I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how to write this post for a while now, and I’m still not entirely sure so bear with me whilst I ramble. I want to talk about the act of a fat person loving one’s body being activism, but you don’t have to be an activist to do it.
In this blog post, I talked about the origins of body positivity and the fading regard for fat bodies. I wrote it from an activists point of view. This resonated with a few people and was the start of my move into fat activism. But, not everyone is an activist when it comes to body positivity.
What’s the difference between Body Positivity and Activism?
Body positivity is the notion that all bodies are deserving of positivity and love, regardless of their age, weight, size, ability, wealth, gender or race. Activism is the use of relentless campaigning to usher in change into society and politics. Some people in the body positive world call themselves an activist. Some do not. I identify as being a fat activist. But, we need to acknowledge and support people who are not activists within the body positive community.
For some people, body positivity is simply a frame of mind. One that they have perhaps just discovered. They are learning to love the skin they are in and making positive mental changes to do so. That is so powerful. When I go off on a ‘body posi’ rant, sometimes I forget about the fact that not everyone is where I am. Not everyone has made it as far in their journey as I have. For some, reading a post here and there, or trying out something new is radical enough. Posting a selfie in a skimpy set of lingerie is a giant leap for body posi kind. Writing essay-like Instagram captions is an act of societal rebellion.
Sometimes, a selfie is a radical change
In my journey, I’ve come across many types of people. Some are loudly leading the charge. They write think pieces for magazines, speak at events. Perhaps they are just an all-round (pardon the pun) activist. Other people I have met are quietly changing. They celebrate a hot photo they took that day or the courage to wear a dress for the first time EVER. But, rather unsettlingly so, I have heard more and more people at the activist end of the spectrum ridicule those who indulge in ‘self-love’.
In the past, I’ve heard people scoff at people putting up selfies for likes, as though the act is so contrived, it must have a masturbatory act behind it. Those that scoff tend to believe the only way to be body positive is to be loud and proud. You must challenge wider society as an activist. I was one of those people.
Activism – just on a more local scale
To me, at first glance, people fucking love attention. What better feeling than the rush of getting over 100 likes on a photo of you at your most vulnerable? The need to be socially liked is so much that the use of the body positivity term is nothing but a self-marketing tool. Right?
But it’s much deeper than that – these are people who would never have done this before, making their first Bambi-like step into self-love. The act of posting a selfie along with a thought out caption is more than just thirst for likes. It’s a radical act. “Self-love” is not just a buzzword. It’s the act of feeling nothing but love for ones self. The beginnings of body positivity. The first foray into riotous movements within society.
Let’s not forget – the world wants us to hate ourselves. Body hatred is a multi-billion pound business these days. Entire industries are built on the idea that we hate our own bodies just enough to want to change everything about them. So when you see someone having a “self-love” moment, let’s not scoff. Let’s encourage, let’s lift each other. It is all activism, just on a much more local scale. Activism of the self, if you will. These people are using radical campaigning to encourage a shift in their immediate society of one, and the politics of the self.
We don’t all have to be an activist
I’ve had lots of conversations with fellow influencers who feel guilty that they don’t “do” body positivity. There’s a fear that they might get it wrong, or they don’t know what to say. Some people feel that they would be lying to their followers because they themselves don’t feel positive all the time. There’s even been a few occasions where people have said they just “stick to fashion”. This is because they aren’t confident enough for body positivity.
But, as I said above, simply being visible is a radical act. Being fat and visible is even more radical. There’s no requirement to write articles to be included in body positivity. If posting a photo of you in your pants is enough of a positive change for you, fucking post that shit. It’s not a gratuitous ego-wank to strive for likes and follows. Validation of bodies comes in different forms for different people. For some, validation comes only from challenging society. For others, it’s the simple act of posting a photo on Instagram for likes. There is no right way to do this.
Indulge in your own radical acts
We know that, for fat bodies to become the norm, more fat bodies need to be visible. Yes, it’s mega important that some people challenge doctors, employers, society etc. on inherent fatphobia. But, don’t feel like in order to be positive about your body, YOU have to do it. If you’re confident on doing those things, do it. If not, just being visible is enough. Growing a social media following based on gratuitous nudity as a fat person is not a shameful act. It is activism. Posting a photo of you wearing the latest fashion as a fat person is not a superficial act. It is activism. Daring to put yourself out there as an influencer in any way, shape or form as a fat person is ACTIVISM.
I’m not naive here – I know that there will, of course, be some humans that use body positivity to gain popularity and nothing else. I know that there are people who have socially acceptable bodies, using their body to gather attention and lucrative business deals. I know, okay. *cough Iskra Lawrence cough*
What I’m trying to say, is that this shouldn’t be our default assumption. If someone has never posted about feeling positive about their body and then does so, they may be doing a radical act for themselves. We should support that, not assume that it’s a shallow thirst trap. Mind you, even if it is, you do you boo boo. In this climate, we cannot afford for the activists amongst us to become elitist to those who aren’t quite there yet. We should all be clapping for each other.