‘Body positivity’ is a movement initially started to celebrate the curvier bodies, ending stigma and putting a halt to fat shaming. Over the years this has evolved to become a broader umbrella term for all things relating to the politics of our bodies; inclusive of shape, size, race, sexuality, gender, physical and mental ability. So as a size 10, white, straight (ish) female, how and why did I get involved?
I’ve always been an empathetic soul, always wanting to help others and lift them up. For years I toyed between the ideas of growing up to be a teacher or a nurse, to fulfil a career utilising that compassion. I’ve always been able to see people for their humanity and the similarities I have with them, rather than the differences. One of the earliest recollections I have of this is when a Sikh family moved to my village and in turn the children at our primary school. Now, my sleepy Cheshire village is whiter than white, very reminiscent of that in ‘Hot Fuzz’ (“the greater good”) so you can imagine the locals’ reactions to a non-white family moving in. As the only dark skinned child at our school and with a little turban, I remember all other classmates avoiding this new boy. Mutters and gossip all around about his skin, his head-wear and the ethnic food he’d been given for his packed lunch. I remember going out of my way to talk to him, helping him opening the extremely well wrapped package of food his mum had sent him with. Everyone else looking on, baffled that I was so accepting and unfazed by his appearance.
I’ve never been one to get involved in gossip, which is near impossible at the all girls high school I went to! I pride myself on being non-judgemental. When people around me have been critical of other’s appearance I’ve stayed quiet. Having been on the receiving end of affecting comments, I’ve always tried to treat others how I would want to be treated, not wanting to emulate the negative feelings that were triggered within me. Over the years I’ve been skinny shamed, I’ve been called horseface, I’ve been bullied because of my small chest, and ears that used to stick out (thankfully grown into them now!). The first year of high school I was given the nickname ‘Alien’; just a week before my first day of school I broke both of my front teeth after my face met with concrete and as a result I struggled smiling. I’ve been berated for my mental health. I’ve been over-sexualised for my (magnificent) bottom.
Fast-forward past boyfriends of old who made me feel the least attractive I’ve ever felt, past depression and anxiety that left me feeling worthless, past all the harassment and assault I faced in my previous career in hospitality and we’re nearly at present day. Finally I’ve grown some lady balls and found a voice; something to fight for and believe in. I was asked to join body politics collective ‘Free to be OK with Me’ a year ago today and it couldn’t have appeared in my life at a more poignant time. I was in a place where I wasn’t going to take any more shit off others, not afraid to stand up for what I believe in and be vocal about it. I wanted to feel ‘Free to be OK’ with that and to express me how I wanted. I was sick of people being critical and judgemental without any need and I wanted my new found lady balls to help others find theirs. Now I had a platform to be able to exercise these lady balls in the most glorious way!
Over the year, I’ve grown from being a passive member of the group to being a frequent article sharer and meeting attendee. Now, I’m an admin alongside the founder, I’m in charge of their social media outputs and I’ve created a video campaign epitomising all that ‘Free to Be OK with Me’ stands for. I’ve even had my lady bits cast for a ‘Vashrina’ project. How involved I have become, is a true testament to what an incredible community it is. Far from being JUST a Facebook group, it is working to create the change we want to see. Instead of just moaning about body politics struggles, we’re fucking things up and taking action to do something about it. Through extensive research, events, talks, projects and campaigns we’re fighting and we’re fighting hard. Not just wanting to make the community members and anyone we come into contact with feel ‘Free to be OK with me’, we’re fighting to stop these issues from continuing, from cascading down to other generations and to educate the wider world in how to treat others. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of something that has such an impact and makes others feel good about themselves. Finally, at the age of 29, I feel like I’m fulfilling that empathetic yearning to help others; to make people feel good about themselves. I honestly feel like this is my calling. (How fucking wanky is that!)
So what next? With the community, we’ve got a whole hot mess of work to be done. Projects, events and campaigns are all getting ramped up next year. Slowly but surely, people are becoming ‘woke’ (that’s what all the cool kids say right?!) and a shift is being felt, but its a simmer, and we want to LIGHT THIS PLACE UP! I’ve got project ideas and visions coming out of my ears; I just wish there were more hours in the day!
Everyone deserves to feel good about themselves. It is not justifiable for outsiders, whether strangers, brands or organisations making you feel anything other than fucking fabulous in your own skin – however you want that skin to be.
Fundamentally, I would love a family; as a VERY single girl that seems a very distant prospect. But, even if I was in a position to start one, I’d be wary. The world is not a nice place at the moment. I couldn’t imagine trying to grow up in the world that’s been created around us. So before I can think about sprogs, I want to see a big change in the world’s attitudes and thoughts surrounding all areas of body politics. I’m in a very fortunate position where I can help, I can make a difference or at least give it a fucking good go trying. I want to be the change I want to see in the world. Deep. 💜