TW: racism, fatphobia, misogyny, mental health, self-harm
Stephanie Yeboah is a blogger, Instagram queen and fat-acceptance advocate. In her debut title, Fattily Ever After: a Black Fat Girl's Guide to Living Life Unapologetically, Yeboah explores the Black feminist theory and the body positivity movement in relation to her lived experiences.
The body positivity movement stemmed from the fat acceptance movement of the 1960s in the US and was revived by Black and people of colour (POC) bloggers and activists in the early 2000s. The movement allowed people to celebrate and discuss diversity online. In her book, Yeboah examines how the movement has become a mainstream trend and even a commodity, which has placed a priority on the experiences of small white womxn whilst silencing the voices of those who face most discrimination. Yeboah debates that everyone is entitled to feel confident in their own body, but the use of #bodypositivity by womxn with socially accepted bodies overshadows the meaning of the movement while also failing to acknowledge a hierarchy of privilege in terms of body types. Yeboah argues that ‘body positivity is not about boosting the confidence of people with conventionally attractive and acceptable figures’ but rather ‘a social movement aimed at removing prejudices that value some bodies more than others’. Fattily Ever After provides both a celebration and a vital education on the body positivity movement.
Yeboah’s personality shines through every page in this honest and heartfelt account of her life as a plus-size Black womxn growing up in the United Kingdom. She covers everything from school and dating to the healthcare system and the ‘Lizzo effect’, where Yeboah writes about the impact that the singer Lizzo has had in breaking down stereotypes in mainstream pop culture, raising awareness of the need for better representation of plus-size womxn. Yeboah explores the institutional and structural racism and fatphobia found in society. She intertwines her everyday lived experiences with theory and history while placing them in a broader social context.
Yeboah’s chatty writing style makes her book very accessible to its audience. The structure and style are key in making her work such a success. In my experience, social theory can often be quite intimidating and jargon-heavy, but Yeboah has effectively provided clear insights into complex social issues, making this a great read for everyone. The end of each chapter consists of brightly coloured sections with ‘how to guides’, challenges or questions for the reader. It’s useful to have these sections to reflect and digest what you’ve learnt in each chapter. Yeboah also dedicates some of these sections to other womxn, so they have the opportunity to document their own experiences, which enhanced my understanding of the topics further.
If you’re thinking about reading Yeboah’s book (which you definitely should), I would recommend buying the physical copy because it’s stunning! There is incredible detail throughout, and I adore the bright colours and illustrations. There is so much playful detail on every page, which makes it unique.
It comes as no surprise that Fattily Ever After has been praised and celebrated. Yeboah’s work is a breath of fresh air in the face of a constant onslaught of ‘perfect’ body ideals found in the inescapable world of social media. Being a smaller white womxn myself has really opened my eyes to my own privileges in terms of body size and how people can contribute to the system of oppression surrounding it.
The main thing I’ve taken away from this book is how I can be a better ally. Yeboah suggests that even the smallest actions, both online and offline, have the ability to challenge the whitewashing of ‘#bodypositivity’. For example, with a greater understanding of the roots of the body positivity movement, I no longer engage in content by individuals who, according to Yeboah, are hijacking this movement. Instead, the book has inspired me to connect with and celebrate more Black and plus-sized influencers online – and my Instagram feed is all the better for it. Some amazing individuals who celebrate the body positivity movement and body confidence online include Miah Carter, Jessamyn Stanely, Clara Holmes and Grace F Victory.
Yeboah argues that by carefully choosing who you follow on social media, ‘this stops us from seeing life from a singular lens, and to see the beauty in all types of bodies, especially those that challenge traditional standards of beauty’. However, this is just one small step amongst many that we can make as individuals. We need to call out discriminatory behaviour and educate ourselves on this system of oppression and reflect on how we are contributing towards it. Fattily Ever After can be seen as a platform to instigate important conversations which will lead to meaningful actions.
I finished this book with lots to think about and reflect upon. While the majority of womxn will no doubt face body image challenges, it has made me think about this topic in a completely different way. It has emphasised that specific groups of smaller white womxn must be accountable for taking up room in a movement that’s specifically for marginalised body-types. It left me feeling inspired to continue reading more from different authors around this topic, as I believe writers like Yeboah can act as vehicles for fundamental social change.
Author: Stephanie Yeboah
Published by: Hardie Grant Books (UK)
Phoebe Carey is a member of Our Books Now (OSN's Book Club). Phoebe is a recent Masters graduate from King’s College London. She currently works in a graduate role in a secondary school, supporting children with SEND. Phoebe is passionate about arts education and is working towards a career that promotes diversity and inclusion within the arts sector.
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