#Fatkini Makes Waves for Body Positivity on Social Media

As a fat woman, I often struggle to love my body and find clothes that I feel look good on it. This is especially true when it comes to swimsuits. In fact, I was so ashamed of my body that I didn’t wear a swimsuit for about ten years. Only recently have I been coming around and starting to learn to love my fat and wear the clothes that I want to in public. The one thing I’m still struggling with more than anything else is swimsuits, and specifically bikinis. I know that I’m not alone in this, but thanks to social media, all I have to do is take a look at my phone and be inspired to confidently step out wearing whatever I want.

Over at Colorlines, writer Miriam Zoila Pérez took a look at the trend of body-and fat-positive instagram, tumblr and twitter users taking to social media and showing off their bodies in their #fatkinis (a portmanteau of fat and bikini). I straight up love this hashtag and this article. For such a long time the two piece swimsuit belonged squarely to decidedly non-fat people. As the popularity of this hashtag shows, this is all changing. Especially when it comes to people who are bigger than your usual “plus-size” role model.

A #fatkini user via tumblr

A #fatkini user via tumblr

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my chubby sisters, and I’m not minimizing the pressure you feel to have the perfect body, but it can get damn depressing when so much body positivity is focused on girls and women who aren’t even a size ten. There seems to be this thing where people who are a little curvy or a little overweight or a little chubby, but still very much conventionally attractive, have become the face of the body positivity movement. Yes, it’s great for people who look like Meghan Trainor to know that even though society and culture tell them they’re not skinny enough they’re still beautiful. But what about those of us who are twice her size and don’t have “all the right junk in all the right places?”

Women who are a size 20 (and bigger), women who have a Visible Belly Outline, women with small butts and breasts but big thighs and bellies are often intentionally ignored when it comes to picking out faces of the body positive, and even fat positive movement. Because of that, when I look at things that are supposed to be telling me I’m beautiful no matter what size I am, I often just feel left out. That’s what I love about #fatkini. In these women’s bodies I can see myself. I also love that so many of them are calling themselves fat, which at least for me, is such a freeing thing. When we move away from “you’re not fat, you’re beautiful” and into “you’re fat and beautiful,” that’s when you know that we’re starting to win battles.

via gabifresh.com

Gabi Gregg and friends via gabifresh.com

Pérez points out that many of the leaders and participants in this #fatkini movement are people of color, and that this isn’t something that happened by accident. In her piece, Pérez quotes Laura Luna P, a “queer fat Xicana femme, vintage purveyor, stylist and community builder,” as saying that “as a woman of color I always try to take up space, it’s kind of self-preservation. You want to make yourself seen. By accepting my fatness, that’s part of it.” In fact, one of the early leaders in the proud #fatkini movement was fashion blogger Gabi Gregg, aka Gabi Fresh, who back in 2012 posted pictures of herself in a black and white swimsuit and encouraged others to post pictures in their own fatkinis.

I also love that this movement is taking place on the beach. What place is more public? What place is more connected with looking the right way? Having to look skinny enough to meet the beach’s standards is an idea so entrenched into our society’s mind that we even have a term for it — beach body. And if you don’t have the perfect beach body, which is defined as looking like a model’s then you better not show up. Now, the beach belongs to everyone.

Little City "Big" Fashion blogger Tiffany Todd showing off her Forever 21 fatkini via littlecitybigfashion

Little City “Big” Fashion blogger Tiffany Todd showing off her Forever 21 fatkini via littlecitybigfashion

Pérez also mentions Forever 21‘s addition of a variety of plus-size bikinis as a reason for more people confidently going out to the beach or the pool. When larger retailers like this start to make two-piece swimsuits for fat people, you know that things are changing. I honestly feel like for years there have been plenty of big, fat or plus-size people who would have happily worn two piece swimsuits, they just couldn’t find affordable ones. Gabi Fresh also recently teamed up with swimsuitsforall to create a line of swimsuits, ensuring that there are even more fatkini options for the masses.

