Activism is hard! All activism, whether that’s organising or attending protests, living more ethically or writing and campaigning on the internet. There has been a lot written about self care for activists and that is so important but this post is not an attempt to rehash that. Rather I want to be honest with you all about where I’m at with my activism.
2017, the year we give up? The world is imploding and nothing is changing in a good way. For the past few months, apathy has really set in for me. I’ve sat down to write and the resounding thought was “what is the point?”. I’ve seen a lot of comment from young, intelligent and inspirational people recently that really summed up how I feel. It seems that the more time goes on the less convinced I am that I can make a difference and I know so many other young people, predominantly women, feel the same.
Take last week for example. I have recently resurrected my instagram, I may write a post on it but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, and like all women on the internet men think they have the right to comment on my appearance. In the main this is creepy, sexualisation of completely non-sexual content, and I’ve had my fair share of that including a man who told me he wants to live with me and I should add him on whatsapp so we can have sex, but that’s not the incident that sticks in my mind. A instagram user reached out to me on Saturday evening with what sounded like a normal request; he is working on a book featuring average plus size women and wondered if I wanted to take part. I messaged him to politely decline, stating that while I post body positive pictures and I’m chubby, I’m not actually “plus size”. He didn’t take this well. Apparently he knew my body better than me and not only was I plus size I was certainly a virgin because no one would want to touch me but all was not lost as I could become a lesbian. If only he knew… Incidents like these make me question everything. They say that every new generation becomes more liberal and society moves forward and evolves as a result so why are men of my generation still like this? What’s going wrong? Is it education? Is it parenting? Why do they wake up every day and think this is acceptable?
And it is not just men that have had me facepalming in despair. Another spring rolls around and so does another “summer body” marketing campaign. 2017 is the year I don’t have the energy to be angry. Fellow blogger and my friend Tara led the now infamous campaign to ban the beach body advert for a company I won’t give free advertising by mentioning. Women all over the UK and the world got behind that campaign telling the powers at be that we don’t want to be controlled by diet culture anymore. Off the back of that, body shaming ads were banned from the Tube in London and the particular ad at the forefront of it was pulled. Yet here we are in 2017 and brands are pedalling the same bullshit and worst of all people are buying it. Worst of all people I like and admire are buying in, people who I thought were better than this, people who have spoken openly about being body positive.
Body positivity and fat positivity is currently imploding on itself. Instead of building each other up and working towards a common goal it’s become a breeding ground for skinny privilege deniers writing piece after piece about hurt feelings and being told to eat a burger as if it’s the same as systemic discrimination, abuse and erasure. I don’t deny my privilege. I can walk into almost every high street shop and find clothes in my size, while I get nervous visiting the Dr it’s unlikely I will be fat shamed while attending for a routine appointment, despite what my eating disorder might tell me I can eat in a restaurant without anyone around passing judgement on what I eat. But I am here for those people who can’t. I feel so strongly that no one should live in a world where they can’t exist in their own body without fear or judgement. Yet somehow this movement, that started as fat acceptance and then let everyone else in, has lost its way.
I wrote in December about how 2017 was only ever going to be worse than last year and I genuinely believed in it at the time but I didn’t expect to ever feel so apathetic and helpless. For all the people who message me to tell me I’ve helped/inspired them to break free of diet culture or the pressure to remove every hair from their body or even to just wear the thing that they never thought they could, I log on to Twitter or walk down the street and am confronted with how big the problem is.
Maybe it’s about time I returned to living by the starfish story. A young child was walking down the beach with their grandfather and all around them there were washed up starfish. Every few paces the child would stop, pick one up and throw it back in the sea. Their grandfather turned to them and said “what’s the point? You can’t save them all, what difference does it make?” to which the child picked up another one, threw it in the sea and said “I made a difference to that one.”