Body Positivity is Killing Women

| by Holly Ashe |

What do the hashtags #IWontCompromise, #EffYourBeautyStandards, #DareToWear, #AndIGetDressed have in common? They are all ultra intersectional feminist, “body positive,” and have accumulated over 700,000+ tags and counting on Instagram. Oh, and they are also killing women.

Allow me to explain.

No matter how many ludicrous comments saturate pictures of these body positive heroines, obesity is still a massive (no pun) issue within the health system. £25,000 is being spent a minute within the NHS (the U.K.’s national health service) on diabetes alone. In total, an estimated £14 billion is spent a year on treating diabetes and its complications, with the cost of treating complications representing the much higher cost. That number is just scratching the surface, with heart disease, high blood pressure and a copious amount of other obesity related chronic illnesses that are crushing health systems across the western world.

When the inevitable happens, and the obese patient is told that it is now a matter of life and death, the NHS seems to be freely handing out bypass surgeries at the cost of a tidy estimation of £32 million. Yikes. How many nurses would that pay for? How many beds would cater for generally ill people? Imagine how well equipped cancer wards could be with that nice little bonus? 

I know what you’re thinking, and it’s a theory that many people leap to when trying to fight against such a precipitous argument. What if the obese person we are currently critiquing has a health problem that causes weight gain? True, there are things that go wrong in the body that will cause unwanted or unprovoked weight gain. I myself suffer from hypothyroidism — which means lacking the function to create thyroxine and triiodothyronine, so my metabolic rate is constantly slow, which causes weight gain. I also have to take tablets that cause on average a 20 lb weight gain, and I also suffer from many joint and pain afflictions, that I will not bore you with the unpronounceable names of. Essentially, my point is I have every excuse in the world to have a weight problem, and be all “body positivity.”

A couple of years ago I did, being a former obese twenty something who was ashamed of her folds and rolls. Now, I am 55 lbs down and still going, I get frantically asked how I did it. No, not body positive but the fact of healthy eating and exercise. Yeah, those old chestnuts. Disappointing for those who were expecting some magical feel good story. Unfortunately, real life is much more prosaic. It’s a fight. Fighting is hard, and I think therein lies the problem. You don’t get fat by running, you get fat by over eating and not moving enough. Laze and greed to be mercilessly honest. Two genuinely appalling attributes that should not be revered, and is not positive by any means

Not convinced? Still cheerleading behind the big gals who parade in bikinis in train stations to convince people (and probably themselves) that it’s fine to be fat? Ok, how about another angle?

As I previously ran my own fashion label which was published in multiple international issues of Vogue, I noticed how these ultra-feminists attack the fashion industry. Models being too thin, companies not making a big enough selection of plus sized clothes, and designer labels not making plus size clothes at all.

The way these ladies will twist the truth to make it sound like they’re being victimized by the fashion industry is incredible. Of course reality is not as conspiratorial as these feminists would like you to believe. The majority of the time when a fashion brand uses bigger models for clothes that aren’t exclusively for bigger customers, the campaign loses money. The clothes don’t sell as well as ones that were used on smaller models. And whose fault is that? The consumer.

Chanel, Gucci, Givenchy etc. don’t have plus size collections because generally plus size women don’t spend hundreds of pounds on clothing. If these growing numbers of avid hashtag users were so happy with their shape, why isn’t the fashion industry changing? They’re excluding 24.9% of British who are obese from buying their products. Because that 24.9% aren’t buying them. Of course, I’m pleased we’re slowly crawling out of the heroin chic of the 90s, which was the other extreme of the spectrum, but it shouldn’t be replaced with the opposite end.

The most popular hashtag, #EffYourBeautyStandards, is headed by plus size model Tess Holliday, a 31-year-old American woman, and someone who is deemed by the health system as super morbidly obese. She absurdly believes that she can be healthy at the shocking weight of 280 lbs, a comment that she preaches to her 1.7 million followers on Instagram. In my opinion, that is not only dangerous, but outrageously irresponsible. Many of her followers are teenagers, being told their unhealthy lifestyle is fine, to carry on, not being given the warnings of the inevitable, of illness, pain, disability and eventually death. Even on her website’s front page, she describes herself as a body positive ambassador. What positivity is she speaking of?

tess.jpg
Tess Holliday

#EffYourBeautyStandards is a misleading line, again, blaming the standards in which society and the fashion/beauty industries are making everybody envision what real beauty is like. I’m pretty sure we all have brains, and understand Photoshop/airbrushing etc., right? I don’t look at Kim Kardashian and wonder why I have a Buddha belly to match my big bum and she somehow embodies the most “perfect” curves without a sight of a stretch mark or a quiver of cellulite. This isn’t a question of beauty. It isn’t a question of standards. It’s an important debate that questions the seriousness of the damage this movement is causing.

