“Can’t we all just celebrate progress?”

Image description: A teal square with a round photo of a fat woman's lower legs and bare feet, standing on a brick sidewalk. Text reads, "Can't we all just celebrate progress?" Lindley's logo is at the right. End image description.

Image description: A teal square with a round photo of a fat woman’s lower legs and bare feet, standing on a brick sidewalk. Text reads, “Can’t we all just celebrate progress?” Lindley’s logo is at the right. End image description.

It’s a very troubling form of thin privilege to focus on the gains of body positivity when fat people are still left out.

One of the most common pieces of pushback I see against fat acceptance and the need to represent fat and very fat people is, “Why are you so negative? Can’t we all just celebrate all the progress that’s been made? You’re so divisive!” It’s often accompanied by more-enlightened-than-thou comments about wanting to focus on “the good,” as if those of us confronting oppression are somehow more negative than those who want to cover up and ignore it.

Of course it’s a good thing that a slightly larger slice of the population is now considered to have “good” bodies! It’s a good thing that more people are feeling empowered to take control of their own body image and accept their bodies! And of course all sorts of people have body image issues!

But. Not everyone is being represented. Some of us are still being actively oppressed.

The last time I checked the account of @i_weigh, one of the most popular mainstream #bodypositivity accounts (and one often recommended to me as a source of body size diversity), I had to scroll back 11 weeks to find an image of a fat body. (And another seven weeks to find a second image.)

Y’all took over fat acceptance, slapped a more palatable bopo label on it, monetized it, shoved us out and now insist we celebrate that you’ve been brought into the acceptability fold?

Here are some other statements I’m sure you can get behind:

“Sucks that you’re freezing to death, but I got a seat by the fire, can’t we just all celebrate that progress?”

“Sucks that you can’t buy a bra that will fit on your body, but there are lots of ‘inclusive’* clothing companies now, can’t we just all celebrate that progress?”

“Sucks that you can’t get an MRI or needed surgeries, but slightly-below-average-size women sometimes get modeling contracts, can’t we just all celebrate that progress?”

“Sucks you have to buy two airplane seats and people sneer at you, but body positivity gave me the confidence to travel around the world, why can’t we all just celebrate that?”

“Your mom said you can’t have any of my birthday cake ’cause you’re fat, but I have birthday cake to eat, why aren’t you celebrating? You’re so negative!”

And somehow, when I knock on the glass and say “Hey, lots of us are still standing out here in the cold,” I’m the one accused of being divisive.

Pfeh. Observing that bodies have already been divided into worthy/not worthy by racism, classism, sexism, fatphobia, homophobia, transphobia and more and demanding justice is not the problem. Refusing to acknowledge those divisions in the service of a false “unity” that continues to be oppressive is the problem.

Body positivity wants to wiggle the bubble of acceptability just a little wider to let a few more people inside. I want us to start taking an honest look at why some bodies are considered “acceptable” and then pop that bubble entirely so that there are no longer “unacceptable bodies.” All bodies are valid. All bodies are worthy. All bodies deserve equity and justice.

*Spoiler: Most aren’t.

Let’s dig deep. Every Monday, I send out my Body Liberation Guide, a thoughtful email jam-packed with resources for changing the way you see your own body and the bodies you see around you. And it’s free. Let’s change the world together.

Hi there! I'm Lindley (she/her, pronounced LIN-lee). I create artwork that celebrates the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional "beauty" standards at Body Liberation Photography. I'm also the creator of Body Liberation Stock, which provides body-positive stock photos for commercial use, and the Body Love Shop, a curated central resource for body-friendly artwork and products. Find all my work at https://staging.bodyliberationphotos.com.