I get it: you’re trying as hard as possible to be inclusive and ‘woke’ by talking about body positivity and why it’s a ‘one size fits all’ movement.
On this occasion, however, I’m going to need for you to take a seat and receive an education as to the true origins and intentions of the body positivity movement.
Earlier this week, Teen Vogue posted a series of Snapchats attempting to dispel the myths surrounding body positivity, its roots and the individual’s eligible for inclusion within the movement.
Under the ‘FACT’ title was written the following: ‘body positivity is about finding the worth in ALL people.’ Under the MYTH title was written ‘body positivity is JUST for fat girls.’
The Snapchat videos led me to think that the person who created them exists in a smaller-bodied or privileged body.
Because at this point it’s widely known (especially within the plus size community) that the body positivity movement has its roots centred within the radical fat acceptance movement: a movement created by predominantly larger far women of colour and disabled women.
To me, body positivity means accepting my body with all its curves, rolls, lumps and bumps.
It means seeing my physical self as worthy: worthy of love, of existing, of being valued as much as the next body. It is radical self-love in the face of narrow beauty ideals.
The ‘radical’ part is important because body positivity has a subversive history.
It originated with the fat acceptance movement of the 60s, which aimed to combat anti-fat discrimination and to celebrate and inspire the validity and acceptance of fat bodies.
In the US, this resulted in the creation of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), a non-profit organisation dedicated to combating size discrimination.
Body positivity then experienced a resurgence in the late noughties, as an increasing number of plus-sized bloggers, activists and influencers hopped onto social media to create safe spaces for fat women to appreciate and celebrate their bodies, without fear of judgement.
It provided us with a forum to discuss the complexities of marginalisation, and to celebrate diversity in all its forms, whether that be physical, sexual or racial.
In recent years, however, we’ve seen the body positivity movement monetised and politicised by brands and public figures, in ways that often result in individuals above a certain size being left out of the conversation.
The body positivity movement that we all recognise today does not centre fat people anymore: it has become simply another safe space for slimmer people to feel good about their bodies in a society that already does that for them.
I’ve spent the better part of my online career not only arguing with fatphobics on my rights as a fat person to exist and be eligible to receive the same respect and basic human decency as everyone else but also telling able-bodied, white, slim, privileged women that this specific movement cannot include them.
‘But shouldn’t everyone have access to self-love? Don’t ALL bodies deserve the right to celebrate their flaws?’ is the typical comeback I get.
They’re right! ALL bodies are worthy of love, and everyone deserves the opportunity to feel happy in their skin and talk about it… just not in this specific community.
What the #AllBodiesMatter crew fail to understand is that the simple act of ‘not’ being fat offers a world of privilege that fat people will never know in this lifetime.
Slimmer people can love themselves loudly, quietly or not at all, but they will almost always be seen as ‘normal’ in the eyes of society at large.
They will likely not experience overt or covert discrimination based on their size; neither will they face ongoing pressure to change their weight in order to be accepted.
Body positivity has always been about fighting the systemic oppression of fat people in society.
But now that movement has been diluted by people who for some reason, have an incessant need to be a part of the ‘trend’, which has resulted in the people who spearheaded the movement being pushed out altogether.
The body positivity movement that we all recognise today does not centre fat people anymore.
It has become simply another safe space for slimmer people to feel good about their bodies in a society that already does that for them.
This is not, or at least should not be, an #AllBodiesMatter situation. Of course, all bodies are equally important, and I hope that everyone reading this – whether they are a size six or a size 26 – feels good about themselves.
But body positivity is not about boosting the confidence of people with conventionally attractive and ‘acceptable’ figures. The world already does that for them.
Body positivity is supposed to be a political movement that fights the systematic oppression that fat people face on a daily basis.
It’s so much more than just ‘self-love’, so to decanter fat people from a movement that they created to include ‘everyone’ while fatphobia is still rampant in today’s society is pretty abhorrent, in my opinion.
As the movement has grown in popularity, its most prominent voices and values have changed to reflect a less radical and progressive point of view.
But the more we confront and challenge instances of co-option, the more power we can claim back.
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