The fact one needs to state something so obvious is itself ridiculous. It’s time to wake up. Obesity is not positive. It’s a dangerous plague that is being fueled by disillusioned women convincing themselves that they are happy, while leading a generation into early graves.

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Holly is a London based fashion and culture writer. She was previously published in Vogue International as a fashion designer and a start-up business entrepreneur. You can follow her on twitter

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This article first appeared on Bombs and Dollars

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Header Photo: Source

20 Comments

  1. Mac67

    Some very good points. The pendulum about body positive swung way too far but there is merit in the idea of undoing a lot of harm from unreasonable standards of beauty imposed on women. You get what you get in many ways. It’s no different than skin color. For example, I will never tan, even though I tried countless ways to do so as a teenager. The prospects of dying from skin cancer are very real, having had melanoma at 43.
    So now, I slather myself in sun screen, teach my kids the habit too,
    If you take the analogy of skin type , to body type, we have failed miserably. There is no diet equivalent to sun screen so we have these fat kids whose parents thought weight was something to worry about later and everyone around them has to be careful so as not to “shame” them. They will die from their obesity after huge costs to health care systens.
    We also have girls who are surrounded by playful skinny Victoria secret models and unrealistic cheerleaders giggling unrealistic ratios of boob to ass on the NFL sidelines. They will never live because in body image will consume their thoughts as they chase the unattainable.
    I just want a balance so women don’t need to identify with a body type in order to be seen, heard, or valued.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. WillCE

    I’m not knowledgeable about the fashion industry, but it seems like there is a movement from skinny models to more physically fit models. In my experience of losing weight and getting, moving toward fitness was way more empowering and creating more success than trying to run away from fat. I don’t care about my weight anymore, and I’m no where near the goal that i had set for myself (absolutely ripped abs and massive muscularity). I am within the healthy body fat percentage and I’m reasonably muscular, but I’m far more interested in seeing what my body can actually accomplish. I got the six pack for a month or so, and I can honestly say that squatting four plates for the first time was far more rewarding and exhilarating.

    Like

  3. What the what?

    This is not accurate at all. I suppose the answer is that as long as people are thin, we’re fine? The imposing unrealistic standard by which people are judged isn’t based on anything more than one person’s opinion. No one is the ideal body weight. The way we measure health was created by an insurance company. Check out “The Man Who Made Us Thin.” Allow people to be who they are today so they can concentrate on who they are becoming. Constantly reminding a fat person that they are fat and therefore a burden is what created the “obesity” crisis in the first place. Shaming people, like you have done here, is part of why this problem exists.

    The movement is about allowing people to just be while they’re on their journey. You have missed the point entirely.

    And fat people don’t buy high priced plus size clothing because it doesn’t exist. Not because they’re choosing to spend their money elsewhere. Seriously?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Speaker To Animals

      Nobody said if everyone was thin they’d be fine. Obesity is just one source of ill health – but a major one.

      Also, your objection that definitions of good health are defined by insurance companies makes no sense.

      Health insurance companies are concerned with how much they have to pay out. If obesity didn’t cause health conditions insurance companies wouldn’t have to pay out. That they do have to pay out demonstrates that obesity is a problem.

      Like

      1. What the what?

        As I said in my comment, go watch “The Man Who Made Us Thin.” It explains just where the “guidelines” came from and why they’re garbage.

