When you take you gotta give…

I’m going to begin this post with a disclaimer; my brain fog is currently set to victorian horror film. The covid has made my thoughts oh so murky. Please try to factor than in if I don’t reach my usual standards.

As a fat positive activist I am naturally drawn to lots of bopo & fat spaces. Unfortunately I have increasingly noticed a slide away from the radical in some of. I’ve been mulling this topic over for a while and I really want to talk about it.

We all know that the body positive movement has been corrupted by brands & individuals trying to cash in. The centring of slim, white bodies has neutered the original message. Body image issues are not the same as the same as the systemic discrimination of fat bodies face. It is infuriating to see people in socially acceptable bodies play at being fat by contorting themselves to make rolls. However, at least that problem is acknowledged & challenged.

I find the move away from the origins of body positivity much more upsetting when it occurs in supposedly fat friendly places. Body Positivity was created by fat (mostly black) women. It’s purpose was to fight the stigma & discrimination that fat people experience in all aspects of life. Self love & positive body image have been an offshoot of that. Personally, I am very much in favour of those ‘spin offs’. I think learning to accept & eventually love your body can be revolutionary. I champion breaking down the toxic things society has taught us about our bodies, but I still recognise that body liberation is not solely about loving our bellies.

Fat activism should put the most marginalised front & centre. We must make room for those who are least often seen or heard. We should focus on making sure that those individuals feel comfortable discussing the issues they face, sharing pictures & asking for help. Sadly, this is not always what happens. Many groups in the fat world are so intent on being all inclusive that they do not realise who they are excluding.

A drawing of a medicine bottle labelled cure with the text ‘self love can’t cure fat phobia’

I see too much time spent on body confidence. Straight sized people taking up space in fat groups because they feel bad about their bodies. Brands whose sizes stop at a 20 are praised & promoted. Descriptors commonly used in fat activism ( super fat, small fat) are labelled insensitive. Bigger people are sidelined. When they try to discuss how they are being pushed out they met with hurt feelings and all the reasons less marginalised people have it hard too. It’s beyond disappointing.

It seems the fight for fat equality has been forgotten. Body liberation is not about making everyone feel great about themselves. It’s about ensuring access to medical treatment, housing, employment for fat people. Challenging inaccurate measurements of health, sizism in public spaces and fat politics should be prime discussion points. We should be listening when people tell us they feel pushed out of a place that is supposed to be for them.

I believe that too many in the fat community are taking their eye off prize. We have become consumed with being welcoming & positive. Both great traits, but we have to prioritise. If straight sized and smaller fats want to be part of the movement we have to accept our privilege. Our voices should not be the loudest. We can be welcoming to allies. Those who are respectful and want to learn can included. We all have blind spots. It is ok to make a mistake or not to know something. It isn’t ok to not want to learn. If your response to uncomfortable truths is to play the victim, there isn’t any room for you in fat activism.

Graffitied wall with poster saying ‘acknowledge your privilege ‘

There are so many amazing resources available for anyone who wand to educate themselves. Instagram accounts with bite size information. Books, podcasts & blogs for every stage of learning. It isn’t fair to rely on the emotional labour of fat people who may not always have the energy to teach. It is especially unjust to plead ignorance and then object to the manner in which you are provided information. Discomfort is part of the process.

Plus sized woman faces a sandstone wall wearing top with multi coloured fringe. Text says  ‘growing is supposed to feel uncomfortable’

I know I have lots to learn. I step on toes without intending to. I hope I listen when I’m told I’ve caused pain. I am trying to be better. I am happy to acknowledge the privilege I hold and I aim to fight alongside those with less. I want a better world. The middle of the road is not the way to get there.