body positivity

  • shrill 4fced

    I cringed my way through the first half of the “Shrill” pilot. It was all too close to home – the “Thin Menu” pancakes Annie (Aidy Bryant) eats out of a plastic container, Tonya the trainer hitting Annie with a “There is a small person inside of you dying to get out,” Ryan, Annie’s not boyfriend who won’t wear a condom and won’t buy a second pillow for his bed and makes her sneaks her out through the back door so his roommates won’t see her.

    Then there’s Annie’s boss, who refuses to let her write anything, but who she douses in compliments anyway. I could barely keep watching. Because even though I had heard rave reviews from trustworthy sources and I knew the brilliant minds involved wouldn’t sign off on any more bullshit fat narratives, my skepticism runs deep.

    When you’ve never seen authentic or positive representations of your body in mainstream media, you become a bit jaded. As a fat woman, I’ve been burned too many times by the media meant to represent me.

    One of my first views of a fat person in the media was in “Shallow Hal,” in which Hal is hypnotized into only being able to see his fat girlfriend, Rosemary, played by Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit of course, as thin. We are meant to believe that he is becoming a better man because he is able to see her “inner beauty” despite her being a disgusting “wooly mammoth.” Us fat women are meant to be so grateful to men like Hal for seeing us as pretty and for treating us like people.

    I almost have the same warm fuzzy feelings towards “Friends” as the next millennial except I skip the Monica-in-a-fat-suit episodes and every time a joke about her sad fat previous life sneaks in, it stings as if I’ve been betrayed by a loved one. We are meant to see fat Monica as a “before.” Before Monica was a living, breathing, thin human, she was just a joke.

    I really truly wanted to love “This is Us,” but I couldn’t get past the fact that the initial major storyline for Kate was weight loss, and even though she had a romantic prospect, their fatness was what brought them together. Because fat people are only fat and nothing else, right?

    The list of botched fat representation goes on and on.

    I know it’s nothing new. But I really really wanted “Shrill” to be different and I wasn’t quite ready to open myself up to the possibility of being hurt again. So when our first glimpse of Annie is paired with diet food and she responds to every fatphobic comment with niceties and self-deprecating humor, and she rests her head on Ryan’s chest instead of demanding that pillow, I threw my own pillow at the TV. When she says to her best friend, Fran, “Ryan loves to raw dog.” How could I take away his favorite thing?” and when she doesn’t follow through with confronting her mother’s nonstop diet talk, I screamed, “NOOOO, ANNIEEEE, NOOOO!”

    I understand where the nice, people-pleasing, fat girl thing comes from, and believe me, I have been there.

    The fat narratives in the media that precede “Shrill” shows fat women settling for less than they deserve. They portray us as undesirable, so if any romantic prospect looks our way, we best not complain. We best not advocate for ourselves during sex because we should be so lucky to be getting laid.

    Ableism and fatphobia in the health field have inaccurately trained people to associate fat with poor health, and poor health with immorality. In reality, fat people can be healthy. Fat people can have health problems unrelated to weight, which are often misdiagnosed due to fatphobia. And, no matter the state of one’s health, we all deserve respect and human rights.

    However, fat women often internalize the perspective that we are a work in progress, and that our “goodness” depends on health and thinness. We’ve been taught to accept fat-shaming under the guise of concern for our health, that if our friends and mothers and doctors and strangers at the coffee shop comment on our bodies or lifestyles, we must stand by idly. We must apologize, even, for our “disobedient bodies.”

    God forbid we fight back and defend our right to exist without our bodies as fair game for debate. Because it’s bad enough to be called “fat.” Much worse to be called a “fat bitch.”

    But what if we could untrain ourselves? What if we could become immune to words that are meant to hurt us? What if fat was just a descriptor and “bitchy” was a synonym for “powerful?”

    Thanks to her best friend, Fran, Annie begins to find out.

    Fran is a black queer woman and Annie is a white, presumably straight woman, but they are both plus size. In some ways, Fran’s character verges on “sassy black friend” territory. Though her lines are sharp and she is multidimensional, most of her air-time centers around building Annie up, and we don’t see Annie doing the same for Fran.

    Fran is the catalyst for Annie’s fat bitchdom.

