Earlier today I was browsing Twitter and kept seeing the hashtag “#BodyPositiveBut” being used in a large amount of tweets. I found out the hashtag was created by @DreddByDawn to call out the people who claim to be body positive while their actions indicate the opposite. I have mixed feelings about it because on one hand, I feel as if it’ll prevent people from engaging in the body positive movement. There’s a lot of stereotypes out there about how “hostile” and “exclusionary” our movement is, and I don’t want people to see this hashtag and think it’s shutting out other body types. Some of the tweets I saw were definitely antagonistic towards thin people. While it’s cliche to say this, two wrongs do not make a right.
On the other hand, I do see a lot of examples in the world where someone will claim to be body positive and engage in tons of body shaming behaviors. The biggest group you see this from is retailers that use the feel good message behind the body positive movement to make sales without actually representing the people they expect to buy their merchandise and support their brands. There are so many brands out there who claim to be body positive but exclude fat bodies in their size range and advertising. Despite my mixed feelings, I do actually really like the basic premise of the hashtag and even tweeted out my own examples of how someone could be “Body Positive, but…”
The first thing I want to stress is that the body positive movement is for everyone. You don’t have to be a fat woman to have body image struggles. While I do agree that the average thin person tends to have more privilege in society than the average fat person, it doesn’t mean they can’t be struggling with the way they perceive their own bodies. Everyone can be a victim of body shaming and appearance based bullying. Everyone’s story is valid regardless of what size or shape they are. Everybody deserves representation in this world. Body image struggles don’t discriminate based on the body they live in. They live in the mind of every single person on this planet in one way or another.
There is nobody out there that’s 100% in love with each part of their body, and that’s okay. The body positive movement isn’t preaching the message that everyone is perfect. It’s preaching the message that everyone is imperfect and deserves to have confidence regardless of the way they look. I think some of the tweets associated with this hashtag are confusing the body positive movement with the fat positive/fat acceptance movement, which is an entirely different thing. Although the body positive movement was created by and is commonly associated with fat women, it’s evolved into a multi-faceted movement where everyone is supposed to feel welcome.
While it would be amazing to see more non models that represent the average plus sized woman, it’s also okay to see the curvy models like Ashley Graham in our media. It’s important to remember that behind every seemingly perfect photo of a model, there’s thousands of photos of that same model that look nothing like the images you see portrayed on social media and advertisements. Sure, there could stand to be a lot more diversity when it comes to plus size models, but you can’t completely shut out the ones that look like contemporary plus size models. They are still real women, and they do still exist in this world and deserve to see how clothing will fit on them when they browse online shops. The best compromise I could think of would be to take the approach that some brands do and hold open photo shoots for actual customers and models alike to model for the brand. This is a great compromise because it shows the clothing on customers of all shapes, sizes, subcultures, and ethnic/racial groups. It’s extremely soul crushing when you buy an item online and it looks completely different on you than it does on the model, but there are still people out there that do look like the model and they deserve to be validated as well.
I’ve seen so many examples out there of how fat women can also be “Body Positive, but…” and some of them were mentioned by other users. Things like how if a fat woman calls herself fat, other fat women will join in and tell her that “she’s not fat, she’s curvy/full figured/voluptuous/etc.” There’s still a ton of stigma surrounding being fat, even within a movement that claims to support all body types. This is a super controversial thing to say, but telling someone they’re “too small” to be considered a plus sized woman is by definition a form of body shaming. If someone looks at me, there’s no way they can deny that I’m extremely overweight. I am fat. I also wear a size 16/18 in the United States (18-20 in the UK) and every single day on social media I see so many posts claiming that you can’t really be a plus size ambassador unless you’re over a size 20.
I’m just scraping by, confined to a weird in between phase where I’m way too large for standard sized clothes, but I’m “too small” to be plus. I feel opposition on both sides, which is extremely disheartening both as a blogger and as a human being. The worst part is that even women who have conventionally plus sized bodies are criticized for the way they dress or because they don’t have a double chin. I’ve seen so many hateful comments directed towards Tess Holliday for adopting the rockabilly aesthetic and looking like a traditional model, only larger. You can’t complain that you’re not being represented when you shoot down every model that tries to represent you.
The women I stand up for and cheer on through my platforms online are the same women who see a size 18 model and sneer that she’s too small to model for (insert company here) because the company goes up to a size 32. I agree wholeheartedly that I’d love to see more women over a size 22 in the media, but the public outcry that can happen whenever an “inbetween” plus model comes around is not going to encourage brands to feature larger women. No matter what they do, they’ll always be criticized. If they use size 12-18s, they’re told they’re excluding “real” plus women. If they do use size 20-30s, they’re told they’re promoting obesity and making it “okay to be fat.” You really can’t win.
