The body positivity movement—a movement to encourage embracing and accepting one’s body, particularly if it is plus-size—is growing in Singapore.
According to activists, people in Singapore are becoming more and more receptive towards body positivity.
Body positivity activist Aarti Olivia Dubey, 39, points out that body shaming in Singapore seems to have decreased, and more and more people wish to understand what entails body positivity.
According to Ms Chow Li Ying, founder of Our Bralette Club, a local lingerie brand with a focus on body inclusivity, more retail brands are offering both larger and smaller sizes.
Our Bralette Club uses people of different body types in place of professional models in promoting their products.
Ms Chow says, “I think the body positivity movement is growing, especially in the past two years or so, based on our market research.”
Difficult to Change Existing Societal Norms and Prejudices?
Ms Dubey also notes that while Singapore is catching up on the body positivity movement, it is still “not moving as fast as it could”.
This sentiment is reflected in other areas of the world as well, as seen from Tokyo Olympics creative head Hiroshi Sasaki making a derogatory remark about Ms Naomi Wantanabe, a popular Japanese comedian and body positivity activist.
He had told a planning group that Ms Wantanabe could play the role of an “Olympig”. He also suggested that she wear pig ears at the opening ceremony of the event.
According to Ms Dubey, this incident shows that “fat shaming is still one of the most acceptable prejudices”.
However, she also acknowledged that “more people are speaking up against it, which signifies that there is more of an awareness and understanding now of why fat shaming is hurtful.”
Mr Sasaki eventually issued a statement of apology through the Olympic Games organisers and resigned from his position.
Stories of Body Positivity and Acceptance
These stories of two women on their journeys with body image by ST shed different perspectives on the body positivity movement.
For full-time body positivity activist Ms Dubey, whether or not she looks flattering in photographs does not concern her at all.
Her struggles with body image, along with two miscarriages and medical conditions, both mental and physical, have led to her deciding to stop trying to adhere to rigid beauty standards dictated by society.
She runs the Instagram page @curvesbecomeher, where she posts content relating to body positivity and social issues.
She says, “I think women are so confined to society’s rules and beauty standards that anything out of the ordinary is considered an aberration.”
When Ms Dubey was younger, she suffered from eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. She said that even when she was a child, others’ perceptions of her changed when she put on weight, and she ended up “internalising” a lot of those harmful perceptions.
She faced pressure from her relatives to become skinny, amid medical conditions including asthma and polycystic ovary syndrome, along with mobility problems that make her unable to stand or walk for long periods of time.
She then withdrew to herself after her miscarriages, and resorted to self-harming and covering up mirrors at home to avoid having to look at her own reflection.
However, things changed when she turned 30; Ms Dubey said that she “was really tired of pleasing everyone except [herself]”, and that she “wanted to know what a life filled with self-acceptance would look like”.
She proceeded to begin therapy and take medication, seeking inspiration from American plus-size influencers on social media such as Gabi Gregg and Tess Holliday along the way.
She then began a blog in 2011, Curves Become Her, in which she wrote about body positivity and social issues such as feminism.
As an activist, she gives talks at webinars and works with brands to spread awareness on and promote body positivity.
However, Ms Dubey says that acceptance by other people is hard to come by—she faces insulting remarks from people online about her appearance whenever she posts pictures of herself on Instagram.
Nevertheless, she says that this online hate pushes her to embrace herself even more.
She also seeks respite in practising mindfulness and follows the teachings of Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, saying that it has been “very grounding to follow his teachings in [her] activism”.
While the body positivity movement has been instrumental in helping to promote inclusivity and acceptance of all body types, and has helped some gain confidence in their body image, others who have been disillusioned by the movement feel differently.
One such person is makeup artist Mary Victor, 24, who was once an advocate for the movement but has since adopted a different stance towards it.
She launched the social media movement #thebodywithin on Instagram, starting a conceptual photography series in which she donned an aluminium dress meant to represent a metallic shield.
She also collaborates with swimsuit, skincare and other brands for campaigns promoting “normal” bodies.
She shares that she believes that the body positivity movement, which advocates for having a positive body image and loving oneself regardless of societal and cultural ideals, could lead to one developing a “toxic mindset” which disregards “realistic feelings” about one’s body.
She says that sometimes, one simply doesn’t feel good.
Ms Victor instead believes in body neutrality, which refers to the acceptance of one’s body and an appreciation of how it works, which takes away the pressure to “love” it.
After experiencing an incident of sciatica around a year ago, Ms Victor was bedridden for a week and her mobility was severely restricted. She said that she “had to slowly accept that this was happening to [her] body”, which galvanised her to act upon her beliefs on body neutrality.
When she was a child, she was mocked for being bigger than people her age, which led to her developing eating disorders.
She starved herself and struggled with breathing difficulties during panic attacks and overdosed on flu pills several times.
She decided after Secondary 4 not to further her studies as her bullies were likely going to the same school that she qualified for. Hence, she enrolled in a diploma course in professional makeup, which eventually became her source of “therapy” because she could help others feel good about themselves.
She said that she has had many women and girls reach out to her telling her they are“insecure about their body”, but that they feel better after being aware of her movement. This is what motivates Ms Victor to keep doing what she does.
Featured Image: Instagram (curvesbecomeher, thebodywithinofficial)