A key feature of the body positivity movement is making sure that different types of bodies are included, recognized, and celebrated. But creating a space for that isn’t always easy. When travel blogger Annette Richmond realized that there wasn’t one for her, she decided she’d be the person to build it.
“As a travel writer it’s all about visibility. So, I’d tag my travel photos to 20 different pages and getting featured almost never happened,” says Richmond.
“I know I’m not the only person this happens to, but I also saw commonalities between the people that were being featured. For example, I’d tag myself in female travel pages, solo female traveler page, Black travel pages, Black female traveler pages, Black solo traveler pages, Black millennial traveler pages, Black blogger pages…. the list goes on. Although I’m all of those things, my images weren’t picked up. So I decided to create my own platform that featured only Fat Female travelers.”
Fat Girls Traveling, Richmond’s Instagram and Facebook-based community where plus-size travelers share beautiful photos from their trips across the globe, was her response to feeling excluded from the online travel community. With close to 2,000 followers, it’s clear that the space she’s made was much-needed. We talked to Richmond about the project, about why travel is so important to her, and about learning to find the confidence to claim your space.
Is your use of the word “fat” in the account name and hashtag purposeful — like, instead of “curvy” or “full-figured” or “plus-size?”
To be completely honest, I wanted that shock factor. I call myself fat and in the Plus-Size Fashion Blogosphere referring to yourself as Fat and using the hashtag #Fatshion is very common. I consider myself a travel, fashion, and lifestyle blogger. My background is in fashion, so I wanted to merge the worlds.
I also want to help take the stigma out of the word fat. Sometimes when I tell people about FGT they’ll try to correct me and tell me, “You’re not fat, you’re thick!” or “You’re not fat, you’re curvy!” To me, thick, curvy, plus size, fat — it all means the same thing.
The other thing people will say is “You’re not fat, you’re beautiful!” like the two are mutually exclusive. I am fat and I am beautiful. Being fat doesn’t mean ugly or lazy or unhealthy or unlovable. There is no way that you can diagnose someone by the way they look. There are plenty of thin people struggling with weight issues. There are plenty of thin people struggling with mental health issues. But because our society puts such emphasis on the superficial, people think that they can look at a fat person and tell them what they need to do to get “healthy” (looking at you, internet trolls). It amazes me how many online “doctors” there are trolling the interwebs. I wonder if they can look at a photo on the Gram and diagnose someone with depression or herpes!?
Why is travel — whether it’s a local road trip, a sunny vacation, or a post-grad European tour — such an important experience for people to have?
I think that it’s important for people to leave their comfort zones and to go out and experience the world and all of its beautiful people and cultures. I’m currently in Miami for the first time. I’ve never been to a state or US city where Spanish is the primary language. It’s incredible to see and I would never know this unless I experienced it first hand. I also think that people can be very self-centered and that international travel especially is something that opens your eyes and mind to the human condition. I think that every American needs to leave the country at least once, just to see what other countries really think about us. It’s humbling.
Let’s talk about that potentially stressful experience of finding yourself spending five or eight or 10 hours on an airplane. The seats are small, you’re often climbing over your sleeping neighbor to use the bathroom, and the seatbelts (which they make you wear for pretty much the entire flight) can sometimes not be long enough. How do you deal?
This is something that is talked about almost daily in the Fat Girls Traveling Facebook Group. Travel anxiety is real, for everyone, not just fat girls. Regarding the seatbelts, I will often suggest that members purchase their own extender if they feel uncomfortable asking a flight attendant for one. However, I strongly advocate that people, especially women, ask for what they need. If you need to get up and walk around to stretch your legs, ask your neighbor if they can get out so that you can get out. If you’re the lucky winner of the middle seat (the worst) make sure you get both of those armrests! If an armrest is digging into your flesh and causing you pain, ask if it can be lifted. Most decent people will understand that you need a little more space to live your life. Don’t apologize for that; ask for what you need.
The idea of “taking up space” is an issue that women of every size and shape confront. How do you find the confidence to claim that right for yourself — especially as it relates to travel, whether on an airplane or taking public transit in a strange city?
Different people need different things. I’ve sat next to people on planes who are claustrophobic and need my window seat (why they didn’t check in online the day before, I couldn’t tell you). I’ve given up my window seat for those people because they need to look out of the window for their mental stability. If you’ve ever ridden a bus, you know that when someone wheelchair-bound gets on, the people and the seats are moved to accommodate them. If you’ve ridden on the subway and are a decent human, you know that when a pregnant woman or older person gets on and there are no seats available, you stand so they can sit. Different people need different things and they just need to get over the fear of asking for what they need. Because usually, if you ask for something reasonable and obviously necessary, you will receive it.
Your Instagram account is public and very popular, while the Fat Girls Traveling Facebook group is private. Why do you think it’s important to have both kinds of spaces online?
I think that having public visibility is key. The world needs to see fat women in a positive way. We’re not all sitting at home trying to figure out how to lose weight to make everyone else more comfortable with our bodies. Hell, even fat women need to see this. That’s why I created the Facebook group, to be able to have difficult and honest conversations with other fat women about some of the difficulties that arise from living life in a bigger body. Like weight restrictions for things like ziplines, larger sleeping bags, or even where to buy a great bathing suit in your size.
But don’t get me wrong, we don’t only talk about the difficulties. Members have shared proposal videos and photos from their first solo trips. We also talk about dating and the stigma that can be associated with dating a fat girl (hello, Usher scandal!) along with being fetishized. We get so many men trying to join the Facebook group and they answer the mandatory questions with ‘I like my women BBW.’ If that’s not enough reason to make the group private, I don’t know what is!
I also don’t want the group to become a place where straight sized women go to feel better about their bodies, like ‘Well at least I’m not THAT big.’ We’re not zoo animals, we’re women. Women that deserve the same love and respect that you would give to your mother, daughter, or sister. We just happen to have more fat on our bodies.
Do you plan on taking Fat Girls Traveling into the IRL world?
I’ll be hosting the first official FGT Meetup in New York City during Fashion Week. It’ll be on the rooftop bar of Hudson Terrace on Friday, September 8, at 8pm. I’ll also be hosting a San Francisco Meetup in September before I head to Asia for a few months. The dates and times will be shared on the Instagram and Facebook accounts.
Photos Courtesy of @FatGirlsTraveling, Annette Richmond