In a new essay for The Cut, TikToker and model Remi Bader shared that the unwanted “body positivity” label she’s received worsened her struggles with disordered eating last year. The issue first arose as she faced backlash and ostracism from “certain people in the plus-size community” and body positivity influencers who took issue with how Bader would “openly talk about being unhappy with my body.” She explained, “When I say ‘I’m not the happiest right now,’ or ‘I don’t feel great,’ people will say: ‘Remi’s fatphobic.’”
The stress of constantly facing this criticism, all while holding her own complicated, deeply personal feelings about her body, ultimately reignited Bader’s struggles with binge-eating. “About a year into all of this I finally realized that I was getting into a darker place, that my binge-eating was starting to get worse. That I needed help. I was like, ‘I want to take a break from social media, but I can’t. I need to post every day,’” she wrote.
In a TikTok from last May, Bader explained that she sought professional treatment and is doing better. She also previously talked about her struggles with disordered eating and navigating public life on Victoria Garrick’s podcast Real Pod. But Bader’s Friday essay pulls at an important thread in the nuanced conversation around bodies, celebrity, and self-image that’s been raised more recently by other public figures like Jonah Hill, Bridgerton’s Nicola Coughlan, and Barbie Ferreira. “I’m supposed to be promoting self-love, but I’m just not going to pretend I love my body all the time, which is what I’m expected to do. I don’t like being called body-positive,” Bader wrote.
Bader’s experience speaks to a growing issue of social media commenters’ quickness to make plus-size celebrities—or really anyone who isn’t rail-thin—into “body positivity” icons, often enough, without their consent. But this trend of body-centric, unsolicited toxic positivity ultimately draws from the same well of 2000s body-shaming; it still reinforces that there’s a right or wrong type of body, that there are right or wrong ways to feel about our bodies.
Bader’s insights echo comments by Ferreira last year in WhoWhatWear, as she politely asked that fans stop offering “backhanded compliments” about her body, needlessly praising her for her confidence and size when she’s just trying to exist. “It’s not radical for me to be wearing a crop top,” Ferreira said. “[Comments like those are] just backhanded compliments.”
She continued, speaking of her Euphoria character Kat’s struggles with self-acceptance and body image, “It’s more of a conversation of the fact that we all struggle with self-love, and I don’t think any young person has really figured it out yet.” Despite this reality, the actor said she often faces pressure to be “this person who ‘loves themselves.’”
Around the same time, Coughlan asked her fans to not comment on her body, even with “compliments,” explaining that while “most people are being nice and not trying to be offensive,” she’s “just one real life human being, and it’s really hard to take the weight of thousands of opinions on how you look being sent directly to you every day.” In 2021, Hill similarly explained to even fans who mean well that “it’s not helpful and doesn’t feel good” to receive comments of any kind on his body.
We all have different relationships with our bodies, and the expectation that we should all feel positively about ourselves at all times is wildly unrealistic. It’s heartening that there’s a growing push to challenge said beauty standards and how we uphold thin bodies—especially among women—as the standard for attractiveness, health, and even morality; but this shouldn’t come in the form of forcing labels and spokesperson responsibilities on plus-size public figures, or otherwise obsessing about people’s bodies. Here’s a thought: We should all just stop talking about each other’s bodies, accept that it’s never going to be a comfortable topic, and let everyone feel the full range of emotions that we feel about ourselves.