One of the things I’ve heard said recently is that thin or “normal” weight folks feel left out of the Body Positive movement.
It totally sucks to feel left out.
Some feel that the body positive movement is too focused on fat bodies, and this feels alienating to those with thinner bodies. Because fat bodies are highly stigmatized in our society, they do get a lot of attention within the BoPo community because this is radically different from how they are treated outside the community.
So if you are not fat and feel left out of the Body Positive movement – you are not alone. I understand your need for the body positive community to be inclusive of all weights and shapes because body shame can affect someone of any size. You belong in the body positive movement as much as the next person.
But there is a reason why there is often a focus on larger bodies.
First, there is a difference in the way body shame is experienced by fat people and thin people. When you, the non-fat person, experience feelings of shame around your thin or “normal” sized body, you alone experience those feelings. You may feel that others are judging you, but in reality, your body still largely conforms to the expectations society has for women’s bodies: it is within an “acceptable” weight/size range, and is not deemed in any sense “overweight”, “obese” or “fat”. Dealing with feelings of intense body shame is no small feat and the body positive movement is important for you.
When you are fat and dealing with body shame, both you and society feel your body is not “right.” So you experience the double whammy of not feeling good about your body, and also society reaffirming that feeling through institutionalized, accepted weight bigotry. This is underscored most often in fat people’s visits to the doctor, where they often cannot get the same treatment for conditions as thin people do because all problems are blamed on their weight. That is a really big load of stigma to carry, not to mention life-threatening at times.
So, some things to know:
The Body Positive Movement is first and foremost a social justice movement. Body positivity used by individuals as nothing more than a personal tool to improve self-esteem is not the sole purpose of the movement. The Body Positive Movement is about dismantling systems of oppression that keep us in a state of body hatred. So while you can certainly be positive about your own body image in any way you want, Body Positivity, The Movement, hopes for more, for more people, and therefore requires more effort. (and if you’re wondering about how weight loss fits into this, I wrote about that here)
Thin people are not the only people feeling left out the body positive movement. Melissa Toler, Aaron and I talked about this problem on this podcast. The Body Positive Movement feels to many like it only includes the “right” kind of fat body: not too fat, hourglass, white, cis-gendered, symmetrical-faced, able-bodied, female. This is a huge problem for something that started out as a social justice movement to include all bodies as good bodies. ALL OF THEM.
We need to include all the shapes, sizes, colors, abilities and genders because it takes all of us to lift up not just ourselves but everyone else in need of lifting. So you can be thin in the BoPo Movement while still recognizing that some bodies are not treated equally in the world and therefore need more help in achieving this equality, and that you can help with this kind of advocacy. And there’s a whole lot of feel-good around doing that.
Also, if you are thin or “normal” weight/shape/size, I want to invite you to join the Fat Acceptance/Fat Positive movement.
Why? Because we need you as allies. You’ll be helping to address a major civil liberties issue. And you may find that in helping to liberate other bodies, you’ll find some liberation for yourself as well.
You will be with people who are working on accepting themselves just as you are, while also trying to change the culture. We all lift each other up.
PS – just as I was putting the finishing touches on this post, I came across this brilliant article that says everything I’m trying to say here but SO much better.
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