In truth, this post was written last year and took more time that I’d like to admit to do so. It was sat, neglected, in my Pages app for a good three months – alone and untouched, quite like the Tinder boys who write ‘ur ugly anywayz’ upon nude refusal. When I eventually came back to it, I felt unsure of how to dive back in. It’s always difficult, I feel, writing about a topic as sensitive as this – someone’s always going to take something you say the wrong way, whether it’s through misinterpretation or just straight up disagreement. Things can be offensive, even when they’re unintended to be. This post began as a train of thought and once I began to write, I questioned if I should continue. But now – returning to it many months later – I have decided to.
As we enthusiastically dive head first into the warmer months of 2020 and bodies of all shapes and sizes come out to play, I’ve been thinking more about body positivity and my role within the social movement.
I’m the first person to preach self-love and acceptance – whether it be towards myself, a friend, or a drunk girl in the bathroom of a dodgy nightclub. Girl-to-girl hype, especially via Instagram etiquette, has never been so mainstream: when your girl hits ‘post’ on a selfie, you’d better be there with the fire emojis – the more, the better. Start a camp fire, if you must.
I truly believe that accessible platforms promoting body positivity have been one of the best things to happen to social media (see @bodyposipanda, @thevagaggle, @effyourbeautystandards). As someone who developed very early – we’re talking size 6 shoes, M&S ‘angel’ bras, a bold 5’4 height & visits from aunt Flo all by the tender age of 10 – exposure to body positivity at an earlier age would have probably done wonders for my prepubescent self. Even more so at age 14, when my booty was comfortably fitting into size 14 jeans, whilst my friends sat between the ranges of 6 and 8.
Now that I’m older and have found a comfortable seat at the table for self-love, I find myself reflecting on body positivity, its importance and more recently, how I fit into the movement. Thinking about this post and the prospect of writing it was, admittedly, a little daunting. I’d never want to encroach on the safe space body positivity has allowed someone to create for themselves. On the contrary, I couldn’t advocate for it enough. Instead, I want to take a look at body positivity within wider realms. As well as a personal journey, body positivity is a societal one; one concerned with changing attitudes towards those who have been marginalised by traditional beauty standards – particularly those with ‘overweight’ or disabled bodies. Whilst body positivity is based on the core belief that ~ everyone ~ should have a positive body image, it also has roots in the fat acceptance movement. In this way, it is a kind of social justice movement that takes action in the acknowledgement and correction of injustices surrounding size discrimination. As I researched further into this, I landed on the term ‘thin privilege’.
This includes being able to find clothing in almost every retail store; finding representation in popular culture and being unlikely to receive verbal harassment and/or visible judgement for your size, to name just a few of these privileges.
I, a UK size 10-12, able-bodied, White female, consider myself someone who has thin privilege. I’ve never had a stranger make a rude remark about my size, I’ve never been deemed ‘lazy’ (and boy, I can be) based on my appearance and I’ve never had a health professional blindly blame a medical concern on a heavy weight. There’s no real social injustice when it comes to my body – unless you count diet culture and the beauty industry telling 95% of the female population that their bodies need improving, but all that good stuff’s for another post. It’s bad enough when Women’s Health magazine’s telling you to shed a few pounds, but what about if everyone else is too – your neighbour, your nasty in-laws, the creepy old man who shakes his head in disgust when you treat yourself to a Starbucks choccy muffin?
Thin privilege can be a tricky one – the term doesn’t come without its fair share of backlash. Just because you’re thin doesn’t mean you haven’t struggled with accepting your body and by no means grants self-love and body confidence – heck, some people struggle with self-love ~ because ~ of their thinness. But having thin privilege isn’t about having your journey invalidated, it’s about acknowledging your position within this wider societal structure. It is in no way shameful and in no way excludes you from the movement. But, as someone who doesn’t face the injustices of size discrimination that those with larger bodies can, I believe that more effort needs to be made in recognising where the larger fight is: fat acceptance. Social injustices need to be corrected and larger bodies need to be centralised as the face of the movement.
I’ve said it a thousand times before and I’ll say it louder for those in the back: body positivity is for every man, woman and dog. That being said, I also believe it can be helpful to acknowledge one’s position within a movement far bigger than their own one-man journey.