The Black Roots Of The Body Positivity Movement
This week on The Slut Show Ellen Moore is joined by the Dutch queen of body positivity, activist and plus size bombshell Saskia (she/her). They discuss systemic racism, hypersexualization and the black roots of the body positivity movement. This week’s Slutty Science contextualizes the latter and offers an in depth look into the importance of sharing the black (unwhitewashed) truth.
Please note: this article contains information about fatphobia, systemic racism, whitewashing & colorism, which may be triggering for some readers.
Queen Latifah, Mo’Nique and Lizzo. All black fat women. It is exactly those people who’ve spent decades being hypersexualized, stereotyped, made fun of, dehumanized and ridiculed.
Nowadays when you look up #bodypositivity on Instagram, you see exactly what the movement is not about. White, cis-gendered, skinny women, loving their body. Don’t get me wrong, because there is nothing wrong with self love and body acceptance - on the contrary, I’m all for it! However, we need to be aware of the differences between these movements.
In episode 3 of season 4 we discussed how diet culture is based in capitalism, rather than health concerns. In episode 6 of season 2 we dug into why diets have been scientifically proven not to work and today, we are taking a closer look at the roots of body positivity.
‘Between 1904 and 1934, many terms were coined to describe fat women. Words such as: lazy, deranged, sluggish, mammy and ugly are - to this very day - still associated with fat people and in particular, fat black women and femmes. They began to be stereotyped more and more and were portrayed as happy, grinning, fat black women with a scarf around their heads, portraying content and loyal servitude’ (Dominici 2020) as maids, nannies or modern day slaves.
Body positivity began as a countermovement to the stereotyping in the media and the deeply ingrained segregation that is still sensible in contemporary America. Fat liberation was coined to empower those who were not seen as conventionally desirable. Created by those it was meant for: fat, queer, Black women and femmes — a space by and for marginalized bodies, for anyone who felt cast aside.
Today, the body positivity movement is one that is full of colorism. ‘A quick google search would make you think the movement was started by plus size model Tess Holliday. [...] And while the goal of the movement - as a whole - is a respectable one:’ (Dominici 2020) “to include all bodies regardless of color,” it is essential to contextualize the troublesome whitewashing that finds its roots in systemic racism.
Privilege is invisible to those who have it and while fat white women and femmes, within the body positivity community, have to deal with gender- and size equality, women of color have to deal with all of the above, as well as race inequality and colorism.
‘When we make body positivity about all bodies, those who are marginalized will continue to stay that way. The uncommercialized body positive movement is the real body positive movement— one that works towards creating a space for all bodies to exist peacefully, while making sure the movement is for marginalized bodies’ (Dominici 2020). But in order to preserve the movement for those who have not been represented fairly for such a long time, we need to tell the whole, unwhitewashed truth.
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Lots of love,
‘The Slut Show With Ellen Moore’: A place to speak openly about shit you and I have to deal with on a daily basis. About feminism, insecurities, feeling like a bomb ass bitch and obviously about loads of sex. Raw, real and uncensored, Ellen Moore brings you your weekly dose of empowerment.
- Purkiss, Ava. 2017. “(Re)Examining Fat Stigma through Black Women’s History.” Food, Fatness and Fitness (blog). April 1, 2017. http://foodfatnessfitness.com/2017/04/01/reexamining-fat-stigma-black-womens-history/.
- “Recovering the Black Female Body.” n.d. Rutgers University Press. Accessed June 26, 2021. https://www.rutgersuniversitypress.org/recovering-the-black-female-body/9780813528397/.
- Dominici, Briana. 2020. “The Black History of the Body Positive Movement.” ZENERATIONS (blog). August 21, 2020. https://zenerations.org/2020/08/21/the-black-history-of-the-body-positive-movement/.
- Yeboah, Stephanie. 2017. “Why Are Women Of Colour Left Out Of Body Positivity?” ELLE. September 15, 2017. http://www.elleuk.com/fashion/longform/a38300/women-of-colour-left-out-of-body-positivity/.