Have you heard the news about Louise Thompson? The Made in Chelsea alum is releasing a book, Body Positive, to hit shelves in May of next year. It will include, allegedly, diet and fitness advice, as well as insights on how she learned to feel positive about her white, thin, conventionally good-looking body. Riiiiiight. Here’s the cover.
This is not an attack on Louise Thompson as a person
To get one thing out of the way – insofar as one can like someone one doesn’t know personally, I like Louise Thompson. I liked her on Made in Chelsea when she got royally screwed over by Spencer and was really normal (read: upset) about it. I liked her Women’s Health cover and interview, where she talked a bit about her workouts and how she feels about her body (understandably, she feels pretty good about it). I like her on Instagram Stories, where she’s kind of cute and goofy and seems to love taking the piss out of her PT boyfriend, Ryan Libbey. I like her collaboration with Fabletics, which isn’t really a collaboration because she hasn’t designed anything, but I like her and I like Fabletics, so that might be why I like it.
This is an attack on Louise Thompson as a body positive activist
All of that being said, I have never considered Louise Thompson a “body positive” activist. I have never once associated her with the body positive movement, nor recognised anything in her content that could remotely be construed as body positive. Not once.
Now, before we get all high and mighty about movements excluding thin women – “thin women can be positive about their bodies too!” – let’s get one thing straight; the body positive movement is not about “being positive about our bodies”. It is about making a safe space for bodies that are not currently represented positively in our society or culture. It’s about fat bodies, bodies with disabilities, people of colour and their bodies.
Thin, white, conventionally good-looking women do not need the body positivity movement – and, by that same token, when a thin, white, conventionally good-looking woman like Louise Thompson uses the body positivity movement to sell things, it’s right and just that she be pulled up on it. (That’s a link to a Metro UK article about how bloggers aren’t happy with Louise Thompson’s new book, and though I don’t love the headline – it implies a kind of bitchy begrudgery that simply isn’t the case here, as these criticisms are legitimate – the quotes, from actual body positive activists, are important and worth reading.)
The fact that Louise Thompson is using the term “body positive” as a selling point for a book that is, essentially, a paperback embodiment of diet culture, is galling to the hundreds and thousands of women who have worked tirelessly to promote body positivity and fat acceptance – dieting is not body positive. There’s a really interesting article here about why and how body positivity and weight loss cannot exist harmoniously; weight loss is not body positive.
I’m aware that I, myself, am somewhat outside of the body positivity movement, even though it’s something that I feel really strongly, and love reading, about (note: Rebecca’s not on Snapchat anymore, essentially because being a body positive activist is fucking hard work, and exhausting, and from what I could tell, she was constantly having to argue with people who claimed that fat people are not worthy of respect or love unless they are willing to lose weight) – because I am a white, able-bodied human who fits into high-street clothing. That being said, I can fully support and endorse the body positivity movement, while also recognising that my privilege means, as a movement, it’s not explicitly for me.
The message of the BoPo movement is not that “all bodies are beautiful”; instead, it is that “our bodies are beautiful too”, specifically geared towards women who are excluded, disrespected and belittled by mainstream media, diet culture and ideals of beauty. And, unless Louise Thompson has some secret past where she, for a good few years, identified with that concept, she frankly has no business aligning herself with the movement.
The good news? It’s not out until May – so she has plenty of time to rename it. Wouldn’t it be so refreshing if, instead of shouting “SJWs want to ruin everything!” someone with real power to do good recognised that, in fact, SJWs (social justice warriors) are speaking in the interests of the powerless, who could potentially be hurt by the actions of the powerful? Is there really any harm in trying to be kind and considerate and listening to the disenfranchised when they call you out for co-opting their movement? Answers on a postcard…
*This post contains a Fabletics “refer a friend” link. If you click through and buy, I’ll get a £10 credit for the site.