For a long, long time I’ve wished that I had the confidence to hang out at beaches and pools, and I think that after looking through all the amazingly fashionable and self-assured people absolutely rocking their bikinis, I actually will. When there are so many people who look like me standing up and showing off their bodies and they sense of style in such a public forum, I can’t help but be inspired. This is definitely the kind of body positive movement I can get behind.


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Mey Valdivia Rude is a bisexual Latina trans woman living in Los Angeles. She's a writer, comic consultant and a trans activist. She's a bruja, a femme, a pop princess and she loves comic books, witches, dinosaurs and crying. She has a cat named Sawyer and a very successful twitter.

Mey has written 488 articles for us.

18 Comments

  1. 0

    The range of bodies represented on this site has helped me actually internalize the body-love I’d paid lip service to for a long time. Articles like this, and especially seeing larger bodies in beautiful NSFW Sunday posts, have seriously been transformed my love and appreciation for other bodies and my own body.

  2. 0

    Just an observation from a MoC, size 16 genderqueer:

    Like everyone else raised with a TV, I, too, have internalized the message that skinny = better and have hated my body for it and felt guilty for my attractions, which have discriminated against plus-sized women. It’s only over the last few years that I’ve developed a feminist consciousness that has begun actively fighting that message (THANK YOU, AUTOSTRADDLE) and I’ve seen some larger women whom I’ve genuinely thought were gorgeous.

    My biggest hang-up with the movement – or maybe just my own psychology – is that these gorgeous, overweight women tend to almost always be “high femme.”

    And I am most definitely not anywhere near high femme…

    So while seeing these gorgeous ladies IS affecting what physical attributes I find sexy in potential romantic partners, it’s still doing very little to overcome the hate and shame I have for my own flabby, masculine-but-not body.

  3. 0

    My guess is that they’re hesitant to use models/people who fall into the obese-morbidly obese BMI range for body positivity campaigns cause it’s not a positive healthy weight to be in. Meghan Trainor represents plenty of healthy people who are being told they’re not perfect, but there is nothing about her size that is inherently unhealthy (I understand thinness does not equal health). I feel like the whole point of the movement is to get away from unrealistic unhealthy, often underweight, standards of beauty and expecting everyone to look the same. I would want kids to see a healthy range of bodies, and not succumb to eating disorders and low body image. I don’t think that’s same as saying every weight is healthy. You can be under and overweight. I know some people like to sat “healthy at any weight,” but that’s just not true. I do think you have to feel good about yourself before any positive change can happen, whether that is physical or emotional change. We’re in an obesity epidemic and weight related illness is on the rise. I don’t think it’s something to ignore.

    • 0

      If i may, I would like to comment/expand on this.

      I think advertising agencies try to show their product/service using healthy/ good looking people. We are wired to like looking at people who are healthy looking.

      I guess someone could ask “then why are a lot of models underweight and unrealistic”. There are a lot of things that contributed to these trends, but here are my beliefs:

      200 years ago, it was a trend to be kinda overweight, plump, (insert non-offending adjectives for a larger person here). It was considered attractive because it showed they had a good amount of food, and lived a healthy lifestyle. Food was a lot harder to come by (for obvious reasons), and it showed you were either really well off, OR worked really hard to get the food you needed. Fast forwarding to now, food is very abundant (not trying to discredit any people who don’t have enough money to buy food, therefore do not find it abundant) it actually takes a lot of self control, and in a sense work, to not become overweight. so i think that is where that train of thought comes from.

      I guess people are just attracted to others who are hard workers/ well off in life. which is what being thin can (doesn’t have to) represents now, and what being overweight represented then. I hope i made sense

    • 0

      So, yeah, being 100+ lbs overweight puts you at risk of type two diabetes and associated problems (nerve, kidney, eye damage…), cardiovascular disease, joint problems, etc. If you are unlucky in your genetics, hormones, and health history, so can being in the “normal” range. The American normal is too high for India. Weight is not as simple as all the charts would like us to believe.

