Lizzo is not impressed with the direction of the mainstream body positive movement.
Speaking with The Cut, she reflected on how the movement has changed over the years and how it’s excluding the Black and brown women who started it in the first place.
“I think we have been left behind and grossly neglected when it’s been taken to the mainstream, once it’s been cleaned up and commercialized. It’s turning into something that is almost a negative space for fat bodies and brown bodies.”
While she appreciated that everyone can now participate and use some self-love, she’s not so thrilled with how fat Black and brown folks have been treated online. She said,
“Everyone can be body positive; everyone needs to participate in having self-love. That’s the beautiful part of how the commercialization of the body-positive movement has transpired. But we need to give credit and protection to the original creators because they’re the people who need it the most.”
“It’s not about a moment. It’s about this system that oppresses big bodies.”
For those who are unfamiliar with the true roots of the fat-positive movement, Tigress Osborn, one of the board members at the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), broke down a brief history of the movement for BBC a few years ago.
She explained how Black, brown, and queer women were inspired by the Civil Rights Movement to advocate for fat liberation in the 60s and 70s. The first wave of fat liberation was born, leading to organizations like NAAFA (1969) and the Fat Underground.
Notable events include a sit-in in Central Park in 1967 to protest the discrimination against fat people. The Fat Underground also released a Fat Liberation Manifesto in 1973 (see below).
Lizzo isn’t the only one who’s noticed how the body-positive movement has evolved to cater to white women while leaving Black and brown bodies in the dust.
Plus-Size blogger and influencer Stephanie Yeboah wrote a great piece for Elle in 2017 that echoes Lizzo’s sentiments. She wrote,
“As body positivity became more mainstream, however, I noticed that the conversations were most often centered around white women.”
“Arguably, much like the feminist movement, body positivity has become non-intersectional and prioritizes/celebrates the thoughts, feelings, opinions, and achievements of white women, with a small number of ‘token’ people of color to help fill up the ‘look at us being diverse!’ quota.”
If you google the origins of the body positive movement, you’ll find many articles crediting Tess Holliday as the founder of the body positive movement due to the fact that she started the hashtag #EffYourBeautyStandards. You have to do quite a lot of digging before you uncover the truth behind the fat liberation movement’s origins.
Even the plus-sized women who have gained the most mainstream success are white. Look at people like Ashley Graham, Melissa McCarthy, and (formerly) Adele. All of these women have nabbed covers on Vogue.
Yes, we have Lizzo. But, besides her, how many other Black plus size women do you see on the covers of magazines? Performing at the Grammys? Landing on best-dressed lists? Not many.
Just like with #MeToo, Black and brown folks have been sidelined by a movement they started in the first place.
We owe a great deal of gratitude to the people who started this incredible movement decades ago. As Lizzo said,
“People [need to] understand the gravity of this movement and honor the reason why it was created. Don’t be like, Cute. I’m gonna love myself today, and that’s body positivity. It’s more like, No, I’m gonna love myself and thank goodness for the fat women who paved the way and were vocal about it.”
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and The Challenge. When she’s not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her taking an absurd amount of photos of her tuxedo cat Tom.