Here's the problem with telling all women that they are beautiful.
It’s hard to imagine how anything about the body positivity movement could be a bad thing. After all, isn’t loving and accepting yourself—and feeling confident no matter what your size is—the healthiest thing you can do? No, says Lindsay Kite, PhD, positive body image advocate and co-founder of the nonprofit Beauty Redefined.
Saying that all women are beautiful is a wonderful message, believes Kite. But it doesn’t change the fact that women are being told to focus on beauty and obsess over their looks—and that objectifies women the way strict cultural beauty norms do.
“Girls and women aren’t only suffering because of the unattainable ways beauty is being defined,” Kite said at a recent TEDx talk in Salt Lake City. “They are suffering because they are being defined by beauty. They are bodies first and people second.”
Rather than working to make sure that all women’s bodies are seen as valuable, Kite (along with her twin sister, with whom she founded Beauty Redefined) wants women to be valued as more than their bodies.
“Our work is founded on the premise that positive body image isn’t believing your body looks good,” she says. “It’s knowing your body is good regardless of how it looks.” No matter how great you feel about yourself, if you're constantly thinking about your appearance, you are inevitably engaging in some sort of self-objectification. And that can get really exhausting.
The key is to look beyond the mirror and love who you are as a person. “Because once we can see more in ourselves than ornaments to be looked at, we can move on to being more,” says Kite.
Even if you already embrace your appearance and feel no shame about not fitting in with cultural beauty standards, Kite wants all women to know that they are more than just bodies to be looked at. “Be more by refusing to be defined by beauty,” she says.