The best thing to do is to cheer on every plus size model and tell the brands what you want to see without criticizing the models themselves. Instead of saying, “Her waist is too small/body is too tight/she’s too tall to be plus. I want to see some REAL plus size women!!” say something along the lines of “Wow, she’s gorgeous! Have you ever considered using (insert name of model you’d want)? She’s getting pretty popular lately and would look amazing in your clothes.” Never push someone out of the body positive movement for not meeting your criteria of what a body positive person has to look like.
Admittedly, there’s a ton of classism in the body positive movement that few people want to talk about. It seems like people only want to see you and read your material if you can afford to purchase all the latest and greatest brands or be fortunate enough to have them sent to you for free. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with receiving blog samples (I do review PR samples on this blog), but I understand that I have my own privilege as a blogger and there are plenty of people that can’t afford to buy the newest things. If I’m being perfectly honest, I couldn’t afford to have as many reviews as I do if I didn’t receive samples. I know a lot of bloggers feel the same way. I’m willing to write an entire post about this subject if you’d like to know more about it.
It’s kind of sad to know that your own opinions don’t seem to matter sometimes if you don’t have enough disposable income to spend thousands of dollars per year on clothing, lingerie, shapewear, and makeup. I think the reason for this is because the average everyday women that make up the bulk of the movement are ignored in favor of the big name bloggers and models that work closely with companies. Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with working for a company whether it’s in the form of accepting samples for review, writing a sponsored post, or modeling for a company. The issue is that we’re ignoring the women that are buying these products. I love brands like Torrid that share customer photos even if the customer isn’t a well known blogger or public figure. There’s room for everyone to be shown. You can’t ignore the fact that some brands only choose to feature easily digestible models and bloggers that won’t stir up too much controversy.
The body positive movement is ransacked by hundreds, maybe even thousands, of pages that exist solely for the purpose of stealing pictures from bloggers and turning an empowering image into masturbation material for men that get off on pictures of larger women. It’s an incredibly disgusting practice that does nothing but fetishize the bodies of larger women, and it’s so far from being body positive as these pages claim to be. Body positivity doesn’t end when you personally don’t find someone attractive, and fetishizing the body of a person that’s under so much public scrutiny just for existing comes off as manipulative. They commonly use photos of women with extremely large breasts, wide hips, thin waists, and large butts. It’s once more showing us that if we can’t be “the perfect plus”, we’re not worth it.
If you’re not in a cute little package of sex appeal, you’re told that you’re just “promoting obesity.” If you’re not 100% femme, you’ll get messages that you’re a “disgusting dyke” and you’ll get tons of dick pictures from guys who spew lesbian-phobic phrases about how they’ll “change” you. Pages like the ones above take away the freedom and empowerment of unapologetically living in your body and instead stick us with a new set of guidelines we have to follow. Every time I receive a sexually explicit message from a man who feels like he needs to tell me how much I arouse him, it’s like shooting a bullet into the armor I created to protect myself from being body shamed online and in real life. It leaves me feeling weak and vulnerable, and makes me subconsciously feel bad about the work I’m doing. It’s hard to not blame yourself for forced sexualization when you’re told you should feel flattered when men flirt with you, as if fat women have to scrape by to get attention and find love in this world.
The purpose of this post is to bring awareness of the ways that the body positive movement is being cheapened by people within and outside of it that misinterpret what it means. I’m not trying to exclude anyone or tell them that they don’t deserve a space in this community. I just believe there’s a startling percentage of this community that’s engaging in some pretty problematic behaviors that I don’t agree with, and as a body confidence ambassador I wish it could change. I don’t think some people realize that when they share thin shaming memes or say something critical about someone’s body or appearance, they’re discrediting the entire movement we’ve been working hard to strengthen.
The body positive movement is like a warm quilt that protects us from the bad things we experience on a daily basis, and every instance of someone being “Body Positive, but” burns a hole in that quilt that has to be repaired. Slipping up every once in awhile doesn’t make you a bad person, and it shouldn’t exclude you from the movement. You should always have open ears to the feelings of others even if it embarrasses you or hurts you to be told that you’re wrong. There is still a lot of work that has to be done to make sure everyone can feel positive about their bodies, and we have to work together to accomplish that goal. We have to be able to have conversations within our community of what’s okay and what’s not okay without it starting huge arguments and debates that drive a wedge between us.
Everyone slips up sometimes. The difference between slipping up and promoting problematic behavior is the response you have to being told you messed up. Just today I had someone message me telling me that something I said was problematic, and I apologized and changed it to make sure I wouldn’t accidentally hurt anyone else. I made sure the situation was resolved and never once tried to say that she was being unreasonable or too sensitive. You can’t tell someone how to feel, and you can’t pretend that people are responsible for their reactions to the things you say and do.
All tweets featured here, and the featured image do not belong to me. If you own any of the tweets or the image shared in this post and want it removed, contact me at RollsAndCurvesEmail@gmail.com and I’ll take it down immediately.