MAYA'S APRIL BEAUTY COLUMN: POLITICS OF BODY POSITIVITY
Controversial statement: skinny people are stupid..... joking, in case you couldn’t tell, my dear Couturesquies. Let me explain.
I am annoying, and not in the edgy self-deprecating humor type of way. I am just literally annoying in the sense that I will gladly get myself Twitter-blocked because, quite annoyingly, I can’t let a lot of Internet bullshit go. I am frequently the purveyor of unsolicited, specific opinions on Twitter, just because of the sheer amount of headassery surrounding debates on the platform’s body positivity community.
Twitter’s non-celebrity body-posi community is white. It is a self-proclaimed self-serving girl gang. It is Western. It is 'cool.' It is also headass.
And I, along with whom I would venture to guess are most of you, Couturesquies, identify with the body-posi movement, however, when the most famous people talking about body positivity are Western, cool, and possess already socially acceptable body shapes and sizes, can we call that progress? Is that representational of the body-posi philosophy?
I would say it’s a little of both: progress is being made, yet there are aspects of the body-posi community’s homogeneity that need to be brought to light.
About two weeks ago, I brought these critiques to light in the messiest way possible: a Twitter war with strangers. A Saturday ago I found myself in a heated debate with a member of this community in response to ASOS’s announcement that they are now producing sizes from UK 0 to UK 22. Let’s call her British Homegirl. My point? Yes, everyone deserves their size to be represented in clothing, however, you should not conflate availability of exxxtra small sizes with exxxtra large sizes, when there is an entire cultural understanding that being skinny is favorable. You cannot call skinny-shaming the same as fat-shaming, when there is an entire societal preference to one over the other.
Our difference is in our experiences of the extra small/large scale. I can honestly say I can’t relate to British Homegirl’s story because I’ve never been underweight in my life. She can’t relate to me because she’s never been overweight in her life. But producing yet ANOTHER range of smaller-than-small sizes along with 6 more large sizes (that statistically fit the range of your average femme) is not a form of progress because still, the size breakdown is unbalanced and unwilling to address the cultural norm of petite femininity.
I’m tired of the “yay, ALL bodies are important” argument especially when it comes from people like British Homegirl. Obviously all bodies are important. But the issue of sizeism is more than tacking on a few extra larges and a few extra smalls when the system is already designed to prefer small bodies. Can we ever have an extension in sizes JUST for fat people? Can we have it be permanent, not just a little artist collab thrown together for shits and giggles? (I’m talking to you, Reformation.)
Think about makeup shades for a second: why did everyone hate the Tarte Shape Tape Foundation drop? Because there were token “dark” shades that were literally orange. Because two-thirds of the foundation colors looked the same in the bottle, and then there were two FOC (Foundations of Color) tossed in as an afterthought.
Think about why everyone loved Rihanna’s Fenty Foundation drop: she not only included shades for my POC Brothas/Sistas/Thems, but she had undertones. She had variation. Yes, there still is an unbalance in the amount of light shades compared to the amount of dark shades, however that was just her ~first~ drop, and she had never even done a makeup line like that before. ASOS has been around for almost 18 years and is just now announcing an expansion into UK size 22 clothing (for all styles, not just plus size). When considering that UK sizes run +4 to US sizes (therefore a US 12 = UK 18), that’s like ranging from something three sizes smaller than the elusive US 00 up to to a US 18.... Not. Good. Enough.
For this opinion, British Homegirl and about 13 other tweeters came for me for pointing out that their body issues, though valid, are not the same as mine. Skinny people want to be oppressed SO badly, it’s dumbfounding. Your experience is real but it is different for hegemonic reasons as to what a “good” body looks like.
You know what else is unfair? Having the only options that fit your body be labeled as “plus size,” when statistically, your size is average compared to other femme bodies in fashion. Petite people might have the same type of label, however being extra small is still culturally favored over being extra large. “Plus Size” and “Petite” will never be the same until being fat is not only cool, but an existing part of the cultural sphere of “cool.” That’s all I’m trying to say.
Body image and what is considered attractive are so much more complex than the headassery of social media. Take it from me, I’m a beauty editor ;-)
That said, here’s a kind of meta anti-look: me, makeupless, and fat. Because ALL of those things are okay. I’m catering this one specifically to fat people reading this because you are my people, and we live a very different experience than our skinny counterparts. Skinny people using your platform for your own brand of body-posi: you’re doing great. Now it’s time for some self-representation!