Hiding their tribe to find your stride: How skinny white women hijacked the body positivity movement

body positivity movement influencer Stephanie Yeboah

The body positivity movement is an online safe space for marginalised bodies (fat, black, queer,
disabled) to be celebrated and normalised. Within a society that constantly narrows the beauty
standards to one type of femme: straight, white and slim, praising anything other than the
archetype, becomes political.

But like every part of society, whenever the narrative is challenged and those being championed
are the very people we have been conditioned to villainise, those at the top of the pile want their
privilege to remain in tact.

Cue the slim, white women.

How did it all start? A brief history

In the late 1960’s the National Association to Aid Fat Americans, now the National Association to
Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) was created. The aim was to advocate for size equality within
the clothing industry, diet culture and medical care so that fat people could be treated fairly.
The rise of the supermodel quashed this movement for some decades.

And whether this was a coincidence or a response… I’ll leave for you to decide. But by creating an even more extreme body type with the stick-thin, heroin-chic 90s era taking
over, fat acceptance was certainly not on the forefront of anyones minds.

The dawn of the internet in the early 2000’s saw the beginnings of social media, where online
worlds could be created to finally empower fat bodies. Of course, it wasn’t all sunshine and
rainbows, even safe spaces are filled with hateful comments but people were able to reach their
communities and see bodies like theirs flaunted unapologetically.

For many people, being part of the Body Positivity Movement was about celebrating their bodies
for all that it is and not demonising them for all that it was not. To smash the barriers of patriarchy
in all it’s fat-shaming, homophobic, racist and ableist ways, through reclaiming their bodies with
love and acceptance.

Pic by pic, the wall was rebuilt.

Suddenly hashtags like #AllBodiesAreBeautiful #LoveYourBody #AcceptYourBody would appear
alongside Body Positivity, where images of socially accepted bodies were making their way into
the conversation.

Slim women began to contort their bodies in unnatural positions, bending their backs to create
rolls on their flat stomachs and claim that their ‘imperfect’ bodies needed love too. And while I
agree that no one should be exempt in loving their bodies, I don’t think piggy backing on a culture
that isn’t your own for likes on the gram is a very feminist thing to do.

Why Fat Body Positivity is neccesary.

Historically ‘the black female body (in all its shapes) has been dehumanised, mammified, hyper
sexualised, and fetishised since the days of slavery, by the patriarchy and by white
society’ (Stephanie Yeboah, Fattily Ever After, p.30)
With the influx of fitness and slimness content, white slim women are becoming the oppressors,
by elbowing marginalised bodies out of their self-made safe spaces.
(If you don’t believe me, type body positivity into your social media search and see how many
slim white women you’ll see…it’s the majority)

Image credit – taken by Stephanie. instagram: @stephanieyeboah

The very real problem

Not only does this impact on the mental health of fat, Black, Queer, Disabled folks (the main
reason the movement was made) but their bodies are quite literally made invisible by social media
algorithms. For model Nyome Nicholas-Williams (@curvynyome) this is having a huge impact on
her career because her content is being deleted for ‘infringing nudity standards’, despite being
fully clothed…which basically means ‘your fatness is not welcome here’.
In an industry where social media interaction is currency, Nyome has stated that she has missed
out on campaigns or offered an income far lower than her worth because her content reach is

Nyome has shared this image with us, it’s a behind the scenes shot taken during the ‘uncensored’ project and was ironically removed from instagram for the very same thing that she campaigns for. 
Image credit – The image was taken by Jennifer McCord, the uncensored project is by Sam Dawood and Lydia Reeves. 

Acknowledging my privilege

This isn’t to say that slim women aren’t affected by diet culture too. In my teens I experimented
with various dangerous diets (laxatives, diet pills) and worked out excessively. It wasn’t until my
mid 20s that I discovered the reason my daily sit ups weren’t getting rid of my ‘muffin top’ was
because it was actually my womb I had been trying to crunch away for all of those years.
Despite my own experiences that I know are unfortunately not an anomaly, it doesn’t mean that I
get to take up space in a movement that isn’t for me.

I know that I can go into any shop and my size will be on the rack, or that I will go to the doctors
and when I complain of a health problem they won!t tell me to lose weight before taking me
seriously… but that’s the reality for the people who genuinely belong in the body positivity
And that’s without going into the micro-aggressions in social situations that must be humiliating
and soul destroying.

More than a Hashtag

I’m sure it started out innocently but that’s the thing with privilege, those with it don’t have to stop
and think about the very real struggle for those lower in the pecking order. Hashtags may seem
like a harmless hack to boost serotonin with more online engagement but it can truly impact
marginalised communities virtually, physically, financially, emotionally and mentally.
But don’t take my word for it. Here are some wonderful resources by brilliant women within the
body positivity movement that I highly recommend!


Fattily Ever After – Stephanie Yeboah
Any podcast that Stephanie is on, she speaks so eloquently about this issue (my favourite is her
interview on I_weigh with Jameela Jamil).
Hunger – Roxanne Gay
Article: Please stop using ‘you’ve lost weight’ as a compliment – Nyome Williams January 2022.

Article – From New York to Instagram: The history of the body positivity movement

This post was written by Ella Peel, Inclusion and Diversity Lead for the Celebrant Coaching and Training Academy.

One Response

  1. Sally gordon says:

    Really interesting article! Very eye opening and well written ! It’s really important that marginalised voices are heard and you have given a good example in this article of how social media, internet and societies continued bias is exacerbated ! You’ve exposed this aptly ! Well done !

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