Sophie Griffiths

sophierymer

Lifestyle and home education blogger at Wildling Wishes, main contributor and editor for She Might Be, draws pictures for money at Rymermade on Etsy.

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Why Fat Shame?

I feel like there has been a breakdown in mutual communication between fat people and thin people in the body positive community. Let me start this up by stating very clearly: body positivity is for everybody. Every single body should be the home of a person who is happy, comfortable and confident. Unfortunately, these rules seem to shift slightly when we begin to pass judgement on other bodies. While it is absolutely disgusting to see women make assumptions about the body of a thin person – another person’s body is never, under any circumstances, any of your business – it is very common, and sometimes it feels like it is more acceptable, to be openly judged on your body when you are fat. I do not think that anybody should have to accept judgements or body shaming. However, I feel like we can handle the judgement in a healthier way if we understand why it is happening.

They don’t like how it looks
Here’s the thing: we all have an ideal body type. When you sign up to a dating website, you describe your ideal partner. Sometimes you’re just not going to be somebody’s cup of tea. It’s that old Dita Von Teese saying that goes along the lines of “you could be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world,” (and boy am I juicy!), “but there will always be somebody who doesn’t like peaches”. That’s totally cool. But when you’re a decent human being existing in a civilised society, you learn tact – and that there is nothing to gain in telling somebody that you just don’t like the way they look. If somebody tells you they dislike your appearance, I would recommend smiling your widest smile and simply replying “that’s totally okay, you don’t have to!”. Take the power away from people who think that because your body type isn’t a societal ideal, they have the right to tell you how to present yourself.

Why Fat Shame?

Media indoctrination
At its very basic level, I almost feel sorry for people who fat shame. We have grown up in a society who tells us who to be and what to look like. Diet industries pay magazines to bombard you with threats to your mental and physical health. Who can blame somebody who has spent their entire lives trying to diminish themselves in order to find health and happiness, for being threatened by somebody who has decided to ignore those messages and just live life in his or her own way? Although I maintain that it is not our responsibility to accept abuse, it is within us to accept that somebody hasn’t had the same journey as you. You are just further along in yours.

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Health concerns
Please remember this one rule: a concern troll never truly believes they are helping, even when they are trying to convince themselves otherwise. The fact is that when somebody says “you are slowly killing yourself”, or presents the old “organs surrounded in a layer of fat” myth, they are only trying to punish you for not sharing their insecurities. Think about it: this person has been terrified of those media messages for decades. How dare you defy them and live life unscathed?! It is 100% impossible to determine somebody’s health by looking at their outside appearance. Sometimes fat people are unhealthy. Sometimes thin people are unhealthy. The only universal truth is that it is never your responsibility to offer unsolicited health advice. I will believe you care about my health when you remind me to go for a smear test, or you ask if I have been taking my meds properly. Until then, you are nothing but offended that I dared to be fat within your universe. And I’m sorry, but I’m not going to alter myself to make you more comfortable.

Why Fat Shame?

They think we are critiquing their bodies
Sometimes I think it’s hard for people to grasp that liking one thing doesn’t necessarily mean disliking something else. I like chocolate; that does not mean I dislike steak. In fact, I love steak! And just because I love my fat body does not mean that I dislike your thin one. Just because I comment on a cute outfit with an obvious VBO, doesn’t mean I have any ill-feeling towards your flat stomach. It is absolutely okay to like everybody! When I tweet that I am comfortable with myself and loving my chunky little butt, I’m not telling my followers that I dislike anybody who DOESN’T have a chunky little butt. One person’s happiness should never be a threat to you. There is enough positivity to go around, even if I am over here taking up more space than you.

It is so important to always remember that there is more to be said about the person verbalising a negative opinion than there is about the person receiving it. When you are fat shamed, make a judgement call. Take the opportunity to educate and spread positivity or, if that person isn’t ready to hear it, simply smile and tell them it’s okay to be different. You’ll be there waiting when they reach the stage in their journey towards body positivity where they need a little boost, and you’ll be ready to support them with that very same self-confident smile.

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I Am All Woman, Too

As a size 26+ body, I have grown accustomed to not seeing myself represented in media campaigns. Of course there has been increasing use of plus size models to showcase plus size clothing, but they are still on the small end of the scale. Their thighs might be touching and if we’re lucky they might not even photoshop the double chin to be smaller, but let’s face it: there is an acceptable standard of fat and I am not it.

You can imagine my excitement, then, when I heard about the #IAmAllWoman campaign. Teen Vogue described it as the “body positivity movement the internet desperately needs”. I heard words such as “fresh”, “untouched”, “raw” and “diverse”, and I was so excited that finally somebody in mainstream media was acknowledging that there really IS a “desperate need” for a body positive moment. And then I saw the pictures.

iamallwoman

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#IAmAllWoman was started by a group of ladies who pre-existed in the mainstream modelling industry. Some have wider hips than others, and you can even see a hint of cellulite on the backs of their legs. But would I call it diverse? Well, the skin tones were slightly darker on some of the models but that was about as diverse as the photoshoot really got. There were no flabby edges. No apron stomachs. No wonky boobs. No stretch marks. No scars. No dark circles. And these are just the basic aesthetics, never mind looking at representation of women with visible disabilities or trans women. Essentially, by photographing that particular collection of models as a representation of diversity which intended to end body shaming, it body shamed every woman who fell largely outside of that category.

Unfortunately, what surprised me most was my absolute lack of surprise. It feels like more companies than ever have jumped on the BoPo bandwagon in 2016, but none of them have done it with the movement in their heart. Instead, we have companies recognising the huge leap in the popularity of fat bloggers and trying to worm themselves in on that action. They want the plus-size community to fall at their feet, thanking them gratuitously, and maybe there was a time that we would have – but now we are sick of crumbs and we have the confidence to stand up and demand the whole cake.

The common response of companies who repeatedly get body positive campaigns so wrong is that they have plans to include a more diverse range (superfats, disabilities, variety of ethnicities) later, following the success of their current campaign. What that tells me is that brands are using ‘acceptable fats’ as a way to piggy-back on our movement, so that when we are successful they can claim that they were there from the beginning. They appear charitable to women who are uncomfortable with their size, reaffirming that fat women (and I mention women only in this post in response to the hashtag) are undeserving of equal treatment, but this one kind charitable company will break free from that mould just to treat them like a basic human being.

iamnotinvisible

So, how do we combat this issue? First, we define what the issue is: we, the fat people of the world, in all of our shapes, colours and abilities, want to be treated as equal human beings. We are NOT invisible (as the fantastic hashtag started by Ready To Stare said in response to this campaign, #iamnotinvisible), but there is little to no visibility of us in mainstream media. We have to fight for good clothing. Clothing that fits us. Clothing that is fashionable, not flattering. We do not want to fight for something that would come easily to us if we were smaller. And the only way to do that, right now, is to make ourselves as visible as possible. Wear gorgeous clothing in your blog posts. Buy from retailers who don’t exclude your fatter friends in their sizing. Organise photoshoots with fellow bloggers. Stop wearing things to make yourself look more acceptable – ‘flattering’ means nothing more than ‘easier to swallow’ – and stop standing in certain positions to hide parts of yourself. We have been conditioned to find certain body types appealing, and it is our jobs to help people unlearn their fatphobia. If we all work hard and we have true body positivity and fat acceptance in our hearts, there will be a time when the “body positivity movement the internet desperately needs” will actually be what it says on the tin.

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