NOTE This article is compiled from a lengthy post on Instagram to make share-ability easier. You can see the original here.
The body positive community online is in CRISIS right now. What were once safe spaces are now flooded primarily with more of the norm: whitewashing, commercialisation and thin, able bodied women.
I’ve kept semi-quiet about this for a while and gone about my business, but no more.
So, there are 6 massive problems with the body positive community right now that I see. Let’s talk about them: ⠀
1. The amount of “bopo accounts” that message me asking me how to be authentic (if you have to ask, you’re not understanding authenticity) and how to talk about other bodies struggles (only to then go on and co-opt those experiences to talk about their own insecurities)…. I cannot.⠀
THIS is why the body positive online space feels SO FUCKING UNWELCOMING for so many people, despite it being plastered all over Hello Giggles and Buzzfeed as a girl power zone.⠀
THIS is why the body positive online space feels more like a fucking ad campaign than a safe space.⠀
THIS is why so many people remain stuck in insecurity despite having a bopo account and saying all the right wishy-washy “YAY! EMPOWERMENT!” things in the hopes of gaining followers.⠀
THIS is why the body positive online space is entirely removed from the ACTUAL point of body positivity.
2. Let’s get one thing straight: thin women are ABSOLUTELY welcome in this community. Thin women ABSOLUTELY can have body insecurities and they ABSOLUTELY deserve to discuss, find community and heal.⠀
— HOWEVER –⠀
If at any point, thin, white, able bodied and acceptably curvy women use their voice to speak over fat women, trans women, WOC, disabled women or otherwise, that’s not at all acceptable.⠀
And yet sadly, that’s what’s happening.⠀
We’re seeing more and more ‘bopo accounts’ popping up – with at least part desire (I hope) to be part of the community, but largely seeking fame/power/influence.⠀
Because they’ve seen others in this community do the same and reach a relative place of power – followers, brand deals, influence.⠀
3. Sadly, a lot of the people who receive the accolades are getting there on stolen stories. All too often, someone in a marginalised body will share their story only to be mocked or ignored… and then, a thin white woman will share it and will receive international media coverage.
The face of body positivity has become watered down to:
- A trendy online hashtag
- Thin white women grabbing their tiny stomach rolls, co-opting fat issues and erasing the space that NEEDS to be held here for marginalised bodies (who, btw, started the whole movement in the first place)
- People shouting “YASSSS KWEEEEEN!” and hailing shitty fucking brands who don’t even know the meaning of diversity
- Comparison photos that do nothing to dispell body shaming and instead reinforce the very structures that keep so many people trapped in insecurity.
And this saddens me. Because these thin women, these influencers, these ‘new accounts’ seeking to be famous — they all have valid stories, experiences and insecurities. But instead, they chase brand deals, steal the experiences of others (the amount of blatantly stolen captions I’ve seen… ugh) and focus on the followers. And more than a few people’s accounts started out as fat shaming, mockery of other bodies but became body positive with the trend as a point of leverage. (I wish I was kidding about that last part.)
4. SO MANY people are dishing out advice that either:
- Is stolen and they don’t fully understand
- Is psychologically unsound
- Doesn’t match up with the experiences they say they have
- Is clearly coming from a place of relative disorder themselves
And, for a movement that claims to be diverse, body positivity (at least the social media representation of it) has a long way to go. It can’t just be about thin white women squishing their stomachs together to create rolls and cellulite. When a movement is used to exclude marginalised bodies (without examining the intersection of race, gender, sexuality and politics) whilst protecting conventionally attractive bodies… the point is so far lost.
5. I’m fully aware that by saying this, some of the “bopo accounts” that follow me will feel defensive, reactive and pissed. I’m cool with that.
This truth needs to be spoken.
And more than this truth, the truths of people in marginalised bodies need to be HEARD, not spoken over.
The world isn’t gonna benefit from more photos of me in my “good fat” body. Whilst my selfies are revolutionary for me at an individual level (which is okay!), that’s not what the community needs right now. It’s my goal to be more and more mindful every day with how I engage with the world, being aware of my impact.
The world isn’t gonna benefit from more thin white girls hunching over at a 200 degree angle to CREATE a fat roll so they can talk about fat stories.
Again, these types of photos might be beneficial at an individual level… but we HAVE TO acknowledge that body positivity is about SO MUCH MORE than the individual. It’s INHERENTLY political.
And for the online face(s) of the movement to continue in the direction of individual focus for the purpose of fame is a BACK STEP.
6. We need LESS:
- Brand promotions
- Stolen stories
- Discouraging people from seeking actual therapy in lieu of just following a bunch of insta accounts
- “YASSSSS KWEEEEN SLAAAAAAAY!” watered down bullshit at every turn.
And instead, we need MORE:
- Passing the mic
- Sharing our truths
- Remaining silent when we have nothing of value to say so that others may have their turn
- Leaving therapy to ACTUAL TRAINED PROFESSIONALS
If body positivity continues in the direction that it’s going in, it will be no different from the shitty, faux female-empowerment wolf in sheep’s clothing diet culture-y marketing that we’re already surrounded by.
And that would be a total fucking disservice to all that so many marginalised bodies have worked so hard for. That work does NOT deserve to be erased by commercialism, brand deals and the same of what so many have been trying to fight for so long.