I don’t know the secret to achieving true body positivity, but I do know that it’s not what we are currently propagating on the internet.

I challenge you to think of a body positive Indian male icon without googling it.

Any names that came to mind? No?

Okay. Google it.

Still nothing?

Doesn’t that strike you as weird? Are you not troubled?

You should be.

First let’s talk about body positivity. What do we actually mean by it?

“Body positivity is a social movement focused on the acceptance of all bodies, regardless of size, shape, skin tone, gender, and physical abilities, while challenging present-day beauty standards as an undesirable social construct.”

This movement has been around for a while, but a new wave began with the rise of social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. One of the first models to create waves in this new wave for the body positivity movement was Tess Holiday. She started a trend called “Eff Your Beauty Standard”. Slowly, we got icons like Ashley Graham and others to take the movement ahead.

People embraced this movement, and so did brands. They started using these models and icons, trailblazers of change, on their covers, women’s day videos, you name it. It was all about stretch marks are okay, and “love yourself”. Well.

But how true is this movement? Does it have any impact on Indians? Are there plus sized Bollywood actresses, models, or famous personalities with a mass following? Or is this movement restricted to Instagram personalities and bloggers only?

love handling

I go for the latter. We are still being fed that to be beautiful, you need to have a flat stomach, and being fit means being skinny. We have shirtless models with six pack abs, and people congratulating Adele on her weight loss. In December 2015, Parineeti Chopra debuted a ‘new, toned look’ after working on her fitness for nine months, and was given a star icon award, to which Rishi Kapoor tweeted that he ‘couldn’t believe they gave her an award for losing weight’. I mean, there’s a point. And Adele was always beautiful, so congratulating her on her weight loss just proves that society looks at body positivity as tokenism for marketing purposes. We don’t actually believe it.

Whenever there is a model or actor who has lost weight or gotten in shape, you will see viral photos doing the rounds. Fitness magazines talking about their routines & diets. Suddenly they will be selling health drinks & baniyaans (vests). And when there’s an actor looking totally out of shape, the trolling is vicious, there’s a lot of “he used to be hot, what happened”, as if all a celebrity is worth is a six pack, and without it, he’s not worth your time. Don’t think I am here to tell you the actual secret to “True Body Positivity” and what the right steps are.

I have no idea. All I know is that when I look at Instagram. I see people editing their photos, propagating diets that are borderline eating disorders, while also fighting against skin whitening creams. We have a long, long way to go, and brands can’t be the ones to lead the conversation.

Happy plus size woman and man are rollerblading. Smiling overweight couple roller skating. Body positive young people. Vector hand drawn flat illustration

I would like to see stretch marks on a model without it being advertised/marketed as stretch marks on a model. I would like to see plus sized models without it being advertised/marketed as for “all sizes”. I would like dark skin toned people in the forefront without it being clear tokenism, or again, advertised as “we don’t care about skin tones”. Marketing these things as such negates the body positivity movement. You have made it a selling point for your brand to try and be relatable. This is not it.

I remember coming to terms with my sexuality, and deciding to join Grindr. I spent five minutes there, and my heart sank. Every match I had, wanted to exchange pictures of their body and the pictures they had of themselves? Dear god. They looked like Greek gods. I looked at my love handles, and decided to delete Grindr and never go back.

I was just not good enough to be bisexual. Dejected, I tried looking for acceptance within myself. Loving myself. It’s hard, I know you already know this. Validation is key to acceptance as well. There is very little positive thinking you can do when you think your body looks ugly.

I tried looking for fitness icons to look up to for this validation. Someone who can show me that the body I have is sexy too. I found many. The problem is their bodies had chiseled six packs. When your body positive icons are people with what society has deemed as “perfect sexy bodies”, it’s hard to take the message they are trying to put out there seriously.

I am still in search of a body positive non-cis woman icon. An Indian person who can just guide me into accepting my body. Making my body sexy again. I know these beautiful people are out there.

Guiding me to a place where I can actually fall in love with my love handles, and handle the love of being bisexual.

If you are reading this. We are waiting.