Is Your Body Positivity Movement Fatphobic? The History of Fat Acceptance


Body positivity is good, but it only goes so far.⁣

Does the IG #bodypositivity hashtag make you feel uncomfortable?⁣ Browse the photo roundup and you might see what I mean. ⁣

Don’t you think it’s missing a lot of diversity?⁣

Body positivity isn’t a feeling. It’s a movement.

Now that it’s a buzzword, body positivity has come to mean self-care, going to the gym, feeling pretty, and people who reject “diet culture” and champion body love. You might recognize catchphrases like:

  • “Love your curves.”

  • “Love the skin you’re in.”

  • “Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.'“

Self-love? That’s a feeling. It’s an important feeling, but body positivity is different. Body positivity is a movement that fights for bodies to be treated with respect.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the anti-diet movement and the growing awareness of how harmful diet culture is on body image. But I want you to take note: body positivity’s predecessor is fat acceptance.⁣

Unfortunately, as with any social movement that gains mainstream attention, its message gets co-opted. ⁣

In many cases, “fat acceptance” has been downgraded to “body positivity” to make it more palatable on platforms like Instagram.

The fat acceptance movement exists to dismantle systems that oppress fat bodies. It doesn’t matter if someone “loves their curves,” they can still be discriminated against.

📷: @recipesforselflove

📷: @recipesforselflove

The radical roots of body positivity. 💪🏿💪🏾💪🏽

While it’s inspiring to see unretouched ad campaigns, size-inclusive clothing lines, and celebratory web content, body positivity isn’t a new thing.

The black and queer activists from the 1960s and 70s who pioneered the fat acceptance movement deserve the accolades.⁣

The marginalized folx in fat bodies who continue to fight for space deserve the praise.

If your body positivity doesn’t include the people who are the most marginalized in society (e.g., people of colour, people with disabilities, fat, queer, trans, etc.) and tackle discrimination in all forms, then it doesn’t respect the radical roots of the movement.

The reality is that not all bodies are discriminated against. Some bodies are deemed more acceptable than others.⁣

What a lot of #bodypos movements are missing.

Not sure what I mean?⁣

A lot of the world still recognizes thin, white bodies as being healthier, prettier, and better than fat bodies. You might feel this way. Consciously or unconsciously.⁣

Societal pressures to look a certain way affect all bodies, and so many industries thrive on it. But it’s easier for an able-bodied, cis-gendered person in a relatively thin body to advocate for “body positivity.” It’s more digestible.⁣

How can you make body positivity more inclusive?

1. Check your bias.

Start with body positivity, and then go deeper.

Loving your body isn’t wrong, but engage with weight stigma, fatphobia, and other biases. Examine how they show up in your life. Or your practice.⁣

2. Acknowledge your privilege.

No privilege is about being good or bad. It’s about recognizing how you benefit from⁣ certain societal structures and systems. ⁣

I invite you to sit with the discomfort of this conversation.⁣

3. Increase the diversity in your social media feed.

Follow body positive accounts such as:

All bodies deserve to be treated with respect and justice.

Does reading this give you a new perspective on the body positivity movement?

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Meet Ellen Kaross (she/her), the Non-Diet Nutritionist and Intuitive Eating Coach behind The Good Yolk.

Ellen helps women-identifying folks uncover what their emotional eating can teach them, and find joy and balance in their relationship with food.

Her passion for advocacy informs her compassionate, non-judgmental approach.