    When Annie gets pregnant by dickwad Ryan, she and Fran have a frank talk at the flea market. Annie tells Fran that she thought, “maybe if I was just sweet enough and nice enough and easygoing enough with any guy, that would be enough for someone.”

    Fran says, “we need to untrain you from thinking of yourself in such a brutal way.” Easier said than done, but this is when I finally stopped cringing and throwing pillows.

    Fran appears to have already done the work that Annie has yet to do. She is kind, in the sense that she does not leave Annie’s side when she gets an abortion, literally strokes her shoulder throughout the whole procedure. But Fran also knows how to stand up for herself.

    She says “I don’t apologize to white people,” after macing dickwad Ryan when he shows up unannounced at their front door.

    Annie has a lot to learn from Fran about standing up for herself, and the difference between niceness and authentic kindness. Niceness is tiptoeing around the people that hurt you so you don’t get more hurt. Authentic kindness means being there when people need you, calling people out on their shit, and setting boundaries, no matter the consequences.

    After Fran gives Annie a red dress and one of many pep talks, Annie finally begins “feeling herself,” and goes on an epic quest for the respect she deserves.

    She goes to Ryan’s house to tell him about the pregnancy and the abortion, and to finally advocate for herself in the relationship. She goes to work and demands a story assignment, causing her boss to tell her that she is kind of a bitch, and he likes it.

    Then, she mumbles for Tonya to fuck herself.

    Tonya finally ditches the peppy, cheerful, health-shaming and says “I was just trying to help you, you fat bitch.”

    We see Annie’s face as she walks away. At first, she is stunned, but then, as the theme song swells, she begins to smile. Annie has been called the ultimate insult. Not only is she fat, but she’s a bitch, too. And she’s still alive and okay and powerful.

    Annie is just beginning to accept her fat self after years of apologizing for her body. She has a long way to go and her journey is still quite selfish, even by the end of the first season, which, by the way, is only six short episodes.

    Later in the season, she learns about bleaching assholes and being a confident woman with tits and ass from the strippers she meets while on a work assignment. Then she attends her first body positive pool party and sees women of all sizes in bikinis, and she finally strips off her jeans and allows her fat to jiggle with abandon. She is still learning from the women around her, many of which are women of color who don’t get enough credit.

    I am grateful for Annie because we have never seen anyone like her on screen. She is nothing like Rosemary or Monica or Kate. She is a full human who is beginning to discover her inner bitch.

    However, this show desperately cries out for a second season, and a third, and a fourth. We need to see Annie grow beyond the initial selfishness of her body positive journey, especially as a white woman interacting with women of color. We need to see her lift up and make space for her friends. We need to see her provide Fran the same support on the journey to bitchdom that Fran has provided her.

    This show is a huge step in the right direction. Now let’s get some mutually uplifting fat bitch friendships.

     

     

    Top photo screenshot from Hulu's Shrill via Youtube

     

     

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  • Briana 0185 b4212

    In our Fashion Nation series, we talk to people about personal style.

     

    Briana 
Hernandez
    Copywriter
    San Leandro, CA

     

    Tell me about this look.
    I love pairing this Forever 21 top with this skirt from ModCloth because the print is similar and the colors clash. The booties are from ASOS. The Rebecca Minkoff necklace is my go-to for high necklines.

    What fashion era are you inspired by?
    I’m constantly looking for ways to reinvent traditional fashion with color and texture, but as a base I love the shape of the midcentury silhouette.

    Briana 0313 2a7d3

    What does body-positive fashion mean 
to you?
    It’s about discarding the mold that doesn’t serve us. Rules that say we have to accentuate a waist or appear taller, leaner—all the stuff they taught us on What Not To Wear can be thrown out the window. Find an aesthetic that makes you feel visible in a pleasurable way.

    Do you prefer to match or clash your lip color with your outfit?
    Clash. My looks can be matchy, but too much monochrome is a pet peeve. I love pairing opposite color primaries, like yellow and cobalt, red and green.

    Has motherhood changed your style ?
    As a new mom, I adapted my style to low-maintenance mode. I did a lot of thrifting to find comfortable things that were still eye-catching. Once I was more independent from my baby, I brought back my less comfy pieces, like tulle and lace. Slowly but surely, I’ve started to reclaim my slightly higher-maintenance style.

    Do you have advice for people who are developing their personal style?
    My inspiration is street style. Go downtown or get online to see what people are wearing. You also don’t have to look at people with your body type. If you see a different type wearing something you like, you can find a way to work it! 

