Jordan Williams, a 22-year-old creative writing teacher and aspiring writer and model from Greensboro, N.C., took to TikTok on Dec. 15 to share her thoughts on the current direction of the movement, as well as why the Grammy winner is the perfect leader for it.
The gist of the trend — which is typically set to a sound that states “bodies that look like this also look like this” — is that the way bodies appear on social media can be misleading, particularly with the widespread use of photoshop and deceptive posing.
However, in Lizzo’s take on the trend, she showcases her body in its natural state the entire time, effectively turning the concept on its head.
Williams applauded the singer’s example, adding that she believes Lizzo is “doing everything right” in terms of the body acceptance movement.
She also expressed her thoughts on why “skinny people” should not be leading the movement.
“We need a seat at the table, but we don’t need to be at the head,” Williams captioned her clip.
“If you watch this trend, you’ll see a bunch of people showing off their body when it’s posed and ‘perfect,’ and when it’s unposed in its ‘imperfect,’ relaxed state, with the back rolls and the arm fat, and stuff like that,” Williams says in her now-viral TikTok.
“And the message is to love your body how it comes, whether it’s deemed as perfect or imperfect,” she continues. “Which is definitely a super important message, except it still subscribes to the idea that there is such thing as a perfect or an imperfect body.”
Williams explains that by showing her body in its natural state for the entirety of her TikTok, Lizzo is challenging the very notion that “there’s an imperfect or [a perfect] body at all.”
“Because skinny people can more or less fluctuate between the imperfect and perfect editions of beauty, we have a harder time accepting our body in its ‘imperfect’ way,” she says. “But because fat people are deemed imperfect all the time, they’re having a conversation about dismantling the idea of a perfect body.”
“Long story short, skinny people are talking about acceptance, fat people are talking about liberation,” Williams adds. “It’s perfectly normal to be insecure. I’m insecure about my body all the time, but skinny people don’t confront the fact that we’re afraid of being fat or why.”
The eloquent explanation was even cosigned by Lizzo, who duetted a video of herself reacting to Williams’ original TikTok.
Williams, who has spent much of her time amid the pandemic making educational TikToks centering on racism, feminism and allyship, told In The Know that she was inspired to share her commentary after a different TikTok of hers was duetted by Lizzo.
“In that TikTok, I explained a little bit about fatphobia and the way that thinner people have shifted the conversation about body positivity from fat and disabled bodies seeking liberation to a focus on beating personal insecurities,” she shared. “A lot of thinner people didn’t understand that and felt that I was trying to erase them from the movement.”
After spending some time contemplating the critical feedback on her initial post and researching the origins of the body acceptance movement, Williams decided to share her thoughts in her now-viral TikTok.
“I felt once I had figured out what I wanted to say that I should clarify my point because I thought it would help pave the way to giving voice to actual fat creators and advocates,” she told In The Know.
Williams, who has now been duetted by Lizzo twice, said she had no idea that her post would go this viral, adding that she feels as if she’s developing somewhat of a personal bond with the singer over their shared ideologies.
“I keep making this joke that we’re friends now because she duetted my TikTok again,” Williams said. “In all seriousness though, it’s incredibly validating to know that I am not another thin person speaking over marginalized bodies, but instead an ally doing my best to give voice to what people have taught me.”
Still, Williams says she recognizes her privilege as a thin, able-bodied creator, and has contemplated if her post would have gained as much traction if she was part of the community she so vigorously advocates for.
“I ask myself now if I would’ve gone viral if I was actually a plus-size creator because, in a lot of ways, all I did was rephrase what they were already saying,” Williams noted.
Although the reception to her TikToks has been mostly positive, Williams says she had received a few misinformed comments from thin users who have felt excluded from her definition of body acceptance.
“On this post, as on many others, there were people who missed the point,” she said. “And while it can be a little discouraging, it’s okay! Learning and checking your privilege can be uncomfortable, especially when your life has been filled with struggles. But that discomfort is where we do the most growing, and it’s also how everyone ultimately reaches liberation.”
“I would encourage [critics] to take a step back and rewatch with a different perspective in mind,” Williams added.
If you or someone you know needs support after experiencing weight-related bias or discrimination, contact the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance at 916- 558-6880 or via an online form. You can also connect with a Crisis Text Line counselor at no charge by texting the word “HOME” to 741741.
If you found this story insightful, read more about the racist roots of fatphobia.
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