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Staying Body Positive During NYFW

Loving your body is no easy feat, especially when your feed is inundated with NYFW's obsession with svelte, clear complexioned models. Although some brands like Chromat have made efforts to embrace the topic of inclusivity, being in a marginalized body, specifically a fat one, is still taboo in this age.

With over half of Americans a size 14 or above, you would think brands would be pawing at the opportunity to make clothing that sells to the majority. Yet the idea of inclusivity for all still seems like a pipedream for me and my fellow plus-sizers.

For instance, take a look at one my idols, Katie Sturino, founder of Megababe and who’s spearheading the #makemysize movement.

This week, she attended an unnamed athleisure wear company’s event where they invited her to participate in an intense workout class but didn’t make her size in their clothing.

Not only was the class high-intensity (clearly not inclusive to those who have mobility issues) they offered that she workout in her street clothes, leaving her feeling like an outcast, defeated, vulnerable, and invisible. (You can hear all about her experience here.) This is the epitome of what we as plus-sized women experience (and dread) every time we’re invited to participate in “inclusive” environments.

Now let’s look at NYFW's mural, done by Bergdorf Goodman’s artist in resident, Ashley Longshore, who, in her own right is plus-sized. Among the bubbly portraits sits a painting that says, “You Do Not Look Fat”.

At first glance, this may seem like a comforting statement. But for me and women like me, who are trying to reclaim the word, the statement reeks of shame and judgment to those who do identify as “fat”. Admittedly in the midst of criticism, Ashley states that she is "learning so much about that word and what it means to other people...".

Plus-sized advocate, journalist, and sharer of my maiden-namesake, Liz Black, writes in her recent article, “I, like a growing number of plus-size women and body-positive activists in fashion, have made the decision to reclaim the word fat... I comfortably describe myself as fat on a regular basis. I see it as a neutral descriptor, and no more insulting than someone saying I’m pale, have pink hair, or hazel eyes (all true). As a size 18, I’m also fat; it’s not a slur, it’s a fact.”

So how can you stay body positive when inclusivity falls short?

1. Be aware of misogynistic and fat-phobic rhetoric.

Even as I write this piece, I can hear the comments, “If you want clothes that fit, you should lose weight.” Or “Maybe you should work out more or eat less?”. “Don’t you want to feel good in your body?” But all of that is fearful, cultural programming against being fat and undesirable.

As I’ve explained in my past blogs, being plus-sized is not a death sentence. Thinness and health are not synonymous. And nobody's size should be held to a higher consideration than another.

Additionally (and most importantly) your “desirableness” has no bearing worth. Not only because that’s fucked up, but because being desirable is a matter of perspective. If you need any help trying to reconcile that, go follow Lizzo’s Instagram.

2. Speak up against discrimination and false “inclusivity” claims.

Body positivity doesn’t start and end with your pant size. It spreads across all areas of humanness. Just as my girl Katie did, speak up when spaces fall short of inclusivity, of all types. Whether it be about size, mobility, accessibility, gender, or race, if you’re uncomfortable, you have the right to speak up. Especially if the space you’re in promotes itself as inclusive.

This comes with a small disclaimer: It’s important to remember that being a “woke” individual doesn’t mean you have to be an aggressor. Be mindful that the undercurrent of patriarchal views is embedded in all areas of our culture. If you feel underrepresented, speaking up from a curious, compassionate place, instead of a defensive one, is a great place to start.

(Unless you feel unsafe or outwardly discriminated, then go buck wild!)

3. Do mindset work.

Once you become aware of patriarchal messaging, it can be hard not to look at everything from a critical lens. It can be even more challenging not to internalize the negativity and feel like you don’t matter. So it’s imperative to do the mindset work to stay positive.

Remembering that our internal thoughts create our feelings is the first step in regaining our power in the face of adversity (if you're not familiar with Thought Work, check out my last blog here).

Second, understand that other’s thoughts/beliefs are not a reflection of us, but of them and their conditioning. It’s not our responsibility to change their perception, but it is our responsibility to advocate for ourselves.

When we put our voice out into the world, even when others have no desire to hear it, we are supporting, educating, and being unapologetically here. By doing this, we are practicing taking up the space we deserve. It’s only a matter of time before we are heard and considered. I encourage everyone who feels disempowered in our society to be aware, speak up, and fight for your rights to exist.

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