A huge part of my journey to becoming body positive was about making dramatic changes to the type of media I was consuming. Some things are pretty unavoidable, like billboards on a street you drive, roll or walk by every day in order to get to school, work, or the park. But for the most part, this is something you can actively control and I am about to give you a few examples of how. Let’s start with what many activists consider the worst offender in terms of breaking down women’s self-esteem… fashion magazines.
Fashion, and let’s face it, most “health” and fitness based magazines put an extreme pressure on women to conform to a specific body type and version of beauty. This is usually thin, able-bodied, white, straight appearing, feminine and well dressed. Fitness magazines may show an appreciation for muscles but they are still all about presenting the stereotype I described above, almost exclusively. Both have been credited by people who have recovered from eating disorders as fueling their obsession with losing weight. While fashion magazines contribute heavily to anorexia and bulimia, fitness and “health” based magazines can actively lead people to orthorexia. This is why we have the terms “thinspiration” and “fitspiration” and why in the body positivity community, neither is seen as helpful or productive and in reality can be quite damaging. These magazines constantly tell us about the next fad diet or workout plan to “lose those last five pounds” and shame us into wanting to look like the people on their pages instead of loving ourselves as we are. So I have made a decision to completely ban them from my life. Even in terms of yoga magazines, I will only buy the issues that are specifically body love versions. I’ve replaced my former subscriptions to Glamour and Cosmo with sustainer donations to Bitch Magazine (shout out – they also have amazing podcasts and web content) and Shameless Magazine which are both run by like-minded feminists. When I am forced to encounter mainstream magazines at the grocery or drug store, I occupy myself with viewing my Instagram feed or by scrolling through the #SelfiesForSelfLove hashtag page and refuse to read any of the body shaming headlines on all the tabloid covers.
There are some new and upcoming plus size fashion magazines that deserve a shout out, because they are changing the world around us, one issue at a time. Representation matters and while the internet is a great place to achieve that, we need to be able to see ourselves in all forms of media. So here is to… Volup2, Curvy Magazine, Dare Magazine, Skorch Magazine, FabUplus Magazine, LoveUMag, and REglam, for making it a reality, for allowing us to see diverse bodies in a magazine. I do not, however, believe in devaluing the presence of an online media we can all contribute to. I do not believe there is an online world and an “in real life” world, this is all real life and for many the online world is where they feel the safest and the least lonely. I would also like to point out how ableist it is to define the online world as less than, since for many people living with physical and/or intellectual disabilities and/or mental wellness struggles the online world is the most accessible space they choose to exist in. Bloggers, especially plus size fashion or fatshion bloggers, have contributed to this new media in a way that has completely changed the traditional sources people turn to for fashion advice. Fashion is no longer only for the privileged few, it is literally for everybody, including you.
What about other media consumption choices, like film and tv, though? Again, the answer is to unsubscribe and then to get plugged in. The best thing I ever did was cancel my cable tv package. By doing so I have been able to completely avoid commercials, which at this time of year, means I am completely unaware of all the ads telling you to sign up for this or that new diet program. I have no idea about all the fat phobic gym ads that are probably running in connection with the new year. Best of all, I never have to see another sexist sports interview, rape apologist newscast or body shaming red carpet show ever again! I’ve replaced my previous tv consumption with progressive shows on Netflix, not all perfect, but certainly much more appropriate. I’ve been able to watch shows like Drop Dead Diva, Call the Midwife, Big Ballet and everything by Shonda Rhimes. I have access to tons of documentaries and reality tv showing real people instead of just celebrities. Plus, there is a whole world of web series based shows on Youtube that are far more inclusive of the voices that are often left out of the mainstream. I’ve always found network television to be filled with fat hate, body policing and slut shaming, which doesn’t exactly make for pleasant viewing time if you ask me. Video and audio podcasts make a great substitute and are usually, totally free. Some of my favourite podcasts are; Call Your Girlfriend, Bawdy Love, Popaganda and The Black Girl Dangerous. I hope you love them all as much as I do!