Internalised Fatphobia: It's Not Your Fault You (Still) Hate Yourself
As far as I can remember, I’ve always hated my body. In my life I’ve been fatter, thinner, healthier or unhealthier, but that internal voice criticizing everything about how I look has always been inside of me.
Like many people who grew up in the 90s - before body positivity campaigns were around and before “feminist” slogans were printed onto t-shirts, mugs and everything in between - I soon realised the only correct way of existing was in a thin body. I grew up, like many of us did, surrounded by diet culture, by the normalisation of eating disorders and their associated behaviours, and by an unchecked hate for any body shape or size outside of the infamous 90-60-90. It’s easy now to be shocked at the body image that was promoted all through the 90s and most of the early 2000s, and easy to forget how girls around the world were told to aspire to look like Christina Aguilera or Hilary Duff (both of whom have talked about their struggles with their bodies and being pressured to lose weight by agents and others in the entertainment industry). In 2012, Aguilera made headlines when she said: "I am Ecuadorian, but people felt so safe passing me off as a skinny, blue-eyed white girl”. It’s easy to forget all of this and how (especially) girls were subconsciously told, from a very young age, that how they looked mattered more than anything else. More than who they were, what dreams they had, what they wanted to become. All of it meant nothing, if you weren’t thin enough. Because not being thin enough meant you had failed.
By 2012, when Christina gave that interview, when people were starting to speak up about the sham and tyranny of extreme and unrealistic thinness, I was already 17. It was too late for me. All these ideas about how my body should look, what made me valid as a human being, and all the shame around not having that “ideal” or “perfect” body were already ingrained in my brain. Sadly, they had already shaped my self-image and self-worth. I’m 27 now, and even 10 years later, and even though I am living a life that gives me profound joy, sometimes I see myself in the mirror and I catch myself hating what I see. I have a master’s degree in Gender Studies, and sometimes, in my worst days, I look at myself in the mirror and feel disgusted. This is what bathing a young child in shame about their body will result in, plain and simple. That’s why my blood boils with all the “body trends” out there, or when I hear people talking about the return of the “heroin chic” aesthetic (don’t even let me get started on the name). I ache for the young girl that is reading this load of crap and thinking there is something wrong with her, when everything is, in fact, wrong with the world she lives in.
I deeply believe that something better is possible, but I’m not naive enough to think unrealistic body standards are going anywhere any time soon. Capitalism needs to constantly create new insecurities, to then sell us the “solutions”. What young girls and children need is information, an alternative narrative that can help them see themselves with kindness, instead of brutal and destructive criticism. I now have the tools to see fatphobia for what it is: a racist, colonial, heteronormative and sexist tool of control of ourselves and of our body autonomy. And even with that knowledge, sometimes I’m still ashamed. I still feel like I’m failing. It’s our responsibility to offer the newer generations what we didn’t have growing up: love. Love for themselves and for who they are as a whole. Unfiltered, unconditional. That is what gives me hope for the future.
Courtesy of @sophiekathleenn on Instagram
Laura Roca Diaz
I’m Laura (pronouns ella/she/her) and I’m originally from the Basque Country in Northern Spain, currently based in Brighton. I speak Basque, Spanish and English - and hoping to learn Portuguese next! I work as Digital Communications Specialist for WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Organizing and Globalizing), an international workers' rights NGO. Previously, I also worked in digital communications in the charity sector, and before that I completed a graduate training programme with UN Women’s Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in Panama, working as Campaign and Communications Analyst. I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of the Basque Country (Spain), a master’s degree in Neuromarketing from the International University of La Rioja (Spain), and an MA in Gender Studies from the University of Sussex (UK). In my dissertation, and as part of my last MA, I explored the links between queer identity and media representation in the Spanish context, and was awarded for Highest Overall Performance. My interests include feminist/queer theory and activism, worker organising, and migrant’s rights, among others.