Pink’s IG Picture is Not Body Positive

Body PositivityRecently singer/songwriter Pink was widely praised for positing a picture to Instagram that many people and publications have been calling “body positive” :

The picture is Pink in the gym, posing for a full body selfie in black and pink workout clothes including leggings, a tank top, sneakers and a cap, and the caption reads:

“Would you believe I’m 160 pounds and 5’3”? By ‘regular standards’ that makes me obese. I know I’m not at my goal or anywhere near it after Baby 2 but dammit I don’t feel obese. The only thing I’m feeling is myself. Stay off that scale ladies!  #feelingmyself #strongismygoal #bodygoals @msjeanettejenkins#happysaturday #getitin #GIJaneismyWCW

P!nk Mistake

While she’s certainly had some missteps I’ve been a fan of Pink, her music, and her message for a while. I think she’s done some very cool things in terms of body image. But as a woman who actually is “obese” or, as I prefer to call it, fat as hell, I’m here to say that this is not one of them.  I don’t think that she intentionally set out to fat shame, but that’s what she did.

Not for nothing, but her math is wrong.  At 5’3 and 160 pounds she is in the “overweight” and not the “obese” BMI category. Of course, BMI is complete bullshit so that’s the least of the problems with this. The main issue is that what Pink is doing (and, unfortunately, being praised for) is trying to perform “body positivity” by fat bashing.

In terms of things that people say that add to the widespread marginalization and oppression of fat people, “Dammit I don’t feel obese” is right up there with:

  • It’s ok to be fat, as long as you’re healthy
  • At some point you’re just too fat
  • I’m ok with people being fat, as long as they take care of themselves
  • I now weigh x pounds and I NEVER want to be over y pounds again
  • I’m so depressed because I registered for a triathlon and I qualify for the Clydesdale/Athena group
  • I’m chunky but I’m not like [insert weight that this person thinks is “a lot.”]

Nobody is obligated to love their body, but everyone should have the option, without any kind of hoops to jump through.  There are no health, behavior, ability, or size requirement for loving/appreciating/respecting our bodies. There is also no such thing as “feeling obese.” It doesn’t make any more sense to say that I “feel fat” than to say that I “feel brunette.” They aren’t states of mind, they are simply things that I am.  In suggesting that one can “feel obese” – in the context of it being a bad thing – Pink is stereotyping fat people and setting up being fat as the opposite of feeling good about ourselves which, in a fatphobic culture such as this, too often becomes a prophecy fulfilled by oppression.

I absolutely agree with her about staying off the scale, but the idea that we should stay off the scale lest we find out that we are “obese” is clearly fat-shaming, and not even in same zip code as “body positive.”  Finally, any use of the terms “obese” and any “overweight” offensively pathologizes bodies of a certain height/weight ratio.  I prefer to reclaim the term fat. I’m fat, I’m not “over-weight,” just like I’m short, I’m not “under-tall.” If fat doesn’t suit you, there are plenty of other neutral terms to use: people of size, larger bodied, heavier people etc.

While Pink is, sadly, allowed to say these things, she is not allowed to call it Body Positivity, nor should anyone else.  Body Positivity is not about feeling good about our body by suggesting that it’s better than other bodies, or by throwing other bodies under the bus. Body Positivity is not about engaging in stereotyping or pathologizing bodies of a certain size. Body Positivity does not come with exceptions or size limitations.

Body Positivity grew from the Fat Activism movement, and while I understand why people of all sizes would want to engage in a culture that affirms and respects their bodies, that doesn’t make it ok to co-opt a movement and then exclude, even oppress, those who founded it. Body Positivity must center and champion the bodies that are the most marginalized in society, otherwise it becomes just another tool of oppression. Unfortunately, in addition to its tendency to exclude fat people, Body Positivity has inherited many of the issues that Fat Activism had and still has including not doing nearly enough to combat white supremacy and ableism, and that must be addressed and fixed by both movements.

Being Body Positive isn’t just how you feel about your body, it’s about how you feel about all bodies – and how you express that.  It’s about creating a world that respects and affirms people of all sizes – and in particular those whose bodies are the most oppressed in our current culture.

While people are allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, Body Positivity requires sacrifice when it comes to how we talk about it. We can’t be Body Positive and still participate in diet and anti-fat language and culture, even though participating confers privilege and opting out invites ridicule. That means that if our body size changes – regardless of the reason – we talk about that in terms that do not disparage other bodies, including bodies that are the size (or larger than the size) we are/were.  It requires that we think about how we talk about our personal choices, and whether what we are saying oppresses or marginalizes other bodies, and we make choices accordingly.

