It bothers me to see thin white people making body positivity about themselves

February 1, 2018

It bothers me to see thin white people making body positivity about themselves

February 1, 2018

Illustration by @drawnbyjovanna on Instagram

It’s half eight on a Thursday night, and I am, inevitably, scrolling through Twitter.

I come across a picture, from a creative person that I follow because I admire.

She was sharing a picture of herself in underwear. A beautiful black and white image of her sat, slightly slouched, wearing a lacy bralette and pants.

The tweet that accompanied it said something along the lines of  ‘here is my body, unedited, not smoothed out’. She hoped it would give others bravery, and here’s the kicker – that those ‘lucky enough’ to fit the world’s ideal of beauty and size don’t ‘look down’ on her.

The thing is… she DOES fit the world’s ideal of beauty.

She is white, and blonde, and young, and thin.

Not size zero supermodel thin, which I understand is a stick used to beat everyone over the head with, but on the scale of how big humans can be, she is thin.

She calls the picture unedited, but I can’t see what there would be to change? There is not a visible roll, stretch mark nor cellulite in sight.

And so I’m not sure who is supposed to gain courage from this – other people as thin as her?

Because as a plus size woman who has struggled with self loathing around my weight all my life, all this does is reinforce to me that if she thinks HER body is wrong, then GOD KNOWS what everyone thinks about mine.

She gives me no courage, or solidarity, or anything other than envy and a distinct discomfort in my skin.

And to say she hopes those who fit the beauty ideal (which she is, apparently unknowingly, part of) don’t look down on her – to me, sat here in my size 18-22 body, it feels like a slap in the face.

I won’t name her, because this is not me calling out one specific person, but rather a whole notion.

It really fucking bothers me to see thin people framing body positivity about themselves.

She wasn’t actually talking specifically about body positivity in that caption, but had shared it again because she’d been inspired by someone else – also thin, btw – posting underwear shots in the name of body positivity.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I understand, boy do I understand, that the patriarchy and diet culture fucks us all over – thin and fat, big and small.

But what is important is that there’s a difference between your own personal journey to self love, and the movement that is body positivity.

Thin white people – body positivity is not about you.

I am not denying your journey to loving and accepting your body, I’m not denying the pain you’ve felt about it, and I’m not saying you don’t have struggles around your body just because you’re thin.

I’m saying don’t post a picture of you and your thin body in underwear, and claim it as a stand against the thin ideal, and a win for body positivity. Because all you’re doing is alienating those in bigger bodies who the bopo movement is actually for.

I know, I’m perhaps not living up to my feminist principles here. I have no right to pass judgement on this because I have no true knowledge of her lived experience. And that this person had good intentions. And we need body positivity to be embraced by everyone for it to make lasting change. But it doesn’t stop me being pissed off.

Everyone, please – go love yourselves. Go take pictures of your body and start the journey of learning to love it. Admire its curves and it’s rolls and it’s bones and it’s joints, admire it all.

But please, please – think twice about the way you frame it.

Think twice when you call yourself fat, or chubby, or big – and think whether it’s actually true.

Think about how a person two or three times your size would feel about you claiming those words.

Think about the way you talk about your body as being outside the norm and think further still about people who really are, who face systemic discrimination based on their bodies, who are committing a radical act just by being happy and living in their bodies.

Think twice about them, before you make body positivity about yourself.

I only recently learned about the difference between body positivity and self love. If you’d like to find out more, the She’s All Fat podcast is a great place to start. April and Sophie articulate it far better than I ever could.

The wonderful Yr Fat Friend on Twitter also explained this beautifully very recently in this thread. I’ve embedded it below – click it to see the full thread.

Thanks for reading folks. Go forth and be (truly) body positive.

  • Liz May 30, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    As a skinny person who has only extremely rarely been called out as not fitting beauty ideals, I totally get where you’re coming from. With a couple of provisos. First, body positivity isn’t only about physical size, it might be about skin or hair texture or colour, or facial features, or disability, or gender presentation – someone can be thin and white and yet claim the body positivity label for any one of those reasons.
    Second, when it comes to weight, the woman in the picture *might* have BDD or be a recovering anorexic or any number of things. My mum has the world’s most enviable hourglass shape, and yet she’s always hated her thigh and hip area despite what other’s say about her appearance.
    I also totally agree about people framing things in a way that doesn’t insult others or make them feel awful; that sure as hell shouldn’t be what body positivity is about. And I’m on your side about certain terms belonging to certain communities – I’m not about to label a photo of me #fatisbeautiful any more than I’d dream of using #blackgirlmagic – though I agree with both sentiments, I’m 1000% not who those labels are for. But equally, do consider that some people have very disordered and distorted views of their own bodies, even if they fit the normative beauty ideals and posting such a picture might be brave, or it might be attention seeking, and sometimes it’s really hard to tell.

    • Sophie Butcher June 5, 2018 at 5:27 pm

      Hi Liz, thanks for commenting. I totally support everything you say, and of course body positivity isn’t just about size alone. My post as written somewhat in the heat of the moment but was a pushback against the co-opting of the body positive movement that is so rife these days. I’d imagine the post I’m talking about was a big deal to that person, and that’s truly great, I just know the damage that called it body positive can have against those more marginalised.

      It’s all about intersections of privilege I think, and we’re all learning – me included. This is just something I felt needed to be said – believe me, I’d never judge anyone with body image or disordered eating issues for trying to find body acceptance, because it’s something I’ve vastly struggled with myself.

      Thanks for such a considered and articulate comment, really appreciate you engaging xx

      • Liz June 7, 2018 at 2:17 pm

        I absolutely get what you’re saying about the scale of privilege versus marginalisation, I’m seeing more and more awareness of this and I think it’s absolutely a good thing. In fact, I watched a somewhat tongue-in-cheek but nevertheless insightful video about it just the other day, yes it was framed somewhat jokingly, but it did make a good point.
        Thank you for writing so articulately and insightfully – even in the heat of the moment – it’s a pleasure to engage with measured and considered opinions, especially those which come from a perspective which is not exactly the same as my own.

        • Sophie Butcher June 8, 2018 at 10:54 am

          Thanks Liz – talking to people with different experiences is how we’re going to fight the stuff that keeps us marginalised! *punches air*

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    About Me

    Hi! I'm Sophie.

    Writer, thinker, introvert. I like to talk about film, feelings and feminism. Not necessarily in that order.