The Dark Side of Body Positivity: Body Snark in the Lingerie Blogging Community
In 2012, The Lingerie Addict became a Body Snark Free Zone. Lots of other websites have followed: in fact, most lingerie blogs proudly display Cora’s anti-body-snark free graphic and frequently declare that all bodies are good bodies. So why am I so depressed about the the body positive movement and lingerie blogging?
I don’t talk a lot about myself in these columns, but today I want to start with the basics as they’re relevant to some of my complaints: I’m 29 years old and a size 14. I’m a 34HH/36H bra size. While I like to think I am perfectly fine looking, I am not a part-time model. I do not have a traditional model’s body shape. I work as a marketing writer and a consultant for the lingerie industry, so I deal with bloggers both from a personal perspective and from a business one every day. I have been both a size 6 as a teenager and my current size (and everything in between), so I’ve experienced both sides of the skinny/fat coin.
All of this is to say that I am completely unlike most of the lingerie bloggers out there, including many of them who run blogs that are dedicated to plus size lingerie. Lingerie blogging, like most aspects of the fashion industry, continues to get younger and whiter as time goes on. It also continues to get both skinnier and more idealized in terms of shape.
At the same time, the body positive movement has become trendy. While some bloggers truly believe this, many bloggers feel compelled to pay lip service to it to make their audience feel better. I interact a lot with bloggers in many different facets of my life and I truly can’t count the number of times I’ve seen “body positive” bloggers freak out over having to go a size up in underwear sample (because they don’t want to be “fat” and “disgusting”) or talk about how they love plus size ladies but would just hate themselves if they gained any weight beyond their small size.
We live in a world where being body positive means starting your statement with “I love plus size women, but…” and then making whatever fat phobic statement you were going to make anyway. These bloggers are generally in their early 20s, white and wear small sizes — but they’ve figured out that jumping on the the body positive train is the one that will help them get more readers. This frequently leaves me frustrated on both a personal and professional level. When I have a client who wants to work with bloggers to advertise a body positive product, do I send them to bloggers I know are making nasty comments about plus size women behind the scenes? Or do I tactfully steer them elsewhere, to bloggers with sincere attitudes but generally smaller numbers? I struggle with the nasty hidden side of lingerie blogging on a weekly basis due to my job and I don’t have an answer yet.
The two most visible figures in the plus size lingerie blogging world are arguably Georgina Horne of Fuller Figure Fuller Bust and Tess Holliday, who recently signed a groundbreaking contract with MiLK Model Management. I know from experience that Georgina is a genuinely lovely person and Tess has a face that feels like something out of classic Hollywood. They are both doing something important for plus size ladies who are interested in lingerie, but as time goes on I can’t ignore the nagging question at the back of my head: where are blogs that show the rest of us?
I’ve talked before about why I feel compelled to post lingerie pictures online, both here and on my own blog. It’s not because I love my body 100% of the time. In fact, some days the ideas of posting pictures of myself in lingerie online feels really uncomfortable. But I think it’s necessary. Realistically, I don’t represent that much diversity from these other bloggers. I’m on the small end of plus size and I’m still fairly hourglass shaped. I’m not a model — even part-time. I struggle to keep lipstick off my teeth (when I remember to wear it) and have stretch marks I can’t get rid of. I vividly remember how much more people liked me when I was thin and struggle to maintain relationships from my childhood now that I’m heavier — at least without a fair amount of anger involved on my part. I hate the raised eyebrows I get when I want to order dessert in a restaurant on a special occasion. I hate that I eat fish four days a week and people openly assume all I eat is pizza and fried chicken. I am not alone in any of this, which is why posting underwear photos feels so important to me. I am the kind of plus size that is not society approved. I’m not in the “acceptable fat” category. I’m just fat and getting through life like everyone else.
I would love to see a world of lingerie blogging that genuinely included everyone: all races, all sizes, all ability levels. But it seems like, as the body positive movement becomes more popular on the surface, the playing field for bloggers shrinks. I used to feel like blogging was just a matter of being courageous and putting yourself out there, but now I feel like it’s harder than that. Would people really read a lingerie blog written by a woman in a wheelchair? Would they actually show up for a blog featuring ladies over size 20 who weren’t built like models? In many cases, I think the answer is no.
When I was younger I used to feel like combating fat phobia was just a matter of educating people and putting yourself out there. Now that I’m older, I’ve realized how deeply ingrained it is in our society. The only difference is that we’ve put this shiny body positive gloss on it so it makes it harder to find and harder to combat. Body positivity may be popular, but the real question is if society is ready to embrace it yet.