      As a community, we should absolutely create default systems (transit, food distribution, recreation, housing, education, workplaces, health care facilities…) that support healthier eating, physical activity, sleeping, and mental health habits. But, individually-targeted shame and fashion constraints aren’t going to change our food system or our eating culture. Both are set up to over-ride our internal hunger/satiety cues. I expect it will be rare that an instagram swimsuit image will inspire seriously excessive ice cream and beer consumption (note I excluded the instagram food images… some of those could indeed inspire excess ice cream consumption ;-).

      Sometimes maximizing quality of life, according to the person living that life, is a perfectly reasonable goal. We should care about health because it improves quality of life rather than as the morality issue with a health veneer that weight is often coated with (cost, if we’re looking at public health). Like clothes? Like the beach? Wear your bikini at any BMI. Just remember the sunscreen, eh?

  4. 0

    I think science is starting to catch up with the idea that body diversity is more complex than the general formulas for BMI. For some people to conform to a lower BMI recommendation would actually be *less healthy* because of their particular genetics and metabolism. Same goes for people who are underweight according to charts but have a healthy amount of fat and muscle for their own genetics. BMI shouldn’t be used to judge an individual’s health without other metrics for context, like cardiovascular fitness, family history, and overall well-being.

    Regardless of whether someone in a larger or smaller size is at a healthy weight or not, we should support everyone feeling confident about their appearance in public. Fat shaming is wrong and harms ppl of all body types, whether a person is at a healthy weight or not.

  5. 0

    It is definitely true that you can be beautiful at any size: fat, skinny, disabled, tall, short, bald, black, white. And you can be unhealthy at any size as well, whether it be because you’re depressed, obese, underweight, have cancer, a cold, strep throat, or a broken toe.

    Those facts cannot really be disputed (though i am sure SOMEONE would/could find a way).

    My belief, with no experience with advertising or psychology, is that, for the most part, companies/stores/restaurant/whatever try to advertise their product/service using a person who is the ideal person (IN GENERAL) to the general demographic that they are trying to sell to.

    I dont recall seeing any sort of advertisement with an amputee; this probably is because when people see an amputee, or just anyone with a disability really, there are sad/confused/ even scared thoughts, feelings, or emotions that go along with it. You can assume these same thoughts with seeing someone who is obese, OR dramatically underweight.

    Now, with these fatkinis… though I am not a health expert, I am assuming at least one of these models IS unhealthy because of their weight. I am going to assume at least one of these models suffers from an eating disorder, depression, allergies, asthma, back pain, and/or bad breath (which, yes, can be counted as an ‘illness’). Some of these are more serious than the others, but at least one of these women suffers from at least one.

    However, you can’t always see a cold in a picture. You can’t tell if someone is suffering from depression from a picture. And you definitely can’t see bad breath from a picture. You CAN see, though, that someone is over or underweight.

    I am going to admit it now, but I don’t know if i want to see an overweight person in the advertisements I have to look at every day. But i equally don’t want to see someone (who is visibly) in the last stages of chemo. People are just wired not to like sickness, let alone like looking at it. There are just too many negative feelings involved.

    So again, with the fatkinis, I don’t think people will enjoy looking at what could be unhealthy. I AM glad, though, that these women are embracing their beauty, just as every women, every person should. This is what I believe this movement is about.

    Everyone has unhealthiness in one way or another.

    With this ‘comment’ I kinda just started ranting off. So I am going to try to bring it to a close. For me, this movement is not completely weight, but excepting yourself as who you are, WITH all your struggles/illnesses/weaknesses.

    As my personal view, I would not want these advertisements in places i go and see every day, for the reasons i had already said. BUT i do support the continuance of them for the reason of their message.

    One last thought: I do not suffer from being overweight, and so I wouldn’t know what it is like having an illness or a problem on display all the time, everywhere. And maybe my thoughts would be different if i was.

    (I hope I didn’t offend anyone)

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