Image by Asha Etchison for Shea Brand.
Everyone has a different relationship with their body. One that, for most people, includes both good days and bad ones. As a brand focused on body and self-care products, we are hyper aware of how we affect that relationship. Whether you are big, small, old, young, wrinkled, freckled, smooth, hairy, black, brown, white, able, or disabled - we are here to celebrate and support you in having a healthy relationship with yourself and your body. Our mission has always been to bring genuinely beneficial, powerful products to people who need it, and that includes bodies of all shapes and sizes.
Throughout history the ideals for both women’s and men’s bodies have been dictated by societal forces such as media, fashion, war, and politics. Over the last 30 years the “ideal” female form has been depicted as thin and sexy, with a tiny waist, flat belly, and voluptuous curves. We are inundated by images of celebrities who exemplify these looks (often with the help of personal trainers, nutritionists, and stylists) and models photoshopped to match them in advertisements and media - it’s easy to see why people feel left out of that narrative.
Image by Lena Shkoda for Shea Brand.
A 1997 study by Psychology Today found that 56% of women and 40% of men surveyed experienced an overall dissatisfaction with their bodies, while a number of scientific studies have discovered a link between negative body image and issues such as depression and anxiety. It’s clear that our society’s narrow range of acceptable body types has had a significant negative effect on multiple generations. Thankfully, today’s beauty ideals have finally begun to shift, now including a wider range of bodies to be seen as “beautiful.” Instagram accounts like the You’re Welcome Club show that inclusivity is being valued more than ever before.
These changes are in large part owed to the fat activism movement, an initiative originally born of 1960’s and 70’s feminism. Similar to feminism, fat activism and the acceptance of bigger bodies has experienced waves of success and burnout. In 2004, when the Dove Real Beauty campaign was launched, a new wave of the movement was sparked, leading modern brands and advertisers to be more mindful of including large women, women of color, and women of various ages in their media. It represented a renewal of the fight for accepting all bodies as beautiful and is important and valuable, but brings up a new set of unique problems and challenges related to body positivity.
The major issue behind the Dove Real Beauty campaign (and many current marketing campaigns that focus on body positivity) is that it exists to sell more stuff rather than actually empower people. Dove and other brands have taken the message of body positivity and turned it into a marketing tool that perpetuates society’s focus on the value of women’s (and men’s) bodies rather than other aspects of their humanity. Health, intelligence, happiness, and contributions to society are much better ways of measuring a human’s value than their looks. As one of our favorite self-love Instagram accounts puts it; “The truth is we don’t need to be beautiful! It’s not the most important in life - we are so much more than that.”
In addition to disregarding the value that women provide to society beyond their bodies, the modern-day body positivity movement has also received pushback from a mental health standpoint. The idea of being positive about our looks 100% of the time has morphed into another form of societal pressure. Everyone has good days and bad days, and a lot of neutral ones in between. When women are told that the road to happiness lies in totally accepting and loving our bodies all of the time, it makes it feel like a sin to look in the mirror and think “I’m just OK today.” In this way, the corporatized body positivity movement has become another way of shaming and conforming ourselves rather than simply loving ourselves for who we are. It’s for this reason that body neutrality and self-acceptance are a more important message; one which empowers us regardless of how kickass or down in the dumps we may feel at any given moment.
As a brand focused on skincare and self-care, Shea Brand has to take these issues into serious consideration when determining the imagery and messaging that we put out into the world. We are not here to shame you into purchasing a product on the pretense that it will make you feel more perfect and complete, rather, we are here to support and love you for exactly who you are. Shea Brand appreciates bodies of all shapes, colors, ages and sizes and we celebrate the brains, brawns, and beautiful souls inside of them, too.
*This post was written by Faye Lessler, a California born, New York City based advocate for holistic sustainable living. Faye is the author of sustainable lifestyle blog, Sustaining Life, and is passionate about supporting sustainable brands and making an ethical & eco-friendly lifestyle easier and more accessible for all. Faye is also a freelance writer, consultant, and the Events + Talent Manager for the Ethical Writers & Creatives. Sustaining Life has been featured in Glamour Magazine and has collaborated with sustainability leaders Eileen Fisher, Patagonia, Thinx, and Klean Kanteen.