Prepare to be inspired. We had the opportunity to talk with Marie Southard Ospina recently for our #BossBabe column. As a journalist and a plus-size acceptance activist, Marie has spent a significant portion of time discussing body image and advocating for better representation in the media. She has been an editor at Bustle and contributor to great sites like Refinery29, BuzzFeed, and Huffington Post. You might also have seen her discussing body image on “Good Morning America” or caught her powerful video collaboration with StyleLikeU. To sum up, she’s a total #BossBabe. And we’re pretty sure that what she had to say will get you as fired up as we are!
Looking back, both writing and editing at Bustle for the past three years has been more rewarding that I can fully conceptualize. I was fortunate enough to get hired as a full time editor after writing for the publication for about a year, and I think one of the things that contributed to that was my work within body positivity and fat acceptance.
I knew going into the role that I wanted to help bring on voices that could speak to a variety of identities, and the ways those identities intersect with fashion and beauty. Many of my writers and I focused on body positivity (specifically fat positivity, and not the more watered down version of body positivity that's super trendy right now). But (at Bustle), I also got to work with some wonderful people on LGBTQ identity topics, and that was equal parts educational and empowering. There are never enough voices, though, so I really can't wait to see what the new editor does in that regard.
Thank you! I'm stoked to say that I'll be continuing my work with both “The BodCast” and “A Body Project,” precisely because I think the more representation of unapologetic fatness (and overall otherness), the better. I'd love to live in a world where media didn't play such a crucial role in our sense of self-worth, and I really do hope that we start to see a separation between worth and media representation as time moves on.
At the moment, however, I think the images we see, the voices we hear, the bodies we come into contact with through TV or movies or articles, all have the potential to skew our perceptions of not only beauty, but what it means to be a person worthy of tolerance.
When I was growing up, there were such few positive role models in fat bodies getting any kind of media attention. Fat, empowered, brilliant humans existed, obviously, but we never got to see them in a macro way. It's important for me to collaborate with people who prove myths wrong, though, so that more folks can believe that living your life in the ways you want to live it doesn't have to have a size requirement. I especially love teaming up with people who are kicking ass and doing everything people are told they can't do "unless they lose the weight" while in visibly fat bodies.
It's safe to say that the last couple of months of my life have been equal parts terrifying and exciting. It's still incredibly surreal, and I only tend to get those "reality check" moments when she kicks or moves around. But it's a pretty wonderful feeling when you get to experience something like this while simultaneously proving the medical community wrong.
I was diagnosed with severe Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome at 14, and was told for the following 10 years that getting pregnant was, if not entirely impossible, something that might only happen with very expensive, very exhausting fertility treatments. I was also told that weight loss (a lot of weight loss) might help as well.
Lo and behold, I got pregnant while on birth control and while weighing about 250 pounds without actually trying. I've since learned that many fat women with PCOS conceive all the time, despite similar diagnoses. Fat bias in the medical community is very real. And we need to start feeling free to question our doctors and expect more of them.
I'm still writing for Bustle, Romper, Everyday Feminism (as of this month) and hopefully a few other places. So in terms of leaving, I don't really feel like I have! A lot of folks have sort of assumed that my decision to leave New York City and a full time job at Bustle means I'm somehow giving up my career and caving into antiquated ideals of a woman's role in a relationship or as a parent, when I actually feel like I'm doing anything but.
Finding out I was pregnant made me take some very important steps in my life that I've been wanting to take for years, but haven't really had the courage or motivation to. For example, I loved editing in a lot of ways, but I'll always prefer writing. Now I can do that basically full time. I love visiting New York, but I truly hate living there. Now I don't have to. I detest commuting; now I can work from home. Everything has fallen into place, miraculously and wonderfully enough.
The biggest hurdle as a writer and editor online who's specifically focusing on fatness is definitely the trolling: The death threats, the Photoshop manipulations of my images (and those of my writers), the taunting on Twitter and Instagram, the general rudeness and crudeness. I'm at a point where most of it doesn't bother me personally. But every so often, I'll receive an email that just...makes me so sad for the state of the world.
Being online all the time is probably my biggest hurdle overall. The more time you spend on the internet, the more you sort of realize how deep intolerance and prejudice go -- how adamant some people are about certain physical traits correlating to the right to humiliate and discriminate against them.
For this reason, I think taking breaks from the internet is so important, especially from social media. I routinely go off Twitter, in particular. And every time I come back to it, I'm rested and ready for whatever comes. Until I need another break, that is.
A lot of my inspiration comes from fellow fat women, many of them being visible on the internet. It's not easy to do. Posting a photo of yourself when you are fat is still met with a lot of criticism and trolling and accusations. Wearing a crop top when you have stomach rolls is still met with stares and offense.
That's the thing: People still largely find fat bodies offensive. As in, the existence of fat people literally offends some humans. It blows my mind. You can simply be living your life, not harming anyone, going about your day, only for some passerby to snap a photo of you and post it online as a source of ridicule. For me, seeing happy fats who don't feel the need to apologize for living their lives is one of the biggest inspirations of all.
That, and coffee ice cream. Coffee ice cream can seriously uplift my mood.
To me, body positivity was sort of born of the fat acceptance that preceded it. At its core, I think of it as the recognition that all bodies are worthy of tolerance — that all bodies are, yes, beautiful — but that not all bodies are treated as such. And so, we must be cognizant of the ways that not living in a body that society dictates is aspirational (typically a thin, fair-skinned, able body with Eurocentric features) will often result in marginalization.
To combat aesthetic-based prejudices, I think it's important for all folks to be mindful of their existence. With fatness, for example, I want people to question why they still largely believe it's a bad word, and why they use it as a synonym for feeling "ugly" or "lethargic" or like a garment doesn't feel right on them. I genuinely believe cultural misogyny affects women and feminine people of all sizes, but the focus of my body positivity is fighting for the people who have long been told that their bodies inherently make them worthy of intolerance.
To me, being a BossBabe is living without apology. Knowing your worth (even if it took a long time to discover it) and fighting so other people — particularly women and feminine people who've long been subject to cultural misogyny — know their worth, too. It's taking up space, and never feeling bad about it. It's claiming your right to that space, to your life, to your body, to your sexuality. It's not setting imaginary limits for yourself.