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The Feministing Five: Body Positivity Activist Megan Crabbe

Megan Crabbe, a UK-based anorexia survivor turned body positivity blogger and activist, says she started hating her body at just five years old. 

At her thinnest, Megan’s weight was dangerously low. She was in and out of the hospital, and her anorexia eventually gave way to binge-eating disorder and a debilitating cycle between starvation and eating episodes. Megan began to recover from her eating disorders when she discovered body positivity, a movement that encourages people to adopt more forgiving and affirming attitudes toward their bodies and treat all bodies with respect.

Now a critical voice in the movement with her popular Instagram account @BodiPosiPanda (almost one million followers!) and blog of the same name, Megan preaches a joyful philosophy of self love and survival. She posts photos of her looking happy and confident, illustrates her weight gain and recovery, dishes advice to those struggling, and shares positive messages about dismantling harmful ideas about beauty and worthiness.

I had the pleasure of catching up with Megan for this week’s Feministing Five. We talked about what body positivity means to her, how the movement has made her a better feminist, and her goals for 2018. Catch her new book, Body Positive Power, which just came out this past fall.

blogjump2Senti Sojwal: How did you discovery body positivity and what does it mean to you?

Megan Crabbe: I stumbled on body positivity a few years ago when I was still completely stuck in diet culture. I’d spent my whole life believing that weight loss was the key to happiness, been on countless diets, battled anorexia, exercise addiction, and nearly lost my life, but still couldn’t let go of the idea that fitting the cultural standard of beauty would fix everything. One day when I was online looking for fitspo I happened to find a group of people talking about accepting their bodies as they were, calling themselves fat in a completely neutral way, and saying that they were diet-free and happy. It blew my mind. At the same time I was starting to realize deep down that if chasing thinness had never brought my fulfillment before, it was probably never going to. I jumped into the body positive community and the rest is history. To me, body positivity is rooted in respect of all bodies—all sizes, all shapes, all shades, all ages, all genders, and all abilities. It’s recognizing that all bodies are worthy of acceptance and celebration while working against the forces (like diet culture and fatphobia) that teach us otherwise.

Sojwal: Much of the backlash against the body positivity movement is that it’s promoting an “unhealthy lifestyle.” How do you respond to this and work to create more nuanced understandings of what “healthy” can mean in our world today?

Crabbe: There are lots of different factors to consider when you talk about body positivity and health. First of all, health is far more complex than size alone, and there’s a growing body of research based in the Health at Every Size movement indicating that it’s a person’s behaviors, and not their weight, that contributes to their physical health. You cannot tell how healthy a person is by looking at them, and encouraging people to see their bodies as worthless and to hate themselves will never be healthy, because mental health is health too. Our culture’s current stigma around fatness in the name of ‘health’ creates so much prejudice and hatred and destroys people’s mental health. And also, adding a health requirement into body positivity is actually pretty ableist—saying that someone’s body is only worthy of acceptance and respect if they’re physically healthy excludes countless people who have disabilities, chronic illnesses, and mental health issues, who will never be ‘healthy enough’ according to those rules. Health is not a marker of human value, any more than appearance is.

Sojwal: How has body positivity impacted your feminism and how you think about feminist activism?

Crabbe: I believe that body positivity and feminism go hand in hand, one can’t exist without the other. Feminism is what taught me why our body image issues are political, and body positivity has certainly taught me to be a more intersectional feminist. I still see a lot of feminist activism that doesn’t include the dismantling of fatphobia and diet culture as part of the fight, but I’ve definitely seen an increase in body positive awareness in the last couple of years.

Sojwal: What’s coming up for you in 2018? What are you most excited about and how do you want to grow?

Crabbe: I’m not very good at goal setting to be honest! In terms of the movement my only real goal has always been to spread the word to as many people as possible, at the moment that looks like carrying on with my online work through Instagram and Youtube, promoting my book Body Positive Power and taking part in events and speaking engagements when I can. Body positive world takeover is very much a-go!

Sojwal: Who is one feminist you admire and why?

Crabbe: I’m really lucky to have a group of feminist best friends who I’ve grown up with since childhood. My friend Joeley, who runs the feminist instagram account @thevagaggleis someone who I admire endlessly because she’s always pushing herself to be more intersectional, to learn more, and to amplify marginalized voices. Plus she’s been sassy as hell and feminist as fuck since we were 11 years old and that’s pretty damn special!

Cover Image: Becky Long Photography 

NYC

Senti Sojwal is an India born, NYC bred writer, reproductive justice activist, and feminist organizer. She graduated with a BA from Hampshire College in Gender Studies & Politics, and has worked with NARAL, The Civil Liberties & Public Policy Program and its sister program PopDev, and has written on feminist issues for Mic, Bustle, and What NOW, the blog of the National Organization for Women's NYC chapter. She currently works at Sakhi for South Asian Women, an advocacy organization that supports immigrant survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence through an array of culturally competent services and programs. Senti loves 90s pop, a bold lip, and is always hunting for the perfectly spicy Bloody Mary. She lives in Brooklyn.

Senti Sojwal is a writer, reproductive justice activist, and feminist organizer based in Brooklyn, New York.

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