        Like

  4. Megan

    Dieted and hated my fat like you said we should. Weight went down, then up more than before, then down, then up more before. Participated in fat acceptance and body positive, Weight went down without even trying. Focus on gaining mobility and being proud of the things my body can do. I even think people should be able to be fat and feel happy without making excuses as to why they are not dieting. Let me give you another scenario to explain this. If we said all people who don’t run 5k a day are a burden on the healthcare system and normalized running 5k so that anyone who didn’t was shamed and all portraits of non-runners in media where to educate, sell running material, mock them, or tell the story of them running – do you think that’s really reasonable? Because if you base how you treat people or if you will even allow people the willingness to be happy based on health statistics there’s a lot more reasons out there to shame people than fat. Anyone who doesnr run 5k every day should be equally shamed, or you are just picking out things based on prejudice. That is the antithesis of lazy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Alwyn

    The root cause of the obesity epidemic – regardless of gender – in the US and other modern, Westernised coutries today is the Standard American Diet: high in saturated fat and processed foods which are calorie-dense but not nutrient-dense, low in whole plant foods which have the opposite nutritional profiles. People are addicted to fat, oil, and sugar, getting way more calories than they need and yet less nutrients than they need. Body positivity is just a reaction to that: a coping mechanism, not a cause. I agree that we shouldn’t encourage obesity or try to pass it off as healthy, but I don’t think that shaming fat people helps them either, like Megan said. It’s like shaming a depressed person for having depression instead of accepting them and giving them the support and resources that they need. The article correctly points out that many fat people are not happy with their bodies, but attacking them for trying to create more inclusive spaces for themselves to feel accepted hardly seems like the solution.

    If diet is the cause, then diet is also the solution. Where I disagree with the author is not in fact or principle, but in method: she spends most of the article going after fat people and just one sentence on what might help them instead. I think a more effective approach would be to share positive stories of success and transformation instead, like those featured on websites like forksoverknives.com. 🙂

    Like

  6. Anonymous

    Your article is full of blame, contempt, and judgment. Is this how you felt about yourself before you lost the 55 lbs? If so then I feel sorry for you. You do know statistically you are destined to gain the weight back, and then some, right? You’ve shown absolutely no link between shaming people and weight loss; in fact studies show that people who feel good about themselves and who aren’t depressed (clinical depression directly links to shame) are more likely to be physically healthy. You’ve also shown no link between body positivity and weight gain. If you want to spread super positive exercise and healthy eating inspiration to fatties, have at it, but stop projecting your negative stuff onto other people. The overweight get more than enough constant hatred directed at them. And ps don’t pretend your concern trolling is really about health…if it were perhaps we’d be seeing more anti smoking, anti sun tanning, anti drugs, and anti drinking articles as well.

    Like

  7. GlenysO

    Your message is not new or even remotely accurate. People are *not* actually dying in the street of obesity, rising health care costs are *not* significantly attributed to higher weights, diabetes also affects thin people, and much of the emerging epidemiological evidence shows that people in higher weight categories are living as long or longer than normal weight and underweight categories. We also know that good health behaviors impact health more than weight (e.g. having a good, nutritionally adequate diet, getting regular movement). We also know that weight stigma, which you’re helping to perpetuate here, impacts health much more negatively than actually being fat, and that it’s rarely named as a confounding factor in many studies around weight.

    If you want to see an industry that is literally killing people, look at the diet and weight loss surgery industries. Rates of eating disorders are on the rise because of a fat phobic culture. A former work colleague of mine just died of complications from bariatric surgery last weekend. She had the surgery to help with her diabetes and to become thinner; if she’d never had it, she’d still have diabetes but she’d also still be alive.

    Health and body positivity aren’t mutually exclusive. One can pursue health without needing to lose weight (and if that happens, that’s fine too). Health is also not a moral obligation and everyone gets to choose their own level of pursuit of health (and please spare me the “buh muh tax dollars!” Just spare me. We pay for all the stupid shit everyone does, all the time.)

    Dieting and intentional weight loss has never been shown to lead to long-term weight loss — check your facts, or your own weight in 5-10 years unless you manage to develop the eating-disorder-like tendencies it often requires to maintain even small losses. If there was a way to reliably turn fat people into thin people permanently, we’d have figured it out. Instead, the weight cycling industry continues to create larger and unhappier bodies with restriction-and-disinhibition cycles. Great job.

