Body positivity and diversity have become the new “IN” thing.
Every day we see a new celebrity or influencer speak of how they have encountered self esteem and body image issues due to the criticism they have received about their bodies.
More brands are using different sized bodies in their campaigns and websites. There’s even some stores that have plus size mannequins.
That should be a positive, right?
Well, it kind of isn’t.
Because we rarely see visibly plus bodies in the media talking to body issues and representation where it’s received in a positive way. When larger bodies speak up about their experiences and/or just dare to exist, they are often insulted with hate messages and told that they are glorifying obesity.
They’re put under a virtual microscope where not only is their beauty and worth criticized but their health is also diagnosed based on the size of their body. We now live in a world where all bodies are compared in order to determine their value and if you don’t meet that standard, you are deemed unworthy of being seen or taking space.
And let’s not even discuss the Nike situation where they caused an uproar by simply including some plus size mannequins in the flagship store in London.
Read more: Representation Matters – Nike Adds Plus Size Mannequins to its Flagship Store
The body positive movement was created by fat Black women and femmes for non-privileged and marginalized bodies to have a space to have their voices heard. Body positivity is political and along the way, the reason for its existence has changed and become mainstream.
With that shift, fat hatred has continued to run rampant, despite all the body positive headlines we see. Body positivity is not meant to have a size range but the movement has now become one that it is not truly favorable towards all sizes.
Evidence of that was shown last week when Miley Cyrus dropped her new video “Mother’s Daughter”, which she calls a feminist anthem. She included a visibly plus size model in the video, who is shown lounging on a sofa, nude, with a fan.
The first time I watched the video, my initial thought was that Cyrus was trying to show beauty from a Rubenesque point of view.
If you’ve never heard of that term, it’s one that is used to describe a full-figured/large woman and it’s a nod to Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, who was the leading painter of the baroque period and the most prolific painter of his time.
In the last decade of his life, his paintings featured large female bodies in beautiful works of art. And he was deeply inspired by the Roman goddess Venus, who symbolized love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity and victory.
“My talents are such that I have never lacked courage to undertake any design, however vast in size.” – Peter Paul Rubens
This was during the 1600’s, where beauty ideals are not as skewed as they are today. Rubens used his art as a way to affirm the beauty and sexuality of plus size women. During that time, it was actually not a negative thing to see women with larger bodies. Rubens helped in showing this as the beauty ideal when it came to the female figure via his work.
Women with “meat on their bones” were considered abundant, representing wealth and stature.
Let’s not forget Columbian artist Fernando Botero who is infamous for drawing larger bodies in his paintings, well after Rubens died. While Botero insists he’s not drawing “fat people” directly, he does focus on ‘volume’ and the ‘sensuality of form’.
Fast forward to 2019, where comments on Cyrus’ video via Twitter ranged from “You’re praising people killing themselves” to “Stop promoting this, the upcoming generations need to know that this is nothing but an illness and never healthy“.
Body shaming in any form is just not okay AT ALL. However, the hatred that is unleashed when it comes to seeing larger bodies front and center is very alarming, considering all the progress it appears we’ve made in the last few decades.
Even if you think you’re coming across as caring or trying to help, it is still body shaming.
People often wonder why so many have such a deep hatred when seeing larger bodies compared to seeing bodies like Ashley Graham’s or Iskra Lawrence, who are looked at as body positive icons and beautiful. They are the “safe” versions of larger bodies that are acceptable in the media and society.
With the average American woman now a size 18/20, why are bodies like Graham’s and Lawrence’s (who are both under a size 18) revered and deemed acceptable when the fact is that you cannot diagnose a person’s health by simply looking at their body size? You also cannot determine a person’s beauty and worth by their body size either.
The model in Cyrus’ video, Los Angeles-based Angelina Duplisea, responded to all the hate with a simple but empowering message:
Social media’s accessibility allows us to peek in on others living their lives, but too often the conversation turns negative when there are fat bodies involved. People just love to leave awful comments on fat folks photos in order to feel superior and I promise you, not one of these commenters actually cares about the health, family, environment or whatever bullshit reason they give for their vile behavior towards a fat person. And really, how in the hell does health matter in the context of someone just posting a photo of themselves feeling happy and confident? (HINT: it doesn’t matter, stop pretending like it does)
Next time you see a fat person posting pictures of themselves living their life, stop and ask yourself why you wish to spoil their joy. I guarantee that you can’t come up with a valid reason that isn’t based in your own ego gratification. Stop it and do better! We humans have a lot to learn, but we can start by fighting our personal biases and permitting people of all genders, races, sexualities, sizes, abilities and health levels to live harassment-free lives. Don’t f**k with their freedom to feel happy and beautiful right now, not just when society says it’s ok.
One of the biggest takeaways from this video launch and the aftermath is that fat hatred is still prevalent in the world and there is still a ton of work to be done within the body positive movement.
We should also support Miley Cyrus for showing different body types and people in her video, while not being afraid to use their imagery on her social media channels where she has millions of followers, to promote her video and push for inclusiveness.
If you are someone who criticizes larger bodies, the next time you start to type a comment online about someone else’s body, ask yourself why are you doing so? You might surprise yourself by the answer. And that’s the first step to changing how we view all bodies and the hate that sometimes comes with that.
What do you think about the new Miley Cyrus video, its mixed response and fat hatred in general? Follow us on social media @plusmodelmag and let us know: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter