In light of the heightened violence against Black folks worldwide, it’s imperative that we remember that when we talk about body positivity, fat positivity and the movement to end body shame, that Black Lives Matter is inherently a body positivity movement. Our fight to be humanized, end white supremacist violence, protect our bodies, our children, our families, our people, is a body positive movement.
There seems to be some confusion around what body positivity actually means and how it must operate as a movement to incite change. Many body-positive/plus-size centered organizations, businesses and body-positive bloggers have yet to make statements around the visibility of the violence happening to Black folks worldwide. If you have yet to say #BlackLivesMatter on any of your social media accounts or made a valid effort in pushing the narrative that the world we live in must change to fulfill the hopes of body positivity, then you’re not actually body positive and you don’t care about the violence against Black people.
The body positivity movement is largely based in intersectional feminism and encourages the end to body shame, beauty standards and violence against all bodies. The subsector movements within it include fat positivity to empower and protect fat bodies, disability empowerment and justice, empowerment and protection of trans and gender-nonconforming bodies, reproductive justice, an end to colorism and empowerment of dark-skin bodies, the empowerment and protection of non-straight-identifying folks AND an overall end to anti-blackness. There is no body positivity without focusing on how antiblackness operates, how white supremacist patriarchy harms everyone and how #BlackLivesMatter must always be a part of the conversation.
The way body positivity is set up, and the way consumerism around fat bodies is set up, there is a capitalistic gain on fat bodies — especially Black fat bodies — not having access to clothes that fit us, being denied access to jobs and opportunities, scapegoating Black “obesity” and “welfare queens” as a the downfall of society, being harmed by antiblackness in very specific, targeted ways and being denied overall humanity and visibility. The more we struggle as Black fat folks, especially Black fat women and femmes, everyone who is not us is protected and has more access to resources denied to us. This becomes even more stringent and complex when we incorporate colorism, disability, levels of socioeconomic background, geography, gender and sexuality.
We live in a world where anti-blackness, rape culture, body terrorism, beauty standard hierarchies and white supremacist patriarchy operate together to destroy consent and humanity to deviant bodies in any capacity. These sociopolitical contexts shape an environment in which deviancy in beauty and humanity — all black bodies — fat, disabled, dark-skin, gender-nonconforming, trans, undocumented, poor, etc. — allows for the violent mindset that those bodies should be publicly and privately mocked, interrogated to the point of physical assault, stared at and investigated and sexually assaulted because they’re not seen as human, and also murdered. If we are not fitting within society’s beauty and humanity standards, we don’t count as people; we are pieces of property in white supremacist patriarchy. Being black in any capacity puts us in danger.
While many of the most popular plus-size/body-positive bloggers are Black, it still changes none of the approach, politicization, or marketing used within the plus-size/fat acceptance industry. There is a silence so loud in our community — everyday, black fat bodies are reminded that we only mean something when we can financially enhance or support white industries/industry leaders. Do our lives really matter? Or do Black fat folks only matter when we’re able to perform capitalism for businesses trying to sell overpriced clothing? Does anyone worry about how we’re navigating the psychological and physical violence in surviving being Black fat women or femmes? Do you ever wonder how we’re surviving the constant trauma of Black people being murdered everyday?
A plus-size apparel store named Lola Getts made a post about a month ago on their page saying, “All Lives Matter, Even Curvy Girls.” After being dragged, they deleted the post. But this alone speaks volumes to how intersectionality and inclusivity is lost when it comes to violence against Black bodies. The casual usage of “All Lives Matter” is disgusting, but also telling that they probably don’t have too many Black people working at that company while they’re still hoping for the endorsement and praise of numerous fat Black bloggers.
But regardless of if a company or a blogger says #AllLivesMatter or not, your silence is your acknowledgment that you don’t believe Black lives matter nor do you care about ending the violence of antiblackness. If plus-size/body-positive companies and non-Black bloggers are unwilling to acknowledge the violence against Black folks and proclaim that #BlackLivesMatter — there is no choice but to protest and drag each and every one of you. There is no body positivity without Black lives mattering. There is no conversation around the protection, safety, and uplifting of anyone’s bodies if the conversation doesn’t incorporate the constant and hypervisible antiblack violence that harms Black people worldwide.
Ashleigh Shackelford is a queer, agender, Black fat femme writer, artist and cultural producer. As a contributing writer at Wear Your Voice, Ashleigh covers the intersections of race politics and body positivtiy, LGBTQ issues, Entertainment and Feminism. Ashleigh is also a contributor at For Harriet and the creator of Free Figure Revolution, a body positivity organization. She is currently working on her M.A. in Africana Studies at Morgan State University.