Body Positivity requires that when people tell us that our “body positivity” is hurting them, we listen, care, and make changes, rather than acting like we know more about their oppression than they do, or that our personal body positivity is worth creating body negativity for others.

Body Positivity is not a free-for-all where we find a way to love our body regardless of the consequences to others. It’s a movement that demands that we create a world where everyone has the opportunity to love their body. It’s learning about and avoiding ableist, sizeist, healthist, racist, classist, transphobic and queerphobic language and acting, speaking, and writing accordingly.  If you’re not here for the most marginalized bodies, then you’re not here at all.

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Published in: on May 3, 2017 at 12:08 pm  Comments (20)  

20 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Maybe one of us should write her a (nice) letter explaining this side of things. I, too, think that she meant well and if so, would be properly mortified by her own implications. It’s a complicated issue, one that is never easy to navigate in the public eye.

  2. Preach! And as another “fat as hell” woman, thank you for this blog that reliably offers me the sort of positivity I can actually USE!

  3. With her comment of ‘not being at goal’ it sounds like she is working on losing weight. While, as Ragen says, she can do what she wants, it makes me uncomfortable, as though she’s implying everyone should have a goal to work toward.

    I know she didn’t say that, and probably doesn’t mean it, but with what else she said and society’s overall attitude, that is what came across to me.

    • I noted that, and I assumed that was going to be the subject of the post. It’s not body positive if she’s complaining she’s not her goal size yet!

      • My thoughts exactly!

  4. I like how she tells everyone to stay off the scale in the same message where she tells how much she weighs. Lol

  5. Since I was born into the world as a fat little beach ball and was funneled through many a weight loss program as soon as it became clear this was not “baby weight” and was not going away, there are a few lines I’ve encountered (and, to my shame, said) over and over again; your dialogue, if you will, as the weight loss circus’s remorseful fatty: “I’m doing it for me and no one else!” when you are totally doing it so people will stop harassing you, “It’s not about my looks, it’s for my health!” when it’s totally about not looking fat, and “I’m not starving, I’m just eating less and moving more!” when you haven’t made your BMR in weeks.

    Aaaand, my favorite, the one I heard bar-none more than any other…

    “It’s not about the number on the scale, it’s about how you feel!” when you’re trying to reduce the number on the scale no matter how terrible it makes you feel physically.

    That last line… is basically what that pic’s caption boils down to.

    • Yes, this!

    • Yup. 😥 I underate for my BMR for over 25 yrs, not good.

      • How do you even know? I looked up BMR online, and it said, “Basal Metabolic Rate.” Is there a way to test whether or not you are eating enough to meet your needs for your current BMR? Or how do you find out what your current BMR is?

        It reminds me of aaaaaaaalllll the diet-people who focus on the numbers on the scale, but that scale is just an average bathroom scale, not one of the fancy ones that tell you your body composition. And they don’t submerse you in a tank to measure your water displacement, nor do they bring out the calipers, or do any other actually meaningful measurements to measure the FAT lost. It’s just weight, in general, and muscles, organs, and bones weigh, too.

        I really worry about osteoporosis in older women. I think it probably is not going to be such a big deal for women who never dieted, in their lives, but for women who bought into the thin=pretty=desirable=worthy idea, it’s probably more of an issue, because 1) nutrients lost during food restriction, and 2) bone density lost during bouts of starvation.

        • (Heads up for calorie counting)

          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15674762

          I can’t find a decent calculator, but both the NIH and health.gov are sticking to the 2000 calorie recommendation.

          My complaint is more like… not even the most weight-loss centric, food-moralizing member of any expert group would ever recommend fewer than 1500 calories per day to a thin adult, but as soon as a fat person walks up, suddenly we’re “perfectly safe” at 1200 or 800 or 500 calories. My calorie goal was allegedly 1200 calories per day (I was doing fewer whenever I could get away with it), and my doctor at the time at first *praised* me for eating like this, and then when I stopped losing and started regaining, accused me of “cheating.” At NO point was I told, “That’s too low.” I had to find that out myself.

          • Oh, hey, I found some even better sources over at Big Fat Science! Unsurprisingly, 2000 is lowballing, too. They’ve got a link to the NIH reporting it’s more like 2500, and there’s data to back that up, too.

          • SOME doctors will actually tell their fat patients to starve. Anorexia? No big deal, if you’re “overweight.”