    You seem woefully uninformed on topics of health, feminism, body positivity, and social justice. But most of all, this is a boring, unoriginal article with an obviously click-baity headline. I could barely get through it, it was so boring, but I wanted to leave this comment for the women that you are harming, so they can know they don’t have to suffer at the hands of a misogynist, lying diet culture anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pearly

    medical student here, and almost at every turn we’re taught about how obesity is a known risk factor especially when you’re talking about heart diseases etc. please. i believe many plus-sized women would hide behind body positivity and refuse to make changes. they would be led to the idea that it’s okay and acceptable and that they do not have to change. but they do.

    Like

  9. Sarah G

    “Chanel, Gucci, Givenchy etc. don’t have plus size collections because generally plus size women don’t spend hundreds of pounds on clothing. If these growing numbers of avid hashtag users were so happy with their shape, why isn’t the fashion industry changing? They’re excluding 24.9% of British who are obese from buying their products. Because that 24.9% aren’t buying them. Of course, I’m pleased we’re slowly crawling out of the heroin chic of the 90s, which was the other extreme of the spectrum, but it shouldn’t be replaced with the opposite end.”

    Wow, you really have a grasp. This might be the most inane clickbait piece on the internet. Zero facts, zero research, just hatred for bigger women, who, by the way, CAN be healthy. You are ignorant, but I only have to look at your writing to conclude this.

    Like

  10. John H.

    As a trained biochemist who understands nutrition and a bit about the health implications of obesity, and who, by the way, lost and kept off 100 lbs over ten years ago, I disagree with the self-righteous and confident tone of this article.

    To know whether we’re killing women with body positivity, we need data, data that shows that the overall effect on women’s health is negative. I think it’s possible that body positivity is saving women.

    For one, the implicit assumption of this article is that body positivity will cause women to keep weight they might otherwise have lost. I don’t know that’s true. In fact, the evidence seems to indicate the opposite, since making people feel “bad” about being fat has been shown to cause people to gain weight, not lose it. See the following for support of that:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25212272

    For another, body positivity might help women who are fat feel better about themselves — and that’s very significant. Depression and stress are involved in the etiology of more diseases than obesity is.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. L'esprit de l'escalier

    I think there is no easy answer to health issues. I think most everyone knows how hard it is to maintain a “healthy” lifestyle and how easy it is to fall into the trap of laziness and gluttony (and all those grey areas in between). I think some of Holly’s points are valid. We shouldn’t glorify morbid obesity. We shouldn’t glorify heroin chic. Those are two very unhealthy ends of a very wide spectrum. We also shouldn’t tell ourselves that just because someone is within a “healthy” weight range (a nod to “what the what” for pointing out that our BMI chart was created by insurance companies and not at all a good measure of “normal, overweight and obese” weight calculations) they are healthy and just because someone “looks” to be an “unhealthy” weight that they are unhealthy. That is much too simplistic and we human animals are way more complicated than that. Our bodies are way more intricate and complicated than slapping a “healthy” or “unhealthy” label on an individual based on a calculation, scale number or visual cues. Certainly generalizations are needed and helpful in many a circumstance but health really can’t be one of them. Genetics makes that all way too messy. I do believe we should glorify healthy food and exercise in the way we should glorify living your best life. We should put out the message that it is important to take care of your body as well as those of your children, as you are their guardian for their formative years. Feed them well and show them the joy that can be had from physical activity by example (up to whatever limits you as an individual must accept – we are not all capable of achieving the same goals). And finally, don’t shame anyone. If you have taken time out of your day to shame someone, shame on you. Shame doesn’t motivate anyone. We teach by example not by harsh criticism and judgment. In the end we can only be responsible for ourselves but it would do us well to remember we are a community here on this earth and we should aim to take care of each other, not take each down.

    Like

  12. Anonymous

    I think the point of the body positivity campaign isn’t actually to encourage obese or unhealthy women to continue their lifestyles – but rather aimed at the average teenage girl? Coming from an all girls’ school, I’ve seen what girls do to themselves as a result of expectations from the media as to how they should look like. There’s really way too much self-hate and eating disorders which was only compounded by victoria secret models and the things we see in the media. And the girls who were affected were never actually obese; they were just average and healthy. So I think it misses the point to say that it is “encouraging obesity” – yes that could be the body positivity campaign swinging too far to the other side of the spectrum, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is an important and refreshing change in media images that will hopefully help young girls (and maybe guys) worldwide.

    Like

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