What if Fat Chicks in Crop Tops Were a Thing When I Was a Teenager?

I have to wonder if examples of women who look like me loving themselves would have affected my self-esteem.

Lately, going through the body-positive part of Tumblr means you’ll likely stumble across many pictures of fat chicks wearing crop tops. I think this is awesome, have bought a few myself, and am waiting for the right combination of hot weather and not giving a fuck to actually wear them with naught but a bra underneath as god intended.

I was wearing one over a tank top recently, and it made me think — what if this trend, and really, the whole body positive movement, had been around when I was a teenager?

My high school experience occurred from 1998 to 2002, so we had the Internet, but it was still relatively new (and slow), and things like Tumblr did not yet exist. The closest thing I had ever had to social media was my AOL profile — I wouldn’t even get a LiveJournal until my first semester of college.

So all I had to model myself after was mass media and friends. I didn’t get to see shining images of happy fat ladies showing off their belly rolls and bingo wings. There was no example in my face to let my know it was OK to rock a mini skirt or crop top.

As a chubby teenager, my experience with my body was probably similar to lots of other fat ladies out there. I was uncomfortable in my skin a lot of the time. I had good friends who generally didn’t make me feel bad about myself, at least not on purpose — sometimes comparing myself to them did a number, but that wasn’t really their fault. I was on and off diets, I couldn’t be quite as trendy as I wanted because the girls’ section of PacSun wouldn’t get over one thigh. The really overt bullying had mostly stopped in middle school, but I still had plenty of body image issues, many of which I’m not yet over today.

If there had been a fast Internet full of social media images where girls who looked like me rocked their bodies with pride, would I have felt better? Would I have been on fewer of those diets? Maybe the issue of not finding clothes would have been the same, but it’s also possible I would have spent less time comparing myself to my in-person peers if I had online ones who made me feel good.

Obviously what-ifs can never really have an answer, but just thinking about it makes me a little bit hopeful. This generation of teenage girls is growing up with something I, and people older than I am, didn’t have — widespread availability of people who look like they do, shown in a positive light.

This is why I’m pro-selfie, and why I so love things like the #everyBODYisflawless video. Women — well, people of all genders, but especially women — need to see what regular people look like. We need to see how different everyone is, and how that diversity is beautiful.

This post originally appeared on my blog, Reluctantly Adultish.

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[E] Liza

PhD student. Knitter. Brooklynite. Long-distance dog mom. Reluctant cat lady. Majestic unicorn whose hair changes color with the wind.

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