            I read on a story about how fat hatred kills, and medical fat hatred, especially, where a woman went to a doctor, and he refused to treat her until she lost 50 pounds. Moreover, he ordered her to stop eating, AT ALL, until she lost 50 pounds. She came back to see him, a week later, and confessed to having eaten a small apple, and he screamed at her, that he had told her not to eat, at all, until she lost the whole fifty pounds.
            Guess who never saw a doctor for the rest of her (short) life? The doctor never did diagnose what was actually wrong with her, in the first place, because he refused to examine or treat her, until she lost 50 pounds, but lo and behold, the autopsy was clear on that. He COULD have saved her, had he bothered.

            I am always amazed at the number of idiots who say not only that fat people can survive without food, because they’ll live on their fat, but also that fat people who are starving themselves and live on their fat, certainly will not suffer from malnutrition or vitamin/mineral deficiencies, because APPARENTLY, fat contains and provides all necessary vitamins and minerals to the human body.

            Seriously, it always amazes me.

            • If that’s the same case I’m thinking of- the one where the woman had a pulmonary embolism and died because he wrote off her breathing troubles as “just being fat” even though she’d been fat for decades and the breathing problems were new- that was horrifying. Even more horrifying are all the people who responded by blaming *her,* saying if she’d just have gone back to that quack anyway, eventually somewhere between the screamed abuse and unrealistic weight loss demands, he *totally* would have gotten around to giving her the evidence-based medical care she was paying him for. No, he would not have. Twice she went to him for help and twice he sent her away with verbal abuse and a quote-unquote “diet” recommendation that rockets past incompetent and straight into willfully malicious. How much more obvious does it have to get that doctor had no intention of saving that dying woman’s life?

              And it goes without saying, a fat person cannot go off food entirely and live off their fat. ANY human being will starve to death 30-40 days after being taken off food. The only difference is that the thinner you are, the closer to the thirty-day mark your death will be, while the fatter you are, the closer to the 40-day mark it’ll be, or maybe if you’re really fat you’ll get a few days over it. It’s also important to note you can’t just starve for 29 days and then start eating again; there’s a point your body’s broken down so much bone and organ tissue it’s too late to save you, even if you were able to eat again. Adipose tissue provides protection against starvation, not immunity to it.

              • AND, if you have been starving, you have to go back to eating in a carefully, medically supervised way or you have further problems.

                On Mon, May 8, 2017 at 8:12 AM, Dances With Fat wrote:

                > Lady Rhapthorne commented: “If that’s the same case I’m thinking of- the > one where the woman had a pulmonary embolism and died because he wrote off > her breathing troubles as “just being fat” even though she’d been fat for > decades and the breathing problems were new- that was horrify” >

                • loving these comments (Love the OP too, can’t add much that hasn’t been said there, this is the kind of content I come here for)
                  I had never heard of BMR before this thread, though after reading I knew I knew the concept, just not in these words. Sadly I had only heard about this concept from the diet industry, so it is good for me to see it talked about in a no lose context.

                  TW diet industry, calorie counting, food talk

                  I googled for a BMR calculator (careful on clicking if calorie counting or anything like that is a trigger, this site is for IWL thought I did not use it for that, it was the least triggering I could find, and is still triggering) for eating disorder recovery and found this for finding what you “should” eat in calories and maintain the same weight. https://www.healthstatus.com/calculate/basal-metabolic-rate (it’s not for eating disorder recovery, but it did help me avoid all the diet programs. I follow intuitive eating and I have been OK for long enough I thought it might be worth looking at for curiosity sake. On days where I am lightly active it tells me I need around 2600 calories, where on days I’m training (Martial Artist) I need 3400 calories. All to remain the same weight.

                  Now we all know calories isn’t a good measure since calories are a measurement of energy not nutrients or anything else and we need to fuel our bodies with more than just energy, we need fat, we need protein, and other things. But it is interesting and helpful I think to see that the heavier you are the more fuel you need.

              • Which is just one reason why anorexia and bulimia are so darned dangerous. It’s not a question of getting to be “too thin,” but of doing such irreparable harm that you body simply cannot ever fully recover.

                It wasn’t hunger that killed Karen Carpenter. It was organ damage. And that same organ damage would have occurred, even if she’d been “Deathfatz” when she started.

  6. Yeah it’s not fake news it’s adapted empowerment at a loss. I prefer really really fat myself as the root of obese is the Latin eat over. Yes even the word has become not related to fact, just opinion, but since we all KNOW fat people eat too damn much… What ever. Body Positivtiy is maybe code for, I am gonna try really really hard to act like I don’t hate fat people.

  7. I think she’s being misguided as opposed to malicious. I hope she learns the error of her mistake!


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