In recent years, there has been a growing movement advocating for fat liberation and body positivity, challenging societal norms and promoting the acceptance of diverse body sizes. One crucial aspect of this movement is the call for inclusive representation in media, challenging the traditional beauty standards that have perpetuated narrow ideals of attractiveness. In this blog, we’ll explore the significance of fat liberation and the importance of diverse body sizes in media.
Breaking the Mold: Challenging Beauty Standards
For far too long, media representations have perpetuated a limited and unrealistic portrayal of beauty, often excluding individuals with larger body sizes, of different races, and abilities. Fat liberation seeks to challenge these norms, emphasizing that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
Diverse body representation in media helps break down stereotypes and fosters a more inclusive understanding of what it means to be attractive. Celebrities like Melissa McCarthy, Queen Latifah, Mary Lambert, and Ashley Nell Tipton, among others are paving the way for body positivity and fat acceptance in the world of television, movies, music, and fashion.
Shows and movies like Good Girls, Derry Girls, Our Flag Means Death, and Shrill have fat characters in lead and side roles where they are allowed to be full people.
They aren’t the butt of a joke and their weight is not a flaw. They have flaws, of course, but it’s not because of their fatness.
We don’t know as many fat positive characters in kids shows, if you know of any good ones, add them in our comments!
Authenticity and Relatability: Sharing Diverse Stories
Media plays a powerful role in shaping societal perceptions. By showcasing diverse body sizes, media contributes to a more authentic and relatable narrative.
Individuals of all sizes deserve to see themselves represented in various roles and stories, fostering a sense of inclusivity and validating their experiences.
The show This Is Us featured a lead female character experiencing the hardships of a fat pregnancy and navigating their post-partum journey.
It’s important that the media stray from the overplayed trope of using fat people as a punchline for jokes, and create more real story-lines and depth for those characters.
Promoting Mental Health: Impact on Self-Esteem
Limited representation in media can contribute to low self-esteem and body image issues, particularly among individuals with larger bodies.
Diverse representation helps challenge harmful stereotypes, fostering a positive self-image and promoting mental well-being.
When you are constantly bombarded by society that the way you look determines your self worth, it takes a significant toll on your mental health.
Especially for young people, seeing images of people with larger bodies similar to their own, may help decrease the prevalence of disordered eating, boost self confidence, and contribute to an overall improvement in their general health.
If they aren’t fat themselves, it can also give them exposure to all the body types that exist and help create an understanding that different bodies can be beautiful, successful, and worthy of care.
Cultural and Global Perspectives: A Mosaic of Beauty
Beauty standards vary across cultures and regions, and embracing diverse body sizes in media acknowledges the richness of these differences.
Representing a spectrum of body sizes helps create a more globalized and inclusive perspective on beauty. Many cultures outside of the USA embrace fat bodies.
In places like Fiji or Jamaica, fatness is seen as a symbol of health, connectedness, and attractiveness (source). Many women have high satisfaction with their weight and some even desire to gain weight.
Understanding that our western vision of beauty is one limited scope of what beauty can be, can help contextualize that people see beauty differently.
If you aren’t to the point of seeing beauty in yourself, try to see yourself neutrally. You don’t need to be beautiful to exist in this world and deserve respect and kindness regardless.
Impact On Children:
Children are very impressionable by the media around them. When we only show them one example of what an ideal body is, they will believe it.
Exposure to different people- different body sizes, races, abilities, sexualities, etc. gives them different versions of what bodies can look like and hopefully also allows them to appreciate their own body.
This is why it’s also so important that when there are a variety of bodies in media that they don’t just have the fat character as the trope, but that they are allowed to have story-lines beyond the funny best friend.
We can create an alternative vision for our children, better than the ones that we grew up with. We can create a vision that is inclusive to all body types, abilities, and races.
The call for diverse body representation is not just a personal desire; it’s a collective movement advocating for societal change. Media has the power to be a catalyst for this change by amplifying voices and stories that challenge existing norms.
Fat liberation and the push for diverse body representation in media are integral components of a broader movement toward body positivity and acceptance. By recognizing and celebrating the beauty of all body sizes, media can contribute to a more inclusive and compassionate society that values authenticity, relatability, and the diverse stories that make up the fabric of our collective human experience.