Side By Side: “I live in a body that can’t do tricks in front of the camera.”
Side by side photos are rampant within the body positive hashtag. Whether it be a “before and after” or to show a‘normal’ vs ‘posed’ stance, they are everywhere. It’s a trend making its way to thousands of Instagram profiles with many accounts simply replicating the way influencers are styling their posts. These types of images tend to illicit high numbers of likes and comments lending to their popularity. However I’d encourage us all to consider: What happens if you’re a marginalized body who cannot change your body. What if you’re differently abled. What if you’re fat regardless of the “angle”. What if the meal you just ate doesn’t result in your tummy bloating because your tummy is always huge.
As body positivity has become more popular it has entered the mainstream. Many people are connecting with the community that perhaps I would argue really don’t know just what body positivity truly is or where it came from. The community is feeling fractured; while we welcome and want to include all women in the body positive space the space, thin white women are currently taking up is changing the intentions, direction and the influence of the movement. It is problematic seeing thin women grab their excess skin and claim they have “rolls” while my back has enough to open bakery.
While thin women are certainly all entitled to feel ashamed, insecure, hurt and embarrassed about their bodies they rarely are socially oppressed because of their bodies. Fat people like me and other marginalized bodies do not hold that privilege. Thin white women should never be barred from the community but I urge we take a look at how, why and what they are posting. What may inspire other thin white women could indeed be hurting the movement at large.
Seeing thin women bend over and grab their rolls in one photo and then stand thin and tall in another makes me as a fat person feel like there is just another unattainable body trend on social media. A body which does magic tricks in front of the camera. Trust me side on, front on, sucked in and pushed out I am fat. I can’t escape that reality, just like someone differently abled may not be able to stand, just like a person of color can’t change the color of their skin. Marginalized bodies walk around with their ‘differences” there for the world to see. Their interactions, their experiences, their life are indeed affected by how they look. They walk through the world with their bodies on full display and cannot alter their bodies as they already do not fit in.
I think this trend hits home most harmfully when we critically look at why these women take and post these photos. Is it to prove that they, too, are oppressed? Is it to prove that they too have “imperfect” bodies? Is it to show their excess skin when grabbed on an angle and they are hunched over make them a little fat too?
There has been an obvious disconnect and division within body positivity since it went mainstream. While fat activists like myself are trying to hold on to the original roots of the movement, corporations, fitness models and weight loss accounts have come to claim some of the lucrative pie. The more popular this space becomes the smaller the voices of the marginalized becomes.
These posts matter, the way we all more forward together in this movement matters. The way we represent our bodies online matter. It matters if you use the #bodypositive hashtag or talk about body image on any level. While thin women, I am sure, are not looking to create any harm with side by side photos — they are problematic. Body Positivity should aim to add to a collective voice and purpose. These side by side photos are much inclined to relate and inspire people of the similar size who when they walk through the world are not oppressed, limited or in fear for their life.