Every stride towards body positivity over the past 30 years wouldn't exist if it weren't for fat activists. Everything from inclusive sizing to ditching the (flawed) BMI as a health measurement tool is in part thanks to this community. But what is the role of a fat activist, exactly?
For Dani Adriana, fat activism is about more than calling out "archaic ideas" of bodies and health. "Fat activism is a human rights issue," the 29-year-old activist and content creator tells ELLE Australia.
"Fat people are still getting really discriminatory treatment in workplaces or at the doctor's office, which not only affects like our income level and accessibility, but often our lives."
Dani, who hails from Yuggera Country in Brisbane, is speaking at BODFest in October, and has been working in the fat activism space for more than a decade.
A political movement, fat activism works to advocate for the dignity and rights of plus size people. Being a part of the activist movement requires recognition that bodies of all shapes and sizes, especially larger ones, are all intrinsically worthy. And for Dani, the fat activism conversation is just as important now as it was two decades ago.
Growing up in the 2000s was pivotal to shaping the way Dani viewed the female figure.
"As a teenager, I went through pretty significant eating disorders and mental health issues," she says. "I wasn't really seeing a lot of content online at the time, that was talking about recovery in a body that wasn't a straight size, or a small size," she recalls. "And I thought, 'Well, I'm just gonna talk about my recovery and the impact that's had on me' and also just be a part of this new online community that I had found on Instagram."
"I remember people calling like Kelly Clarkson or Jessica Simpson fat and they were like, what a size 10 maybe? We have this really distorted view of what actual accessibility is compared to inclusivity—and this idea that fatness stops at a size 22 or size 24."
Now, Dani wants to rewrite the way society defines healthy and beautiful bodies, particularly through her work as a fat peer support facilitator. As a representative for the plus-size community, her peer support program provides guidance for individuals with a safe space to openly discuss oppression, personal experiences and to find validation from others on the same journey to find self love.
WHY FATPHOBIA IS SO DANGEROUS
Fatphobia runs rampant in society, but unlike what many might believe, it doesn't only affect those who fit into plus-size categories. The toxicity of fatphobia plays a significant part in damaged everyone's self-worth, putting 'thin' bodies on a pedestal and pressuring us all into obsessed over weight loss culture.
"Ultimately, [fatphobia] makes everyone hate their bodies more," Dani says. "It's a tool of racism and patriarchy, it's a bigger conversation than just what the outcome is to fat people.
"We're still running on this really archaic idea that's rooted in making sure that people with the most privileged retain that. And while I'm someone who thinks a lot of conversations are political, especially with fatness, I think it ultimately keeps everyone harmed, regardless of whether you are a fat person or not. And they've probably missed out on really, really rad fat political people, that could have been really fun and wonderful, and didn't get to have the voice or the audience that they deserved because of that discrimination. That makes me really sad."
FAT ACTIVISM AND FAST VS SLOW FASHION
Brands have catered to what are considered standard sizes for as long as we can remember, but for plus size fashion, the options are still limited at best. And because of this, it's seen fast fashion, and its harmful environmental impact, rise to fill the gap in the market. However, relying on fast fashion just to enjoy the standard variety of clothing options—that have always been available to smaller sizes—can't be the solution.
"Australia has always kind of been behind the eight-ball in the fashion space, but also just in terms of social movements in general because we have a smaller population, sometimes it can be hard. My real focus at the moment is really championing and getting behind indie designers, especially from a sustainability route," Dani says.
"I've seen a real push for indie designers coming into this custom space of slow fashion, in terms of ordering something specific to your measurements and making that more cost affordable for people.
"I think what's always been really funny to me, watching the fashion conversation over the last 10 years and my whole life, is that fat people have money, we want to spend our money.
Fat activism in the fashion space means plus size clothing has evolved from "mumu prints and pyjamas", says Dani. "We're not interested in that anymore," she continues. "Not to get too political, but I feel like there's real radical anarchy power in that of fat people being like, 'Okay, but you can't treat us like shit anymore'."
"I feel really excited to be like a very small drop in the bucket of fat people out there having these conversations. We're no longer going to hide in the shadows."
SEE DANI TALK AT BODFest
Taking to the stage at this year's BODFest, Dani will be part of a stellar panel featured at the Sydney-based mini festival, created to celebrate body confidence and self-love. She will be speaking more about her role as a fat activist and ways that we can change the conversation around how we view our bodies.
"I always wanted to be like a cool girl who was doing cool stuff," Dani says. "But I always thought that had to look a certain way, and breaking that mould is really fun to me."
Presented by OGX, BODFest is taking place on October 8 and will also include the likes of Emily Ratajkowsi (virtual), Remi Bader (virtual), Maria Thattil and Brooke Blurton to name a few.
Tickets are on sale now—grab one for yourself (and someone special) here.