     

    COPYCAT

    Work it your way with some of Briana’s color-clashing picks!

    hernandezcopycat 0bca4

    1. ASOS DESIGN Wide Fit Minny Flat Shoes in Leopard, $29, asos.com
    2. Polka Dot Birdcage Midi Skirt by Who What Wear in Blue/Black,
    $32.99, target.com
    3. Brushstroke Marissa Wrap Top, $59, and Pant, $72, premme.us
    4. The Eugene Pant by ModCloth in Multi Stripe, $65, modcloth.com
    5. The Babysitter’s Sweet Can Dress, $93.24, cuttingshapes.club

     

    By Allie Lawrence
    Photographed by Corina Marie Howell
    This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 print edition of BUST Magazine.Subscribe today!

     

     

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  • D86BEFCB 95D9 429F AB62 5F9717D5AD43 fff8c

     At only 17, Billie Eilish became the unofficial spokesperson for Gen Z.  Teenagers fell in love with her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? for the unfiltered rawness with which she describes the spectrum of growing pains: from unrequited love to depression. On the surface of her new record Happier Than Ever, Eilish has shed her trademark angst; trading in the dark hair, demonic grin and asylum aesthetic of the first album cover for a platinum blond, old Hollywood, angelic vibe. But listening to the album it soon becomes clear; Eilish’s look might have changed, but her words still drip with sarcasm.

    The album embodies her mixed emotions about being the most famous teenager in the world. As with most female pop stars, Eilish was briefly untouchable: all praise and focus directed towards her trailblazing sound. Inevitably though, people took out their digital magnifying glasses to see if her strong personality would burn under the opinions and beauty standards that accompany such a meteoric rise.  If When We All Fall Asleep...captured Eilish’s inner demons, Happier Than Ever is a reaction, and rebellion against these new external predators. 

    The sound of the new album is not as cohesive as the first, but it’s the unpredictability of each song, and the contradictory emotions of the album as a whole,  that captures such an honest picture of how disorienting young stardom is. Her perspective is no longer complete doom and gloom, and she slides between genre and tempo to show how her life is at times exciting, at others sinister.

    There are moments of pure victory. With ‘Lost Cause’, Eilish’s former heartbreak crystallises casually into self-assurance, as she smashes the rose-tinted glasses she had for a lacklustre boyfriend in a sleepy voice: “I used to think you were shy, but maybe you just had nothing on your mind...” Likewise in ‘Oxytocin,’ her breathy whispers over a menacing, techno pulse recall the vibe of her last album, but this time she channels it all into an urgent sexual fantasy. The playful ‘Billie Bossa Nova’ sees Eilish sing seductively to a lover over a Latin guitar, and she seems to be seducing herself at the same time through the thought of eloping temporarily from the spotlight: ‘Nobody saw me in the lobby/nobody saw me in your arms...’  Eilish’s pessimism creeps in through the mirror image of this track, ‘NDA’, which matter of factly counts the insane ways fame compromises her love life and freedom (stalkers, potential scandals). Over an unsettling, pulsating beat, Eilish’s voice gets more distorted the more she describes feeling out of control; ‘you couldn’t save me but you can’t let me go.’

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     Elsewhere, the theme of sexuality swerves into even darker places, but, surprisingly, over some of her sweetest sounding melodies. “Your Power” reflects quietly on her delayed realisation that her naivety was abused in a relationship with an older man. Stripped back to just an acoustic guitar, Eilish’s ethereal voice effectively puts the chilling connotations of lyrics like ‘ she was sleeping in your clothes/ but now she’s gotta get to class’ centre stage.


    Where Happier Than Ever  finds is most successful, is in its portrayal of the many dimensions of Eilish’s relationship with her body. During the pandemic last year, a paparazzi photo of Eilish in a tank top became a source of widespread ridicule. The music video for ‘Lost Cause’, seems to put an indifferent middle finger up to these body-shamers, as Eilish dances confidently in underwear with female friends. Yet, in a recent interview with The Guardian, she was blunt about her negative view of her body, and she doesn’t shy away from this insecurity on the album either. 

