It's time to focus on the people who built movements, not just the ones who conveniently profit from them.Édouard Manet’s “Olympia” depicts a nude white woman laying in bed upon a pile of pillows while a Black maid serves her. Olympia is, of course, the focus of the painting. She's white and stands out against the darker backdrop that the nameless maid blends into. When I read stories of non-Black women taking from Black women's labor while centering themselves, taking up space in movements that other, far more oppressed people have fought for, I think of this painting. When I read about Jameela Jamil's intellectual thievery from a fat Black woman, taking the words of Stephanie Yeboah and presenting them as her own in order to make herself visible in the body positivity movement, I think of this painting. Olympia's world cannot exist without the work and labor of her nameless Black maid, but it is Olympia who gets all of the focus. This is exactly what happens to the work of Black women time and time again. The labor that we do is co-opted and used by people who are more conventionally appealing to the public, garnering all of the credit. Fat Black women are especially erased, even from movements they've founded. For a salient example, see Tarana Burke and the white feminist co-opted #MeToo movement. Now, what Jamil said, that the movement has been “taken over by slender white women”, is true and not a new discussion in the body positivity sphere. Many activists have been having this conversation for some time now. I've made similar comments in my own writing. It is not a new idea, and that is totally fine because that is not the issue here. We can all talk about the same concepts, and we should because the more we discuss them, the more they are noticed. The issue here is that Jamil was educated on the matter by Yeboah and her words were almost verbatim to what Yeboah had told her. This is ironic because the discussion is about the co-option of the body positive movement in marketing and here's Jamil, doing the exact same thing. As a woman of color herself, you would think that Jamil would be more conscious of this issue and support Yeboah better, but it is also true that the labor of fat people, emotional and physical, is seen as something that is up for the consumption of the masses, to be used or tossed aside as they see fit, especially when they are fat, Black women. So it's really no wonder that Jamil would take Yeboah's words and use them as her own.
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Victoria’s Secret is making a choice on how they want their brand to be perceived and it is as one which equates being thin with being beautiful. Victoria's Secret is synonymous with sexy for many people and while the
Not a single person who has ever fat-shamed me has even bothered to asked me if I want to be thin. I don't.I hate the gym. It's a traumatic space for me. Being a fat person in public is hard, and being a fat person in a gym is even harder. It can shatter your confidence in a split second, with one chuckle, one smirk, one look of disgust, one eye roll from another patron. Gym culture is toxic, and like many other institutions centered on physical appearance and desirability, it's built on a foundation of fatphobia and antagonism, whether the gym rats on Instagram want to admit it or not. For a long time, I hated exercise, too. When I was growing up, I wanted to wrestle. I wanted to play football. I wanted to take up boxing. I wanted to lift weights. I wanted to climb the trees in our front yard. Instead, I was limited to gymnastics, cheerleading, and basketball, activities that were acceptable for a girl to be engaged in. I still defied my mom and climbed trees sometimes, and I was always reprimanded for it. I quit cheerleading after one season because I hated it, and did the same with basketball because I had no passion for it (even though it did sometimes help me feel the masculine energy that I had always longed for as a girl, but had not the language to take about it). For financial reasons, gymnastics was no longer accessible to me, and while I did enjoy it, it was incredibly gendered and classes for girls never focused on strength and conditioning like the classes for boys. I played in the marching band in high school (which burns way more calories than you “cool kids” think it does, by the way), but apparently that wasn't enough. Countless fat kids and teenagers, and people who just weren't thin enough for their family's liking, are unfortunately familiar with forced exercise and degradation from the people around them growing up. My mom forced me to exercise in the way that she wanted me to, punctuating her disgust for my lack of a trim body with comments like “You can't honestly say that you're satisfied with yourself” and “Don't come crying to me when the boys don't want to date you.” One year, I actually did lose some weight, unintentionally. It was the year I played basketball. My jeans would no longer stay up on my hips without a belt and my mom praised me in a way that she never had before, and hasn't since. It made me self-conscious. It made me anxious. It made me feel like shit. It made me hate her, and myself.
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We can’t look at Patty and feel empowered by her character when she is a walking testament to everything we are told is wrong with us.Netflix loves revenge stories, especially super problematic revenge stories that push harmful stereotypes and reinforce dangerous narratives. 13 Reasons Why has had a controversial run on the platform, and now they want us to make way for Insatiable—an obviously fatphobic upcoming series whose creators are promising that it’s not as terrible as it seems, and it seems pretty terrible. The story follows Patty, a fat teenager played by Debby Ryan, a thin actress. In order to play both fat and thin Patty, Ryan wears a bodysuit that honestly it looks someone just strapped a maternity belly on her and said, “That’s good enough.” Despite the fact they put a thin person in a fat suit and did a terrible job of it, I have to say that, for me, this is preferable to having to watch a fat actor take this role and serve as a real-life “before picture” for Ryan. After a fateful meeting with someone’s fist, she spends the entire summer with her jaw wired shut and shows up on the first day of the new school year with a smoking hot bod, as rated by conventional beauty standards. She decides she will get revenge on the people who made her life he'll when she was fat. Her vengeance is where the story is supposed to be “empowering,” but we’ve already boarded the fat-shame train before we even get to that point. This series is marketed as a dark comedy, in the vein of Heathers or Jawbreaker. In reality, it is nothing more than a revenge body narrative that begins from the idea that fatness is undesirable and fat bodies must become thin in order for those who inhabit them to be truly happy. Patty does not come back from her summer still fat and decide to let her tormentors have it. She only seeks this revenge after she returns as a thin person who suddenly has access to a world of options that were blocked to her before. Regardless of what she decides to do with that social capital, this entire story still rests on that fact.
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