Inspiring messages about loving your curves abound on social media these days, and Assa Cisse, Tess Holliday, and Nadia Aboulhosn are just a few of the women who have made space for plus-size women in the fashion world. We can thank the body positivity movement, which is focused on self-love and celebrating your shape, for a part of that shift — and for helping drive a much-needed conversation on how women’s bodies are scrutinized in the age of social media.
But while there’s lots to like about body positivity, it’s not perfect. There isn’t always a lot of room to express more complicated feelings about looks and confidence (it’s not always easy to go from self-loathing to self-loving in an instant). And the movement itself has been criticized for not being inclusive — some argue that white, able-bodied women tend to be given the spotlight, while women of colour, women with disabilities, queer women, trans women and gender non-binary folks tend to be left out of the conversation.
Clearly, there’s a lot of work to do when it comes to highlighting different narratives about body image. But luckily, there are several standout authors who are tackling this complex topic. Some of these reads have been around for a while, while others are recent and ground-breaking (such as Roxane Gay’s Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body). And while these writers might not necessarily agree with each other on every single point, debate kind of comes with the territory: the way we see ourselves is a tricky subject, but necessary to explore.
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13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
These short stories revolving around Liz (known, variously, as Lizzie, Beth, and Elizabeth depending on what stage of life she’s in) and her quest to be thin are both devastating and laugh-out-loud hilarious. From befriending women co-workers and despising their eating habits to dealing with snarky sales associates when trying on that coveted von Furstenberg, Liz’s world is one where women are hypercritical and food is the enemy. But Awad also delivers a poignant take on why women are so often unsatisfied by the way we look — and an empathetic one, too.