    ‘Male Fantasy’, feels like the sister song to ‘Your Power’; over a gentle acoustic guitar Eilish shows honestly how circumstances, like a break up, can cause body confidence to crumble far quicker than it is acquired.  And yet, though Eilish never denies the reality of her self-image, in other songs she takes back control by shifting the focus away from her body, and onto the creepiness of those who spend their time dissecting it. In ‘Therefore I Am’ and ‘Overheated’ she is playfully scathing; ‘is it news? News to who?/that i really looked like the rest of you.’

    Top/second image: screenshot via YouTube

  • 800px Woman with a Mirror Frieseke dcc0b

    It's one of those days. Eyeliner resembling Rocky Raccoon's sister, despite redoing it three times. A forgotten umbrella leading to a damp suit and ruined hair. A day of minor unfortunate events resulting in the drowning of sorrows in a pint of Ben & Jerry's.

    Everyone has days when they feel horrible about themselves, and guess what? That's OK.

    At the start of the new millennium, women around the world embraced the body positivity movement. Women across social media posted selfies in gym attire with hashtags of #bodypositivity, #loveyourself, and #motivation. But it didn't take long for many women to realize that, hey, they don't feel ready to rock the red carpet every day, and that's also OK — thus birthing the body neutrality movement.

    What Is Body Neutrality?

    The body neutrality movement embraces the reality that everyone has good days and bad days. It goes beyond appearance and into the habits that sometimes make women feel negative about themselves, from “caving in” to a craving to the alternative — trying toohard to embrace body positivity and perceiving yourself as a failure not because you caved in to that extra brownie, but because you can’t shake feeling bad about it.

    Embracing body neutrality requires a woman to come to peace with her body, while at the same time striving for whatever “improvement” may look like to her. The movement embraces women of all sizes, as well as those with physical disabilities which sometimes make exercise difficult. Body neutrality focuses on progress, not perfection, and celebrates feminine beauty in all its lovely varieties.

    Why Neutrality Can Work Better Than Positivity

    After its inception, the body positive movement went on to receive a host of different criticisms, some warranted and others perhaps not so much. One valid criticism of the body positivity movement stems from its celebration of only "acceptably fat" bodies — those wearing U.S. sizes 12 to 16. Women wearing larger sizes than that still struggled to see much representation or marketing aimed at catering to their current sizes. On the flip side, some criticized the movement as focusing toomuch on self-love to the point of encouraging unhealthy lifestyles. Body positivity was also criticized for a general lack of intersectionality

    Body neutrality isn’t about labeling the body as “good” or “bad.” The message behind body neutrality is: “This is my body. And while I won’t always feel in lovewith it, I will always love it enough to take care of it.”

    Another reason so many women today embrace body neutrality over body positivity involves the desire to include disabled women as part of the "in" crowd. The body positivity movement featured few, if any, women pumping iron in wheelchairs or taking a walk using a cane for balance. Body positivity likewise excluded many women with invisible disabilities.

    For example, women suffering from certain conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome or uterine fibroids can experience intense pain that makes exercising difficult, especially during ovulation and menstruation. Sadly, a full 22 percent of women with uterine fibroids actually feel the condition lessens their femininity, as do many with other disorders of the female reproductive system, particularly when infertility results. Other women suffer metabolic disorders that impact their weight, or mental disorders such as anxiety and depression that lower their self-esteem.

    Body neutrality is about embracing the highs and lows — you’re allowed to feel totally pissed offabout your condition! Positivity all the time just isn’t realistic, but keeping things in perspective is. And that aspect is an important part of this movement as well. Body neutrality celebrates the little accomplishments every woman has, whether it involves taking a lunchtime walk around the block or prepping healthy weekday meals on Sunday night.

    Living Body Neutral

    Because body neutrality focuses upon acceptance, women interested in joining the movement need little training to get in the swing. The only thing body neutrality really encourages women to do is to love their bodies enough to try to care for them. This concept involves so much more than just dietary choices and numbers on a scale — it includes attending regular check-ups with your doctor, addressing mental health needs and taking the time for important self-care activities like getting a good nights’ sleep and staying hydrated.

    Likewise, the body neutrality movement celebrates women of all fitness levels, and encourages us to grow even stronger and healthier, whether a woman's fitness routine involves training for a triathlon or pedaling a recumbent bicycle for 20 minutes daily.

