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How To Be An Ally To The Fat Community

Let's empower marginalised bodies!

POSTEDBYEMMANUELLE GAMMAGE

This year has been revolutionary for having tough conversations about outdated and discriminatory ideals. Whilst the Black community has been speaking out about how to be their ally, many of those same people have taught us how to be an ally to the fat community too. 

We’ve all seen #bodypositive on Instagram and the infamous Tess Holliday cover shoot for Cosmopolitan but what you might not know, is that fat black women spearheaded the Body Positive movement. Originating from the Fat Acceptance movement, Body Positivity aims to “denounce the societal influences and construction of body norms and instead promotes self-love and acceptance of bodies of any shape, size or appearance” (Cwynar-Horta 2016) but white, cisgender, slim, able-bodied women have been accused of hijacking the movement

Whilst these women (both influencers and regular users) have amicable intentions by inspiring their followers to love their bodies, it has marginalized the voices of those that need it most. Although each individual’s body insecurities are valid, it’s fair to say that fat bodies have a harder time being accepted by society. Whilst as a slim, white, able-bodied woman you might feel insecure about your stretch marks or cellulite, you have never faced systematic discrimination. That’s thin privilege.  

 

An example is the censorship of fat bodies online. Half-naked images of both Francesca Perks and Nyome Nicholas-Williams were taken down by Instagram whilst models like Emily Ratajkowski continually post half-naked images with no repercussions. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Nyome Nicholas - Williams (@curvynyome) on

The systematic discrimination is perhaps so ‘normal’ that you might not realize it exists. Even the word ‘fat’ holds negative connotations and is often used as an insult. Stephanie Yeboah, the author of Fattily Ever After, explains on her blog that the word “is used at a systemic level to oppress a large demographic of people, leaving us unable to receive the proper healthcare we deserve, the jobs we are worthy of having, and the respect and decency that we are deserving of having in public”. But Yeboah wants to reclaim ‘fat’ as simply an adjective, not an insult. 

We have to acknowledge our thin privilege and internalized fatphobia in order to be an ally and dismantle the systematic discrimination. We must amplify marginalized voices, engage in conversations both online and offline, and question our own behavior and fatphobia (that you might not even realize you have!). 

Yeboah encourages us to see fat, black women, and share their stories. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Stephanie Yeboah (@stephanieyeboah) on

So, what now? Here are 5 tips on how to be an ally to the fat community: 

1. Consume more content from people that challenge your views - follow more black and fat women and listen to their stories! Our favorites are Stephanie Yeboah, Kellie Brown, Grace Victory, and Michelle Elman. Don’t forget to share what you’ve learned too so that you can inspire others. 

2. Do your research - remember, it’s not up to others to educate you: it can be draining for influencers and your friends. You can take responsibility and research fatphobia and discrimination within our society yourself. 

3. Do the work in reality too (not just performative) - it’s time to stop buying into the billion-dollar diet culture industry and change our behavior. When you find yourself engaging in fatphobic behaviors, acknowledge it and change it. Language is really powerful too: stop commenting on people’s weight and health, it’s not our business. 

4. Redefine body positivity - the Body Positive movement has lost momentum because it’s not doing its job anymore. It was specifically designed for fat bodies and so we should help them reclaim it by amplifying their voices and refrain from bombarding the hashtag with white, slim selfies. 

5. Normalise the word ‘fat’ - let’s walk-in Lizzo’s footsteps and embrace bodies for what they are, with no negative connotations. 

Next up, Why Poland’s New Abortion Law Affects All Of Us

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