I’m writing this post, that started with a tweet and turned into a shift in my mission. The tweet I wrote was “Body Positivity is to Fat Activism what Humanism is to Feminism. One is for “everyone” and the other recognizes that oppression exists. #fatactivism”. I’m tired of pretending like it is an equal playing field, to begin with, and I am especially tired of the “*all bodies” comments on my Instagram posts that take two seconds to celebrate fat bodies. Yes, all bodies deserve to be loved by their owners but fat bodies, bodies with disabilities, queer and trans bodies, and bodies of colour are the ones lacking representation. It is easy to find images of thin, able-bodied, white, straight people in the media, in ads, everywhere. We are even starting to see inbetweener and curvy bodies, but still only if they are straight, white, and able-bodied. So please allow me to focus on the bodies we aren’t used to seeing in a small, but ultimately feeble attempt to even out the playing field.
I think that we need to acknowledge that the roots of the body positivity community come from the fat acceptance movement which was originally created by queer fat femmes, women of colour, and people living with disabilities. This movement has always been about marginalized bodies and when we constantly put thin, white, straight, able-bodied women on a pedestal to represent us, we are doing our history a disservice. I think we got a bit lost in the message of body positivity being for all bodies when it was created by a very specific group of individuals who have faced violence and hatred because of their oppression. There is always a historical context when we talk about oppression and we can’t ignore that. While I do want all people to love their bodies we need to be making space for those least allowed to do so, according to societal standards. That is what fat activists have always stood for and what I am all about because I am a queer, fat, femme. I am a fat activist and a fatshion blogger.
Compare fat activism and body positivity to other social movements for change, for example, we don’t let straight people run Pride Parades and we don’t let White people control the Black Lives Matter movement. Sure we want everyone to be able to have a partner they love, but only queer people are currently being denied that, so we need to fight for our right to be treated equally. Yes, all lives matter but currently only Black lives are being treated as if they don’t by the justice system, so we need to fight to keep them safe until they are. Thin people are already accepted by our society, even if they personally don’t love their body. Thin people will never face the kind of oppression or discrimination that fat people face in the same way that I as a White person can have empathy for the experience of racism and fight to end racism, but I can never truly know how it feels to be the target of racism.
People in positions of privilege are needed as allies, to help us achieve our goals, but never to take over the movement or start to dominate the conversation. As a queer fat femme myself, it hurts me to see this history ignored and for the voices from my community to be pushed out of the centre stage to make room for less marginalized bodies. It makes me sad to see our movement co-opted by people who not only don’t know the history but are doing their best to erase it and capitalize on it. They need to do better at being inclusive of all fat bodies. There are way too many pages for thin or curvy white women who we already see in the media. I want to see more trans people, more gender queer people, more butch women, more femme men, more people of colour, more people with disabilities, more people embracing their body hair, more real diversity. Look at who you interview and include in your articles. Ask yourself who you retweet and give shout-outs to. Make a personal commitment to be more inclusive when you do.
I’d like to see the body positive (and the feminist) community do better around issues of anti-racism and anti-oppression. Much, much better. Sadly, given how long we have been asking for this in the mainstream feminist movement and the lack of results, I don’t think this trend will happen anytime soon, if at all. In fact, I predict the opposite. I bet you there will be at least one comment in reply to this article that says that I am oppressing people (by saying these things). That by pointing out their privilege, I am ignoring the ways they are also oppressed. The people who believe in reverse racism and that we need straight pride parades will not be impressed with my response. But I am tired of not speaking up on this issue and starting to move away from the term body positive in favour of embracing the fat acceptance movement since it is much more intersectional. That matters to me and I want to ensure I am using my voice to shine a spotlight where it is most deserved. So here’s to #FemmeFatshionista, because being fat and queer is something I am not ashamed to be, in fact, I am very proud.
Parts of this article are from an written interview I did with Lauren from Cupcake Thighs for her blog series Behind The Scenes With BoPo Babes. However, all words are my own. Swimsuits For All provided me with this “Aubergine” swimsuit as a part of our collaboration agreement.