Do not shy away from the F Word; it is not something that you need to be afraid of. Stick two fingers up at society and go against the grain, it’s about time the F word was embraced with open arms – make it known that you’re reclaiming the F word as yours, that you’re not afraid to use the word Fat. Fat is bad, fat is unattractive, fat is vile, fat is unhealthy, fat is limiting – these are some of the things that the media has fed us in recent years, proclaiming that if you are fat you are somehow lesser. Whilst being fat has some limitations, I can’t shop in certain retail outlets for example – but hey, it’s not my fault they don’t stock my size, it’s just another example of prejudice against plus-size women – it is up to us as bigger women to not let these limitations define us. Being fat does not mean that you have to be confined to the words that the media uses to describe your body, you don’t have to prescribe to the idea that being fat is unattractive or that being fat restricts what you can do or that your successes aren’t valid because of your size. We are told we can’t do things because of our size, but really, the media doesn’t want to see fat people being successful because apparently being fat means that you can’t, well; I say, yes we fucking can! Rather than dismissing fat people and prejudicing against us, the media and society need to acknowledge us – we don’t need to be reminded of our size, trust me, we know. We don’t need the self-appointed Fat Police to regulate our portion sizes or measure our BMI’s, we’re aware of both our size and the effects that this might have on our health, but these things aren’t going to change overnight now, are they? So rather than shunning us and poking fun at our fat bits, I think it’s about time that more doors were flung open to give fat people the positive visibility that they deserve.
It seems, however, that the media are beginning to recognise their misgivings. When I was growing up, there was nothing to encourage fat positivity – I’d frequently find myself shying away from beauty and fashion pages in magazines, or refusing to venture into a shop that wasn’t plus-sized. The total awareness I had of my body and fear at how others would judge me completely dominated my movements, actions, even the language I used. This view of my body as a negative entity was appropriated by the abhorrent responses I received towards it, mostly as a result of I believe, a lack of media representation of fat people and if there happened to be something, it was detrimental to body positivity. Now, in spite of this media fat shaming, I’ve learnt to love my body – I have resources now that I didn’t have back in the 90s that have aided me on my journey to body love. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are commonplace in most of our lives, we are privy to a whole world of trends, likes, dislikes, photos and statuses. The internet has been a widely used aid for activists, social media movements and visibility and occasionally, the general public manipulate the media and make them take notice of something that would’ve usually been given the cold-shoulder.
Tess Holliday (real name Tess Munster) is, by the media’s standards, everything a model shouldn’t be – but at the same time, she’s exactly what a model should be. Standing at 5”5, wearing a UK size 22, and decorated with tattoos, Tess is so far from the models we are used to seeing on billboards or in magazines, but strangely enough, she is the model who is the most representative of ‘real’ women. Speaking on American radio, Tess explained that “I feel like what we really need to be talking about is the fact that women of all ages and sizes and shapes are feeling the need to live up to unrealistic expectations. I feel like there needs to be more diversity so that we have people to look up to and we don’t feel the daunting task of being perfect.” With Italian Vogue naming her a top model recently and hitting the headlines this week for becoming the first plus size model signed to the biggest UK modelling agency, MiLK, Tess endeavors to give fat women a voice, to not be ashamed or afraid of their bodies – her own successes have empowered fat women internationally, offering us validation and a feeling that finally we’ve made the media sit up and take notice. In Look magazine Tess states that she “know[s] what it’s like to be the ugly duckling, but has learned to love every stretch mark and roll”, a declaration that will no doubt resonate with many of us plus-size women. Her social media pages showcase this love for her body in photographs of her wearing bikinis, in her underwear, wearing beautiful outfits that have, up until now, been reserved for the slim elite, but Tess’s undisguised openness about her size and the way she feels about her body allows the rest of us to embark on a conversation about fat positivity. This journey is also encouraged by Tess’s social media movement #EffYourBeautyStandards which gives a big FU to the beauty standards which have thus far been determined by the media and, judging by the tags and likes on social media sites, many of us fat women are enjoying sticking two fingers up at the media straightjacket we’ve broken free from. Body positivity is a hot topic on social media sites, trawling through Instagram I came across a photo of two fat people cuddling – this then led me to read about The Adipositivity Project. The project is the brainchild of Substantia Jones – who also photographs her subjects – and aims to promote size acceptance and body positivity. Many body positive activists try to highlight the successes of fat people by putting them in the spotlight, in a kind of ‘I’m fat, but I still did this…’ way. The Adipositivity Project doesn’t do that, it aims for the acceptance of the physical person, the person as a whole. Photographs on the website show women from all walks of life celebrating their bodies – some dressed, but most are nude. When looking at the images it is hard to see anything but beauty, and being fat myself, if I can find beauty in the bodies of these ladies (some bigger than me, some smaller), I am therefore encouraged to find beauty, love and acceptance in mine. Adipositivity’s website statement is “part fat, part feminism, part fuck you” and I think it’s so important that fat women embrace their fat, their femininity and adopt a ‘fuck you’ attitude to anyone who dares question, demean or comment on their bodies. The fact that us fat women are becoming more visible and are altering “commonly accepted notions of a narrow and specific beauty ideal” is greatly satisfying. Coming from a position where I once hated on my body, to seeing how I can look at my body (although sometimes, not entirely) with love is massively empowering to me. Fat ladies, don’t withdraw from society because of your body, thrust yourself centre stage and make people acknowledge you; don’t falter when using language relating to your body, you can be fat and fabulous. Let’s start a conversation.