I agree that body positivity can be harmful by forcing people to battle for their flaws and shifting the focus to beauty from their actual personality and achievements.
However, I don’t think that beauty is a nebulous concept that comes and goes by caprice. Beauty is a very valid instrument of power.
Just look at all these numerous beauty standards we had throughout human history: big bodies, thin bodies, black teeth, distorted feet, heroine chicks, tanned athletes. The image of beauty is always something that is scarce and elitist in the current environment: pale skin while 90% of the population gets sunburnt during the harvest season; full bodies during the times of mass hunger; fitness fever in times of office plankton. Beauty is a constructed idea that helps the elite to feel that they are better then other people. They support artists, designers, film makers, creatives that construct this image — and through their craft it installs into everybody’s brain.
And yeah, “Power to the people” also means “Beauty to the people”, to all those groups that were never prominent enough to be a beauty ideal. But your article made me realise that the largest mistake might be the fact that we focus on our own bodies instead of looking at others.
When I studied in art school I learned that the greatest power of artists is not what they do with their hands — it’s the way they look at the world. When you pass infinite hours staring at nude models of all ages and sizes, broken chairs, sculls and random objects, you have to give up the beauty standards you were taught. You are forced to find and recreate beauty in every object that is placed in front of you, and once you succeed in that, you succeed in everything else.
As we know, the beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, not in the objects. And if we stop consider ourselves as objects, we won’t need to prove we are beautiful. To me, body positivity is a way for everyone to find their inner artist, to reclaim their own glance, own freedom to perceive. I don’t think we should stop consider appearance at all, I don’t think we should look away. Instead, we should keep looking, with attention and without judgement, and gradually teach ourselves to see beauty in everyone.