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“I just want everyone to remember if you can love me, you can love yo' self, every single day.”
These words, spoken amid between-song banter by Lizzo — rising rap star, flautist, beauty icon, and body positivity advocate — late last month during her appearance on NPR's “Tiny Desk,” flipped the script on the well-known adage which claims you can't truly love another until you love yourself. And they resonated with listeners.
Instead of invalidating the love given to others because you don't give it to yourself too, Lizzo's take makes the ability to love proof you're capable and worthy of receiving love too. And if you can love Lizzo in her big, bold, and beautiful glory, you should be able to love your untamed bits too.
Amity Lassiter spent a good chunk of her adolescence believing her life would change — for the better — if she just lost weight. Despite living an active lifestyle this belief left Lassiter at odds with her body, wishing her life away until she stumbled across Jes Baker — The Militant Baker — online. Baker, a veteran in the body positive movement and Lassiter's first fat acceptance role model, helped her see her body was always valid and worthy.
“She was living her truth, and demanding the respect and the space she deserved,” says Lassiter, via email from the road while on summer vacation with her family. “Now, I pursue the life I want, without hesitation, without waiting for an arbitrary number to appear on the scale. I now live my life by two questions -- if not now, when? and why not me?”
Lassiter lives outside of Fredericton, N.B. on a multigenerational hobby farm with her parents, her husband, and their 3-year-old son. They produce their own beef and eggs, grow fruits and vegetables, have three horses, and raise goats, and sheep. In 2014 she began publishing contemporary western romance featuring characters with diverse bodies.
I have always lived in a large body, so writing bodies that looked like mine kind of came naturally,” she says. “I think romance is for everyone, and that includes men without six-packs and size 24 women, tall women, and women who have been made to feel decidedly unfeminine.”
Representing in media
For Mollie Cronin, illustrator and the creator behind Art Brat Comics, a lack of diversity in the media she was consuming pushed her to create the content she wasn't seeing.
“I like to draw things I wish I had seen growing up,” says the Halifax-based artist. “There weren't enough fat bodies in the media. And if they were there, they were ridiculed.”
Cronin, whose feminist, fat-positive comics and illustrations challenge accepted notions of beauty through humour and a celebration of fat bodies, knows representation matters. And she credits social platforms like Instagram and Tumblr for providing the space for people to find each other and giving the fat acceptance movement its legs.
“I think social media breeds more familiarity with diverse bodies and acceptance,” she says. “You see other people living, you know, living happily and lovingly in their bodies in ways that you haven't been able to. For the first time, people can control the media they consume.”
Cronin strives to contribute to those media choices by showing fat people in her work. Existing, being hot, being funny. Fat people are simply people. They're complicated, with many levels and nuances, like anyone else.
“People are hungry to see themselves reflected in the media they consume,” she says. “We're finally realizing how much we've given away to diet culture and how much control it has over us and our relationships, and how that impacts people of colour and queer bodies and women. It's a myth that fat is not normative.”
Cronin is excited about the impact Lizzo is having on ideas around how bodies should be. It feels like a first. People are celebrating a fat black woman's body. And not just for humour or her talent, but for her body.
“That's huge,” says Cronin. “That's really important.”
For those looking for help finding diverse bodies in media Cronin suggests starting at the top and working your way back.
“Think of the most famous person,” she says. “The most famous black activist or the most famous drag queen. The most famous fat person. Then go from there. See who follows them. Dig a little bit and find who they're engaging with. Open yourself up.”
And when you find those artists and creators that speak to you, share them, says Lassiter.
“Spread the word! Word of mouth is the best way to support an artist.” A simple share on Facebook, or offering their name to a friend as a recommendation can go a long way.
“There's so much beauty in diversity,” she adds.
“Life is far too short to spend being hateful or regretful about our differences. Representation of bodies of all shapes, sizes, and colours is so important to equality and acceptance.”
Robyn McNeil is all about her kid, her cat, her people, good stories, strong tea, yoga, hammocks, and hoppy beer.
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