Face it: it’s hard to find body positive stuff on Instagram. Start typing in #fatgirl… and see what pops up. #fatgirl itself isn’t bad, but of course contains some weight-loss crap. #fatgirlfedup, the second suggestion? Weight-loss bullshit.
But one of the trending tags is #fatgirlscan. This isn’t weight loss encouragement or fat-shaming. This trend is pure body positivity. Instead of shaming women with big bodies, it celebrates them: not just for their beauty, but for what they can do.
A lot of people think “body positivity” means looking in the mirror and thinking you look good. It’s not. Body positivity, according to Well Seek, “isn’t related to appearance.” Instead, body positivity “has much more to do with how you care for, respect, and connect with your body’s needs, while cultivating gratitude for what your body can do for you or allows you to do.”
In other words, rather than focusing on how you look — which will inevitably change as you have children, as you age, as your weight naturally fluctuates — you focus on what your body needs and what your body can do. You don’t compare yourself to others. You become your biggest cheerleader instead of your greatest critic. Your body is meant to be celebrated for its capabilities to do, not for its appearance.
This is what #fatgirlscan is all about. It’s about the celebration of what women’s bodies are capable of doing — despite societal expectation.
You’ll notice some lingerie and bikini pics, some pictures of self-identified “fat girls” just looking beautiful. Why, when body positivity is supposed to focus on what the body can do, rather than on appearance? Because society tells us that fat girls can’t wear lingerie. It tells us that fat girls can’t wear bikinis, can’t wear bathing suits, can’t be pretty.
Which is, of course, absolute bullshit.
These fat girls are showing us that their bodies are capable of flouting expectation. Their bodies are capable of beauty, of looking hot in lingerie, of wearing beautiful clothing.
Fat girls can take good selfies. And by “good,” I don’t mean selfies that hide their fat. One of my best selfies ever is from my heaviest weight.
But the best part of fat girls can? Fat girls doing.
See, society feeds us all these misconceptions and stereotypes about what fat girls can and can’t do. When I was at my heaviest, I was afraid to go hiking. I didn’t want to do much of anything, because fat girls didn’t do things like that: they didn’t kayak, they didn’t hike, they didn’t sit on the beach in a bathing suit: all things I dearly love to do.
Except, like the tag says, fat girls CAN.
Fat girls can get in the pool in an actual bathing suit, not an enormous cover-up of shame (or alternately, hide on the sidelines, like I did for at least two years). Fat girls can hulu dance in a skirt that — gasp! — bares their belly. Fat girls can climb a fucking mountain in Borneo, like @iamkyliefrances. They can hike, as the account @fatgirlshiking shows. They can stand half-naked and gorgeous under waterfalls and go swimming. Fat girls can work out, like @bodypositive.fitness.
They can fucking snowshoe.
And like that snowshoeing girl, @samortizphoto, says, “Important reminder: You belong here, You don’t have to look like them, You don’t have to dress like them, Doing it your way isn’t wrong. Today I’m thinking about the things that I’ve needed to hear. The things I wish someone would have told me.”
Because this is why #fatgirlscan is a desperately needed, desperately important hashtag.
When I was at my heaviest, I felt horrible about my body. I felt useless, slobbish, horrible. I felt like everyone was staring at me, like I was good for nothing. I hated my body. I hated the way it made me feel. I hated that when I went into stores, I couldn’t find clothes in my size. I hated that I constantly felt like I was just wrong, like I didn’t belong in this sea of skinny people. I hung out with girlfriends and despaired, to the point that I stopped seeing many of them altogether.
Some of you are going to say that was okay, because I hit “obese” on the BMI index (which is useless, by the way), I needed to get off my ass, lose weight by any means necessary. Those are the same people who will say this article is glorifying obesity. You people: take a seat and mind your own. Bodies are different. You don’t know anyone’s story; you don’t live in their body; you don’t know their experience, their life, their health. Bodies are meant to be different. So STFU and sit the fuck down and mind your own.
This hashtag turns fat-shaming on its head. I, and so many like me, have internalized it. But every time we see a self-proclaimed fat girl doing something, subverting your dumbass norms, being beautiful, rocking her badass self, hiking and roller-skating and snowshoeing, a tiny part of that internalized shame breaks down. We think, “I could do that. I could be that.” Instead of feeling shame, we feel a little bit of hope. And when we see these pictures, when we see these hashtags, we start to think not about what we look like, but what we’re capable of doing.
Instead of feeling shame, we are capable of being warriors.
Instead of sitting on the sidelines, we are capable of taking the spotlight.
Instead of those staying home, we are capable of climbing motherfucking mountains.
We need #fatgirlscan. We need #fatgirlshiking. We need these self-proclaimed fat girls who revel in their beauty and power and tell the rest of us that we can, too. We need their bravery and their power and their strength.
We need them to fight for us.
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