    Because the movement focuses upon celebrating little victories and accepting inevitable setbacks, women can share about their struggles in a loving way on social media and IRL. It works to build true bonds on a foundation of mutual respect and good sense of humor, and gives women a safe place to vent, free from the need to censor their frustrations.

    Body Neutrality for Life 

    So many of us strive for perfection, whether that be the “perfect” body or the perfect mindset. Yet, we are all inherently flawed, and that is precisely what makes humanity so gloriously interesting. Our cultural shift away from always striving for the “perfect beach body” has been a positive movement, make no mistake. However, when women free themselves from focusing so much on the way their body looks — regardless of whether those feelings are positive or negative — and focus more on finding inner peace and wisdom, they set themselves free to pursue what genuinely makes them feel happy and fulfilled.

    Top image: Woman with a Mirror by Frederick Carl Frieseke

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  •  9AD3ECF0 171B 463D 8F9B A090C03F739D a339e

    Norway has passed a new law which will make it illegal for influencers and celebrities to photoshop images of themselves on social media platforms, unless explicitly stating that they have done so. The move comes as part of the Ministry of Family and Children’s desire to “reduce body pressure,’ and its contribution to low self worth among young people.  According to a report from Vice, the law will crack down on any alterations made to the face and body, including the use of filters. Failure to do so will result in a fine or even imprisonment. 

    Countless medical studies have shown a correlation between social media, body dysmorphia and disordered eating. One study looked at 1,000 middle schoolers, and found that a greater number of social media accounts was associated with a higher frequency of thoughts and behaviors linked to eating disorders. 

     The potential for confusion among young people increases when you consider the two prominent, yet polar opposite narratives currently running parallel to each other on social media. One promotes body positivity: calling for the visibility of all body shapes, sizes and perceived physical ‘flaws.’ The other regurgitates a very specific body type and face; unnatainable for the majority of women and young girls. Dubbed ‘Instagram face’in recent years, this look plucks the most coveted features of every ethnicity and arranges them ala Mr Potato Head: almond eyes, Jessica Rabbit hourglass, bee-stung pout, pore-less, tanned skin - topped off with an inconspicuous nose. Its domination of social media is pehaps so dangerous because some of its most prolific promoters (Kendall and Kyle Jenner, Bella Hadid, Ariana Grande) will often aggressively deny any alteration. This year Kendall Jenner was accused of having photoshopped an Instagram post in which she showed off her svelt yet curvy body in a Skims brand 'micro thong.' Twitter was flooded with self-flagellating comments from women negatively comparing their own body to that of the super-model. Though Jenner responded with a tweet of her own ('...you are beautiful just as you are...") one has to wonder whether this vague gesture towards body positivity has any substantial effect. 

    Norwegian influencer, Madeleine Pedersen voiced her opinion about the reasoning behind the new law to the BBC, reflecting on the effect photoshop has had on her own body image; "The worst part is that I don't even know if the other girls I looked up to did edit their photos or not. That's why we all need answers - we need this law."

    Though this new legislation may help to make the trick mirror of social media more transparent, some are sceptical of just how effective it will be combatting negative body image. Psychology Today published a report in direct response to the new measures, concluding that the visual exposure to photoshopped images are harmful regardless of any disclaimer, because the unrealistic image is still being absorbed subconsciously. Speaking from an influencer’s perspective however, Pederson believed that the law will be effective in limiting the use of photoshop altogether, as influencers will be too proud to openly admit alteration to their followers.

    Norway now waits for the king to decide when exactly the law will come into effect. 

    https://bust.com/music/198344-halsey-artwork-new-album-if-i-can-t-have-love-i-want-power.html

    https://bust.com/entertainment/198222-laugh-riot-grace-kuhlenschmidt-queer.html

    https://bust.com/entertainment/198350-indya-moore-tommy-hilfiger-gender-nuetral-colab.html

    Top image: Screenshot from YouTube

  • toomuch e9766

    Tonight, I was meant to go on a first date with a man who I met online. He seems funny, clever, kind and cute, but I’m relieved he canceled. Instead, I’ll be taking the bus home where I will cook some pasta with halloumi and chorizo and watch Insecure until I fall asleep on the sofa.

    My new plan is hardly exciting, let alone romantic. So why do I feel so content? It’s not because the guy no longer appeals to me — he likes “Sexy Sax Man” and Hamilton; how could I resist?! No, it’s because I am scared.

