A lesson in backhanded compliments.
(@sarahbahbah / Instagram)
Have you guys seen the video? You know the one. Sienna Mae Gomez recently went viral on TikTok for posting a series of videos showing off her tummy rolls while imitating a squirrel. She’s getting all the hype for proving that girls with soft bellies can be beautiful, too. Wow, who knew?
Hear me out. I celebrate all bodies, always. I love to see positive content reign on an app with so much influence. However, as a woman who’s been a size 12 my entire life, I can’t help but notice that I’m the cutoff for actual representation. Why do we still deny plus-sized women virality? As a society, we’ve always been guilty of turning women’s bodies into trends, but in a period of excessive ‘positivity’, it can be hard to see how we’re still failing.
Take Rebel Wilson, for example. She’s always been applauded for fulfilling the trope of the funny fat girl. But when photos of her weight loss hit the internet, people couldn’t shut up about how the transformation unveiled her as a now objectively attractive person. Fat women are only valid when they bring something to the table. The obesity stigma is put to the side as long as they’re talented or laughable.
While we’re on the subject of the inconsistent requirements for fame and validation regarding size, remember the strawberry dress? Tess Holiday wore the stunning piece before it’s internet reputation. Unlike the adoration for the pink dream on Twitter, Holiday was actually featured in an article's worst-dressed list for the Grammy’s. Makes you think. Maybe the judgment wasn’t really about the outfit itself, but the individual modeling it?
It’s not to say that fat women never get the hype. They go viral all the time. But it’s never without glaringly obvious backhanded compliments in the comment section.
“You’re so brave!” “I wish I had your confidence.”
Ladies. These are not nice comments. They make a mockery of genuine flattery. It implies that the very existence of a plus-sized woman is a bold and courageous act.
This is a tricky topic with body image being such a personal struggle and journey. Invalidating someone’s insecurities is the last thing I want to do. All women are being held to an unattainable standard that affects the entire spectrum in different ways. But there’s something undeniably more difficult about being a bigger girl living in a country conditioning us to believe that we’re undesirable. When I saw Lizzo’s recent spotlight in Vogue, she articulated exactly how the body positivity movement isn’t all that positive. Truthfully, there are counterproductive elements.
Speaking on the issue, Lizzo explained that, “It’s commercialized. Now, you look at the hashtag ‘body-positive,’ and you see smaller-framed girls, curvier girls. Lotta white girls. And I feel no way about that because inclusivity is what my message is always about. I’m glad that this conversation is being included in the mainstream narrative. What I don’t like is how the people that this term was created for are not benefiting from it.”
When body positivity hit mainstream media, I was here for it. But it has since turned into a marketing scheme, a way to body check yourself online, and essentially a movement that doesn’t even focus on the women it was intended to uplift. We’ve moved past the need for fluffy positivity. I want to see a size- 18 woman running the conversation. But more importantly, I want to see body neutrality.
Madeline Murphy is an Online Writer at Rowdy Magazine. She’s currently studying Journalism with a minor in Women’s Studies. Madeline can be found making Apple Music playlists, trying Nigella Lawson recipes and binging SATC. She’s fiercely passionate about social justice and the power of words. Her Instagram is @maduhlinemurphy