Why I’m A Body Image Activist

By Melissa A. Fabello

Recently, my friend Laci made a video called “Why I’m a Feminist,” which listed over fifty reasons why she thinks that gender equality is a necessary endeavor. My first thought was “Hell yeah, Laci!” My second thought was “Shit, I need to make one of those.”

Because as a body image activist, I get a lot of people up in my inbox and other conversations trying to tell me and assert their notion that there are “more important things” to worry about and that of all of the feminist issues out there, this one just isn’t serious enough to make my pet cause.


So here are some reasons why I, Melissa Antoinette Fabello, am a body image activist.

Because in the US, 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime.

Because over 50% of girls admit to using unhealthy weight control behaviors – like starving, purging, excessive exercise, and laxative abuse.

Because people still “joke” by asking skinny people if they’re anorexic.

Because people still think that eating disorders are about vanity.

Because people think that binge eating disorder is about a lack of self-control.

Because people don’t even know what EDNOS or OSFED are.

Because I had a partner break up with me because I was quote-unquote “too fat” – at 5’4” and 135 pounds.

Because that same partner once asked me if I thought I looked good naked. And when I said yes, his response was “Really? You do?”

Because thinspiration exists.

Because there was a 470% increase in pro-eating disorder websites between 2006 and 2007.

Because I had a co-worker who was living on 500 calories a day, and she told me she didn’t have an eating disorder because, quote, “I eat.”

Because 3 out of 4 girls feel guilty, shameful, or depressed after just three minutes leafing through a fashion magazine.

Because 48% of girls wish they were as skinny as models.

Because 32% of them admit to starving themselves to lose weight.

Because I’ve had friends refuse significant opportunities because they don’t want people to look at them.

Because in the past month, I’ve had more than one friend call me crying over the number on the scale.

Because the diet industry is a $20-billion market.

Because 108 million people in the US are on a diet.

Because 85% of these consumers are female.

Because the average American woman is 5’4” and 165 pounds, while the average Miss America winner is 5’7” and 121 pounds.

Because fitspiration tells you to ignore your body cues in pursuit of the “perfect” body.

Because companies are co-opting the language of body-positivity a la “real” women in order to sell us products – and it’s working because the market is that desperate to have someone tell us that we’re normal.

Because the concept of a “no make-up selfie” is revolutionary.

Because 25% of 25 to 29-year-olds retouch their pictures before putting them online.

Because that number jumps to 41% for 18 to 24-year-olds.

Because now fashion magazines are Photoshopping out the skinniness of models. You just can’t win.

Because the cosmetic surgery industry is a $12-billion market.

Because there were 13.8 million cosmetic procedures performed in the US in 2011.

Because 91% of cosmetic surgical procedures are performed on women.

Because 318,123 breast augmentation surgeries were performed in 2010.

Because 4,153 of those surgeries were performed on teenagers.

Because vaginoplasty is a thing.

Because I have young people writing to me who are more willing to get cosmetic surgery to “fix” their flaws than they are to try to learn to love themselves.

Because have you ever seen a cosmetic surgery advertisement? They’re horrendous.

Because studies show that cosmetic surgery actually does raise self-esteem – which shows just how much of our self-esteem is wrapped up in our body image.

Because people who don’t meet the requirements for liposuction or gastric banding surgery will go out of their way to find a kook doctor to do it.

Because youth culture reigns supreme.

Because wrinkles, age spots, and gray hair – natural parts of the aging process – are considered ugly.

Because face lifts are a thing. And Botox.

Because ageism is largely left out of the conversation around body image.

Because 18% of adolescent boys are concerned about their weight and 6% admit to using steroids.

Because over the past three decades, men’s dissatisfaction with their bodies has increased from 15% to 43%.

Because 28-68% of college-aged men report feeling like they’re “too skinny” and want to improve their muscle mass.

Because muscle dysmorphia is a thing, and no one seems to be talking about it.

Because 30% of men are dissatisfied with their penis size.

Because 45% of men want a larger penis.

Because there is actually a market for penis enlargement services.

Because 42% of men who suffer with an eating disorder identify as gay.

Because gay men are 12 times more likely to report purging than their heterosexual counterparts.

Because when trans* folk experience body image issues, it’s dismissed as being just part of gender identity.

Because 81% of ten-year-olds are afraid of being fat.

Because “fat” is supposedly the worst thing you can be.

Because people don’t feel comfortable questioning the medical field and the “obesity epidemic,” despite the fact that there are countless studies that debunk them.

Because people actually give a shit about whether or not you’re fat – and then try to brush it off like they’re “just concerned for your health” instead of admitting that they’ve been brainwashed by society to hate fat people.

Because people actually deny that fatphobia exists!

Because a doctor is more likely to chastise you for being overweight than for being underweight, despite the fact that being underweight is just as dangerous (if not more so) than being overweight.

Because the stress of living under structures that oppress fat people is a health concern.

Because there isn’t a bit of research to show that body-shaming makes people healthier.

Because the BMI scale is complete bullshit.

Because “Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat” is the best eating disorder memoir I’ve ever read, but no one’s ever heard of it because 1) it’s about a black girl and 2) it’s about bulimia.

Because if you believed the media, only middle-class white women care about their bodies, successfully erasing everyone else’s issues with theirs.

Because skin-lightening cream exists.

Because there’s such a concept as “good hair.”

Because colorism, shadism, and the “Light Skin vs. Dark Skin” debate are a thing.

Because the “golden ratio” is sometimes applied to facial beauty, but it’s based on Ancient Greek standards.

Because the beauty standards that we, as a society, hold as ideal are Eurocentric in nature, and therefore racist.

Because I actually had to make this video.

Because I am sick and tired of people telling me that body image isn’t a “real” feminist issue.

Because I’m exhausted of people missing the link between structural control over women’s bodies and violence against women.

Because the way that we feel about ourselves is significant.

Because I want to see a future where no one has to work through this shit ever again.

Until next time…

Melissa A. Fabello is the editor of Everyday Feminism, a domestic violence prevention and sexuality educator, eating disorder and body image activist, and media literacy vlogger based out of Philadelphia. She holds a B.S. in English Education from Boston University and an M.Ed. in Human Sexuality from Widener University. She can be reached on Twitter @fyeahmfabello.

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5 thoughts on “Why I’m A Body Image Activist

  1. So much truth is spoken here, and I hope those who need to read it do (instead of only those of us who already agree with you). These unrealistic expectations you mention are so ingrained they follow us into adulthood.
    Keep fighting your noble fight!

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