When you think about feminist, body positive voices in mainstream media, who comes to mind? A number of personalities, including actress Amy Schumer and curvy models like Ashley Graham and Tess Holliday routinely chime in on self love, security, and body image. While there's no denying that they're reliable voices in feminist and body positive conversations, hearing from the same people over and over again can make it feel like the people who preach the fundamental concepts of body positivity and feminism are spinning their wheels.
It occurred to me recently that plenty of people out there are plugging away at their own important work. The only difference is that because of their smaller platform, they're not as well known within the communities that they serve (not to mention the world at large). These artists, writers, photographers, and activists don't necessarily make headlines, but each has their own compelling, insightful thoughts and ideas to express.
In the spirit of the new year being just around the corner, it seems appropriate to shout-out some of the most poignant and compelling voices in the feminist and body positive communities that are lesser known. While it's great to see body positive influencers in the mainstream media, it's also important to show some serious love to those badass folks who are putting in the unsung work. Heading into 2016, you're definitely going to want to follow these inspiring people.
If you're not following UK fashion blogger Stephanie Yeboah for her amazing style, definitely keep her on your list of body positive, inspiring people to learn from. Yeboah provides her followers with some serious insight, both on fierce fashion and on unapologetic self-love.
2. @DomClark And @MellyEmClark
This soon-to-be husband and wife duo (who happen to share the same last name already) each have their own tap into the body positive community, with unique insights into why body positivity and acceptance are important. For Dom Clark, it's all about showing people that fashionable, plus size men have a space in the community as well.
"I always feel the need the remind people that the clothes I wear and the attitudes I have are coming from a plus guy, so people realize it's OK to be fat (or any shape for that matter)," Dom tells me in an email. "We need as many role models of as many different body types, ethnicities, abilities, and genders as we can and not mention every facet of the LGBT+ folks! Everyone can represent their communities in a positive way, and while I maybe represent a small portion, the important thing is that I'm representing."
Additionally, Melly Em Clark approaches body positivity through her artwork. "Every day we see images and visuals of how we are expected to look and behave," she tells me. "I adore that the body positive movement is tackling these expectations face-on! As an artist, I aim to create work that spreads a positive message of self love, empowerment, and confidence, inspired by the wonderful and kick ass folk of this community."
Marquita has a unique, rad aesthetic, and plenty of feminist insight to match. Her Instagram feed is entertaining and educational, and her voice is an important one in the intersectional feminist conversation.
Rachele Cateyes is a fat positive artist who turns body positive messaging into twee, delightful works of art. Her projects have helped her cultivate a sizable following, and she's definitely one to watch in 2016.
Ariel of @kiddotrue is a fat positive WOC who spends as much time tweeting about plus size fashion as she does about fat politics and feminism. If you're new to body positivity and want an uncensored and thoughtful primer to the movement and its issues, follow Woodson on Twitter as fast as you can.
Ushshi Rahman's voice in the body positive community is thoughtful and cerebral, and her words have staying power. She's unafraid of exploring the politics of fashion (and fatshion) and the subversive powers of breaking the sartorial and aesthetic norm. Here's an incredible excerpt from Dress Carcass, her new blog about fat fashion and dressing for yourself.
"I still unabashedly love 17 variations of black and I will gladly live in the color now that I have unburdened the fucked up messages of it being inherently slimming. See, I don’t feel hidden in black. Quite the opposite. I feel like a large mass with my own gravity pull, taking up as much space as I contain, and no less menacing. I feel solid, immovable. I have more freedom to play with textures, fabrics, details, and drapery when I wear all black — what would be a whisper in another colorful outfit seems a thunderous boom in monotone and negative space. This right here: It is what I feel most at home and myself in."
7. @YuliScheidt And @AmaScriver
Yuli Scheidt and Ama Scriver are two fearless Canadian fat babes who are friends IRL, and they're also collaborators. The pair was instrumental in starting the now-retired (but still chockfull of amazing archives) Fat Girl Food Squad, and their work (Scheidt is a photographer, and Scriver is a writer) got them featured in Toronto's Now Magazine as the badass cover girls in the Love Your Body issue. The pair is all about shedding light on the "intersection between food, fat, and feminism," and doing so in a way that is relatable yet memorable.
8. Suma Jane Dark
Suma Jane Dark is a photographer and artist whose work revolves around feminist, anti-capitalist ideas. Her images aim to deconstruct and disregard the male gaze, and her goal is to shine light on marginalized identities who are so often overlooked in mainstream media.
Lauren is a self-described self love advocate whose thoughtful, incessant positivity on Instagram has amassed her a loyal following. On her blog and social media, she approaches body positivity from a relatable, judgement-free place, and her images are an honest and beautiful homage to living in a plus size body.
Sam Dylan Finch is a transgender, feminist writer from San Francisco whose work has done great things for the queer community, including tackling the need for more queer inclusivity in body acceptance conversations. Finch is staff writer and associate editor at Ravishly, and pens relatable, poignant content on the business of being trans, including a recent essay entitled "I'm Transgender, And I Need Body Positivity Too." Here's an excerpt:
"Fat folks, disabled folks, people of color, transgender people, and every intersection in-between — there is a place for you in this movement. And I’m calling on you, body positive advocates, to not just make space for trans people, but to include us, too. We need your hashtags, your affirmations, your shameless stretch mark pictures, your inspirational quotes, your fatkinis, and your crop tops, and all of the validation that comes with it."
Jones is an award-winning photographer and one of the most active, long-lasting voices in the body positive movement. She runs The Adipositivity Project, where she shares her fat positive photography, and each year she releases the corresponding Adipositivity Calendar that contains breathtaking images of fat humans in powerful poses. Jones' work centers on helping people love and respect their bodies, and assisting them in rediscovering the pleasure that comes with living inside of a fat body.
Tiffany is a feminist who practices and preaches unapologetic radical self-love. She frequently shares images of her fat body, as well as portraits of herself with facial hair. Her unique perspective on femininity and self-acceptance is incredibly frank and earnest — the kind of stuff that keeps you thinking, long after you've read the words.
This artist's style and fashion sensibility are a force to be reckoned with, and she dresses her body with an unapologetic nod to fatness. If you're looking for some chic fat girl realness, Holy Sugar is a definite must-follow.
I came across Frances Cannon's account by accident, but it's now one of my favorites to look to for body positive, inspiring work. Cannon is an artist, and her drawings of the female body are earnest and charming.
"Body positivity is an important aspect of my work," Cannon tells me in an email. "I've always been an artist, but only in the last couple of years did I start being interested in body positive artwork. I reached a point in my life when I was tired of it being 'normal' for girls to self-loath and hate their bodies so I began to draw in response to that. I draw things based on my own life and experiences and from my own perspective. My drawings cover topics such as bodies, sex, menstruation, love, relationships, emotions."
If you're looking for an endless feed of unconventional fat bodies to draw inspiration from, following @FatAndFlawless on Twitter is an absolute must. The account features dozens of incredible fat women, particularly WOC, and also features a #FatBeautyOfTheDay.
As we approach a new year, let's remember to take the time to support and shout-out the lesser-known but no less poignant voices in this diverse, intersectional community.
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Image: Suma Jane Dark/Model DieAna Dae (1)