from post-pregnancy belly to crows feet. Pick up any magazine tailored to older women (example: MORE) and you’ll find articles about how to cover up or fix the things you don’t like about your body. It’s not a surprise that Body Positivity appeals across generations.

What about the third of women who didn’t think Body Positivity was for someone like them? The women who didn’t relate tend to have a higher income (49% of non-relaters made more than $75k a year compared to 28% who related to the movement). Having a higher income doesn’t mean women have a better relationship with their bodies, it simply means that something about the movement doesn’t resonate.

Is the Body Positive Movement for someone like you? Why or why not?

No Single Definition of Body Positive

How a woman defines Body Positivity is incredibly unique and personal. It’s based on the insecurities they have and all the body baggage they’ve been carrying throughout their lives.

The definitions women gave can be grouped into themes. We saw differences in the variety of themes based on whether or not a woman related to the Body Positive movement.

Of those women that felt the movement was for them, we found a greater variety of definitions of Body Positivity. The majority (39%) describe it as feeling positive about your body. One out of five (21%) describe it as accepting your body. Ten percent (10%) describe it as accepting all bodies. Other descriptions were around being healthy (8%) and having self-confidence (4%).

Of those women that didn’t feel the body positive movement was for them, the definitions were less diverse. The majority (41%) describe it as being positive about your body. One in six describe it as having something to do with self-image. Only 5% describe it as accepting your body.

Body Positivity means what an individual needs it to mean. This presents a challenge and opportunity for activists. While it’s hard to have a single rally cry for something so intensely personal, the fact that it is so personal gives the movement a wide reach.

How do you define Body Positive?

Not Just One Body Positive Movement

The Body Positivity movement is spread mainly through social media, especially through hashtags.

We were surprised to find out that three out of five women who said they can relate to the Body Positive movement were not familiar with any of the most popular social media hashtags around it. This tells us that while the movement is appealing to many women, it’s still very fragmented.

We didn’t find a clear leader for the most familiar hashtag. #BodyPositive and #HonorMyCurves were at the top, with #EffYourBeautyStandards, #LoveYourLines, #BodyLove, and #Fatkini not too far behind.

Not having a clear winner is not a bad thing. It speaks to the passion of advocates, the personal nature, and the activity happening in social media.

We looked at the familiarity of hashtags by the type of message it was promoting:

  • Loving Your Body (BodyPositive, LoveYourLines, BodyLove, HonorMyCurves, ThighReading)
  • Fighting Cultural Standards (EffYourBeautyStandards, Fatkini, LoseHateNotWeight).

We found that one out of three women were familiar with at least one hashtag from the Loving Your Body group. One out of four women were familiar with at least one hashtag from the Fighting Cultural Standards group. We expect to see some of these different social media campaigns converge over time.

Which hashtag or group of hashtags would you be more likely to follow?

Lots of Roads to Being Body Positive

Similar to how definitions of Body Positive were varied, so were the things women told us they could do to be more body positive.

Of the women that said the Body Positive movement was for them
The most common responses to what they could do to be more Body Positive were to exercise (21%) and accept themselves (20%). The next most common answers paralleled these — 14% said they could stop self-criticism and 13% said they could lose weight.

Of the women that didn’t feel the movement was for them
The most common responses to what they could do to be more Body Positive were to exercise (26%) and lose weight (24%). One in ten said they could stop self-criticism and another 10% said they could eat better.

What’s interesting is that the women who don’t relate to the movement say that losing weight would make them more body positive. This may be why they don’t connect with the Body Positivity message — they believe that losing weight equals feeling good about yourself.

What step would you take to be more body positive?

Early Days, Lots of Potential

The Body Positive movement is still in the early stage but the passion, personal and relatable nature all make it one to watch. We’re excited to see results like these from the every woman. We plan to keep our finger on the pulse and keep sharing what we’re finding.

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About the Research: Conducted by InnerTruth Panties on August 6, 2015. The online survey consisted of 161 US women, aged 18–70 years old.

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Size Chart

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 X-Small 0-2
 Small 4-6
Medium 8-10
Large 12-14
XL 16
2X 18-20
3X 22-24