Body acceptance, the "right" kind of fat and fronting a "body positive" brand in 2022.
When I launched my Kickstarter back in 2018, I brandished the term; “Body Positivity” all over the campaign. It just sounded like a movement I’d be on board with. I had my first taste of backlash, when a BBW group took offence at the way I was using the term. I had an inbox full of people telling me in various forms from nice to nasty; that I was a thin woman making a mockery of fat people. At the time, I was affronted but in retrospect it made me stop and have a good, hard think – What exactly did I mean when I said I was launching a body/sex positive brand?
Guilty, as charged; Bodies are complex and there’s nothing cool about casual hashtag politics.
Unsurprisingly, my reasons are personal. I was riled at the trite aesthetic of luxury sex. I’m not afraid to say I actively don’t want to stock with Coco der Mer, for example – They really bother me. From the very moment I walked in there I felt angry. To me, they epitomise the internalised male gaze, obsess over aloofness and hero the nubile form in various shades of black lace. It’s almost as though “to want sex” is to be undeserving of it. A totally disempowered vision of sexuality.
The reason it tapped a nerve is bound up in my own body image. Without wanted to sound like a sob story. I was one of those kids who got the shit beaten out of me for being fat at primary school (I mean fat and Ffion both begin with the letter F, so duh!) I was, however, a seriously annoying kid and so the fact I was also fat was just the lowest hanging fruit in the arsenal.
The house I grew up in is full of hilarious diet books, Hypnotist Paul Mckenna’s “I can make you thin” being my favourite example. I think most people with a mother who’s hayday was the 80s are accosted with the remnants of some inherited Baywatch trauma but the gulf between the diet books and my mum’s local reputation as cake-baker-extraordinaire was enormous. (Sorry mum! I hope you win Bake off one day!) I say this lightly because I don’t want to make it sound like a full-on food fight but my parents cataclysmic divorce was kinda foodcentric. The two of them fell out over a pink kitchen mixer then had a legal battle over it for 8 years. Mealtimes were emosh.
I was taking the tube home from school one day and I noticed my schoolskirt was getting too tight across the hips – As I reached to pull it down to my knees, two old dears, wearing pastel twin sets and pearls with scarily birdlike bone structure began talking about me, in front of me.
“Young girls, really do have very maternal figures nowadays don’t they?! Said one to the other. “Those child-bearing hips. They look like teen mums.”
I was so embarrassed, I looked at my feet for the rest of the journey home.
Then, I developed these enormous tits when I was literally like 11, which I just hated. I don’t mean like the cool kids that wore padded bras, I mean I’d be mistaken for someone decades older than me from the back. It didn’t help that I followed fashion advice on how to dress slimmer from Lorraine on This-Morning. I had a thing for floor-length corduroy skirts (?)
However, my teeny-bopper DDs made me look older than the other girls. They became really useful for getting us into bars and clubs. So, I spent most of my teen social life chatting up older men who didn’t make me feel like some kind of freak. My mum would send me into the fish’n’chip shop instead of my sister because the nice men behind the counter would give me an extra-large portion if I flashed’em a bit of cleavage. Top tip for you.
There were several takeaways from this (not just the chips - lol) The first being that when you’re smiley and have big boobs no one takes you seriously. Everything you do or say is inappropriate. Everyone assumes you’re up for it and thus; You have to choose a stereotype to work with fast, or fade into obscurity:
A) Large and in charge (She takes up space at the protest!)
B) Mother Hen (She’s the one who takes a bag to the club)
C) Tavern Wench (She offers up fries with that shake)
D) D.U.F.F. (designated ugly fat friend - Both bodyguard and confidante - Ya girl’s got you covered)
True to form I feel like I’m a bit of A,B,C and D. Lovestories and romance, were for my waify best friend. Whereas, I was more likely to offer out oral sex at bus stops and I did. I don’t find this regrettable; I turned it into a goddamn art-form and I still do. I knew I was a bit of a slut but I didn’t know how much I was naturally like that and to what extent I was conforming to the expectation.
Ok, that was little me. Then, my first proper boyfriend, when I was 18, went on to say he found my body “disgusting”. I decided to punish him in the only way my vindicated lady-heart knew how; by DIETING. I got really thin, and boy did he know about it. I know this doesn’t sound like an effective form of punishment but I’d sit opposite him in a restaurant and refuse to eat: I very much made my diet, his problem. I knew it had gotten good when I went jeans shopping in Primark and someone called me a Skinny Bitch. I was ecstatic. Bye bye boyfriend! (Bless his heart, I won’t hear a word against him but he did say some pretty dumb things)
Pretty people think the world is a fairer place and now I knew why. Men would carry my bags back from the supermarket just because! The attention was overwhelming but it wasn’t like my extra-large-portion-of-chips attention it was like; “tell me about yourself, you seem interesting” attention. Across the board strangers were nicer.
Problem was, all I ever talked about were calories. My mum and sister sat me down to say I’d lost my personality and indeed having kept it tucked up in my tits until that point. I concur – I had become boring. I’d never wanted to be “a nice normal girl” but suddenly I wanted to grow my hair out natural and wear chinos. Thank-goodness, I gradually thickened out and my personality bounced back too.
All of this! all of this and I suddenly find myself looking at an inbox full of angry messages telling me I hate fat people. But maybe in some ways they had a point. It seems completely hollow to use the term body positivity when I’m a midsized, able-bodied white woman and I don’t love my body. It’s a bit flippant for me to go in at the deep end claiming I’m BOPO when if I could have metamorphised into the body of a Parisienne fashion blogger I would have snapped it up in a second.
Nowadays, I’m not fussed. I’m the same size I’ve always been - maybe I’ve reached the acceptance stage. But, I still feel angry every time I see underwear models reclining on a chaise longue, because I know how much time my teenage self would hanker after those unrealistic images. In writing this post, which has been very cathartic for me, thank you very much, I’ve realised that nearly all of the issues I’ve described are a cause of being “The right kind of fat”. Tits, Lips and Hips. The kind of fat that sexualised me at a young age also plays into the feminine fantasy of what a woman is supposed to be and it’s not surprising that I’ve grown into my body because I’m conforming more as a woman than I did as a young girl. I feel this kind of acceptance is at the centre of Fine Bone somewhere… and without wanting to sound cheesy I still feel that my mission in some way is to free body image from being so bound up in our sexual worth.