    I am what fashion calls “plus size,” what doctors term “overweight,” and what the boys I went to school with would laughingly refer to as “fat.” I am a size 18 in many stores and my body type is supposedly the average in the UK, where I live. But it feels like allies and people of similar shapes are few and far between in fashion, the industry in which I work.

    When I’m in the mood to meet someone, I often use dating apps, where I feel forced to lay my “flawed” body bare in my profile. If I don’t make it clear that I’m fat, I worry I’ll be accused of catfishing or lying and end up disappointing the poor sap who fell for what must have been a masterful use of filters and Photoshop.

    My body doesn’t have the features many men and women think make being fat okay; my wide hips are not in proportion to my cup size, and my big ass is wider than it is round. While I appreciate how a curvaceous, Kardashian-like figure is now viewed as desirable, I can’t say I share their attributes. Those hourglass figures remain unachievable for many women.

    Drawing 1 a023d

    We all have our insecurities, and dating puts us up for judgement, which is particularly scary in swipe culture. But weight is an equalizer when it comes to criticism; society will not value you on any level if you are fat — and it’s not just deemed to be unattractive physically. You’re also lazy, stupid and perhaps even unable to perform sexually. The judgement attached to size is horrendously unfair at both ends of the scales, but fatness is something we’re told is safe to mock and be disgusted by.

    Even if by some miracle a man finds me attractive, I worry he will be questioned by his friends as to why — Does he feel like he has to settle? Does he have a fetish? Does he just want a girl who is probably so grateful to have a boyfriend she’ll be okay with him cheating? I have the same worries when a guy I am seeing is of a similar size to me. And it often feels like there’s a double standard for slim women paired with bigger men. Men are “allowed” to be fat and can still be considered attractive while it’s a cardinal sin for women.

    I’ve been single for a few months now because I wanted a break from dating. Now that I’m open to the idea of getting back out there, I’m frightened that all of the self-care I’ve cultivated will fall away. I worry that people think I deserve to be single because of my size. I was cheated on weeks before I was due to get married, and I know that these insecurities are related to that event. I felt like the shock, pain and humiliation were almost to be expected. Of course, my fiancé would stray, given my appearance, even after a 13-year relationship during which my weight was not a negative factor.

    I don’t deserve romance, sex or love because I am fat, and so anyone who takes the leap of faith to date me should be vetted closely first to check that they’re sane. I feel like they need to fill out a questionnaire before meeting me to make sure they’ve read the T&Cs, with all my vital statistics on the page in plain sight. I fear meeting someone for a first date unlike much else; I worry that the man will feel disappointed at best, misled at worst. And if they’re disappointed, I know there’s only one thing they need to say to justify it to others: “She was fat.”

    Insulting phrases I’ve heard over the years have stayed with me, even if I wasn’t on the receiving end. For example, “A fat girl with no boobs is God’s cruelest joke.” I’m no pin-up or hourglass, but I happen to mostly like my body. I don’t want to change it dramatically — my goals are to feel strong and toned and fit before considering if I want to lose weight. I’m not envious of other women’s slim thighs, more so their ability to run 5km.

    Noodle 02728

    My health and fitness goals are for me, but it feels like debate about my body is public property. I am made to feel as though I’m wrong, so why should I expect to find someone right? The implication is that I can’t hope to find a partner unless I lose weight. However, I feel like my fat is a part of my identity; changing my body, even if it was for “the better” feels like I’d be changing who I am. But I don’t want to have to change myself to find love. I strongly suspect the dramatic weight loss to attain the “acceptable” body would not last, seeing as I’d have to change my lifestyle, too. As well as changing my body, I’d also be changing how I spend my time. I would be unrecognizable. And despite the risk, I really do want to be seen as I am.

    What may just be my paranoia about my weight isn’t helped by the zeitgeist focus on wellness and athleticism. When scrolling through Tinder, I am in the minority — it is truly a challenge to find someone who doesn’t list “going to the gym” as one of their interests or hasn’t got a photo of themselves running a marathon as part of their profile. Everyone seems very keen to point out how frequently they feel the burn. Sometimes, I wonder if it’s because they just really, really want you to know they’re not fat. I actively avoid anyone who writes “I do love my gym,” because to me, this is not only an indication we’re incompatible thanks to our different lifestyles, but because I struggle to believe anyone who likes fitness would find me attractive.

