When it comes to hashtag campaigns, the point is, more often than not, to spread celebration and positivity. This isn't a negative, per se. But in my opinion, a hashtag can be used for so much more: Critiquing rather than celebrating, for instance, as demonstrated by the #BodyPositiveBut hashtag on Twitter. Launching on July 5, #BodyPositiveBut caused many members of the body positive and fat activism movements alike to speak out about those who have appropriated the term "body positivity" for reasons that no longer aim to fight for the more marginalized among us.
Started by Janie Rotten (@DreddByDawn) on the social media platform, the conversation was one that wasn't necessarily meant to spark a mass debate; but, thankfully, it did anyway. Rotten took to Twitter to vocalize some complaints regarding "how [social justice warrior] Twitter continually fails fat people, but especially fat women." The people she was calling out were those who label themselves "body positive," but don't necessarily adhere to the basic terms of what body positivism is meant to be about.
After this, Rotten launched a series of tweets beginning with the hashtag #BodyPositiveBut to discuss the misuse of the term on Twitter and beyond, shedding unapologetic light on those who "call trolls 'fat' as an insult" or "derail conversations about fatphobia." Although this conversation was initiated to discuss those misusing the term body positive on Twitter, the debate quickly spread to encompass everyone and anyone who uses the buzzword without upholding its principal values: All bodies are good bodies, perhaps, but not all bodies are subject to institutionalized and rampant discrimination for the way they look.
From Rotten's tweets, the hashtag went viral, with a ton of members of the body positive Twitter community using the #BodyPositiveBut moniker to address issues both within the movement and outside of it. Body positivity is a buzzword in 2016 — undoubtedly more popular than ever. But because of this, many argue that the powerful, political message has been diluted.
The examples offered via these tweets only further bolster the argument: To put it simply, there remains so much left to be done in the name of body positivism. Maybe the term "body positivity" needs to be reclaimed and returned to its radical roots, so that fat feminists aren't left out of the conversation that they arguably started.
From one woman asking her community to recognize the misuse of the body positive label by those who don't seem to care about what that term means, an important discussion was launched in cyberspace. In the time since — as Twitter accounts are still engaging with #BodyPositiveBut 24 hours later — the debate has led to one that encompasses almost everything that body positivity was before it was co-opted by clothing brands or straight size celebrities.
Through social media and beyond, we can hopefully continue to have discussions regarding where body positivity is headed, what body positivity means, and how body positivity needs to change if it's going to mean anything at all. This ~movement~ is about so much more than including one plus size model in a clothing campaign. It's about so much more than finding love in yourself.
Instead of looking simply to change how we view ourselves individual to individual, we should be deconstructing hierarchies; not just in fashion, but in a society that continues to hurt fat, queer, differently-abled, non-white people in the day to day.
Image: Courtesy Alysse Dalessandro