    I recently went through a phase that had me feeling unsexy. I think I like myself, but I worry I’m too awkward, too chatty, too pale, too silly, too tall, too neurotic, too immature, too serious, too annoying, too boring, too needy, too lazy, too big, TOO MUCH. I literally take up too much space. I find it hard to accept I’m allowed even one shot at happiness, let alone multiple dating options. In the darkest depths of my psyche, I debate if I will never find someone to love me, as my slimmer, prettier, smarter and funnier friends all find partners, and so I steel myself further for my inevitable decline into being forever single. I spiral downward from there — I think about how nobody will want me, and eventually my friends will find it too hard to fit me into their lives full of partners and families. And then my own family will feel distant and resentful because they don’t understand me. And at the root of it all, it’s because I am fat.

    I may never be able to distance myself completely from these insecure ideas, but through therapy I’m learning to allow this negativity in order to better understand where it comes from. I’m actively working on taking actions to help me move forward with my life. My perception of self will inevitably influence how people treat me in dating and my judgmental attitude is likely holding me back far more than the numbers I see on the scale. It’s not fair for me to decide that someone who enjoys Crossfit wouldn’t also be down to hibernate with me and watch RuPaul’s Drag Race or share my deep love of mozzarella. I need to respect how we all genuinely find different attributes attractive and how the outcome of that really can be as positive for me as it would be for someone half my size. I’m learning to risk rejection on the road to affection with a resilience that’s not attached to someone else’s opinion, but I’m also determined not to stand in my own way.

    In my scarred but hopeful heart, I know I need to trust others as much as I have grown to trust myself. Are some people cruel when it comes to criticizing size? Yes. It makes dating really hard for people like me, and it hurts each time. But just as the shapes of our bodies are beautifully diverse, our minds are all wonderfully different, too. I believe I deserve fun, respect and compassion, and to paraphrase Gloria Gaynor: As long as I know how to love, I know I'll survive dating. In this spirit, I shared a bottle of Prosecco with friends before replying to the offer to reschedule that date with a big, fat yes.

    By Jen Kettle

    Illustration by Shanu Walpita

    Jen Kettle is a writer and editor living in London. Currently the Lead Sub Editor at trend forecasting company WGSN, Jen has also edited magazines focused on fashion and weddings. She is an advocate of plus-size beauty and self love to promote greater equality and diversity. Jen is now working on a project focused on film and fashion. Follow her on Instagram or on Twitter.

     

    Shanu Walpita is a London-based trend forecaster and editor with a not-so-secret illustration side-hustle. She's been drawing for as long as she can remember, often lost in a haze of lines and quirky characters. Her illustrations and GIFs have caught the eye of retailers, brands and agencies over the years, sparking unexpected collaborations and commissions. She doesn't put too much thought into her doodles, mostly treating them as a form of escapism and freestyle storytelling. You can check out more of her stuff on Instagram.

    Published January 29, 2018

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    When in search of that perfect swimsuit, whether aimlessly scrolling through your feed or on a serious Interweb-hunt, this question may pop into your head: “But how would I look in that?” Because of the body images society has carved out for us, we can often feel discouraged from browsing through the intimates section, especially if we don’t identify with the (often photoshopped) bodies featured. But thanks to companies rebranding their campaigns, these societal standards are being reshaped for everybody and every body.

    “It’s our goal to take the stress out of swimsuit season and bring joy back to the beach by providing something for every Target guest,” Target’s press release. The size range goes from XS to 3X, or size 0-26, and the price ranges from $14.99-$49.99, with most items under $24.99.  

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    But it’s not Target’s first rodeo; this will be the second year of Photoshop-free advertising for the bullseye boutique, featuring women of different sizes and races showing off a variety of bright and fun suit-styles.

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    In a press release, Target stated: “To show off the new styles you’ll see bright, vibrant images throughout our marketing campaign—all meant to inspire guests to have fun while rocking their favorite swimsuit. Something you won’t see? Reshaping or airbrushing. Building on the strong foundation we set with last year’s campaign, we’re celebrating women and encouraging them to embrace the beauty of their own bodies.”

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    With more advertising campaigns choosing the unretouched route, as well as featuring a wide range of models, real life is finally being reflected in fashion, and we are so riding the high wave. 

    images via Target

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