How to Make Your Blog More Inclusive

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Inclusive (n.) — not excluding any section of society or any party involved in something.

A.k.a., the opposite of most blogs, Instagram influencers and Pinterest accounts, which tend to showcase the same things over and over again: thin, blonde, stay-at-home-moms living a natural lifestyle, eating an impossibly healthy diet and raising their kids like perfect angels…. not to mention, having time and money left over for getting their hair and nails done!

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a thin, white, young female — and while I am bisexual, I have a boyfriend and can pass as straight — with all the privilege that comes along with appearing to be cisgendered, white and heterosexual. Yet it’s still important to me to crush the stereotype that all bloggers are perpetuating the image of perfection!

Why, you ask? Because the more bloggers are honest about what their life looks like from day-to-day, the more inclusive the world becomes for those of us who are fat, or people of color (POCs), or LGBTQIA. Everyone should feel welcome in the blogging community, because we need diverse voices from every corner of the world to speak out about what’s important to them.

Not to mention, more inclusivity just makes the world a better place! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a world where no one’s dress size is above an eight, no one’s gender is non-binary or no one’s identities differed from mine. How boring would that be? Our differences are what make us interesting! If you were exactly like me, and I were exactly like you, I honestly don’t know what we’d have to talk about (other than arguing about which Taylor Swift song off Lover will take home a Grammy).

And, from a purely selfish standpoint, inclusivity benefits you, benefits your blog and benefits business. Think of it this way: more inclusivity = more potential followers = more potential customers. Right now, you could be missing out on the business of thousands of fat people, people of color, disabled people or non-binary folx because you’re failing to use inclusive language, posting photos of only skinny white women or not captioning your social media pics or videos for the disabled!

All of these reasons summarize why it’s important to me to foster an inclusive blogging community, and why it should be important to you, too. When everyone feels welcome to be themselves, independent of shame, it paves the way for you to be your true self, without judgment, as well. Still, the Internet is not as welcoming a place these days as it was when I was a teen….hence, today’s blog post. These are my thoughts on making your little corner of the Internet more welcoming to everyone.

Language

The language you use matters. Many people have told me I’m being “too politically correct” when I ask them not to use a certain phrase (such as the r-word), but there’s a reason why language matters so much to me: our words have power. And where there is tremendous power, there is also a tremendous ability to hurt the people around you — if you aren’t careful, that is.

It would be impossible for me to go through all the things you should and shouldn’t say online. But one thing I’m trying to be more conscious of, especially as a person in eating disorder recovery, is how I use the word “fat.” As a thin person, I often “feel fat” when I’m having a bad body image day, but I try not to let myself use those exact words anymore — because it’s insinuating that being fat is a bad thing.

What’s more, it takes power away from actual fat people. After all, if I weigh 115 lbs and call myself fat, what does that say about people who weigh two or three times that much? What does that make them? This is just one example why considering the language you use (before you type it!) is so important. In general, use your best judgment — and when in doubt, I say, leave it out.

Also, a brief word about gender pronouns: I admit that they can be confusing at times! But you’re always better off using inclusive language (like “folx” or “womxn” instead of “men” and “women”), or simply asking someone you know who identifies as non-binary or trans, than not trying at all. And if you accidentally mis-gender someone? Apologize, correct yourself and move on. Don’t turn it into an awkward rant or start making excuses for yourself. The more you attract attention to your mistake, the more uncomfortable you could be making the person you just mis-gendered.

Stock Photos

Can we please get #StockPhotosSoWhite trending? Because stock photos on lifestyle blogs might be the only thing whiter than the Oscars. Not to mention, blonde-haired, blue-eyed and rail-thin…. which definitely isn’t what 90% of the women around you look like.

The fact is that most of us don’t see ourselves — or our BFFs, or our sisters, or our mothers — represented in the media. Bloggers are NOT immune to that. We count as “media,” too! Which means we have all the pitfalls and responsibilities that come with that.

Unfortunately, that also means we’re susceptible to the same race, class, body and gender biases as the rest of the media world. To be fair, it’s difficult to be inclusive when most of the free stock images you’ll find are of women who look less-than-real. (Cue the “women laughing into their bowls of salad” meme.) But inclusive stock photos are out there, as long as you know where to look.

Here are a couple of the sites I trust to always have incredible FREE stock photos that are inclusive of all genders, races, sizes and abilities:

  • The Gender Spectrum Collection by Broadly. Vice’s Broadly division created a gender-inclusive collection of photos featuring non-binary folx. Scroll through categories ranging from lifestyle to career to relationships to see queer, trans and non-binary people killing it.
  • nappy. nappy is a stock photo site dedicated to showcasing only pics of black and brown people. All its photos are free, and they’re sorted into categories like Food, People, Places and Things.
  • The Stockpile by CreateHER Stock. The Stockpile is CreateHER Stock’s free collection. CreateHER Stock is content creators’ one-stop destination for high-res photos of women of color.
  • Plus Size Stock Photos by AllGo. AllGo, an app catering to plus-size folx, was looking for photos of plus-size people to feature. They found the selection lacking, so they decided to create their own collection — and offer it for free to all of us!

Captions

Do you consider the hearing or vision impaired when you type your social media captions? Me, either. I admit that making my social media disability-friendly isn’t one of my strong suits at the moment, but one of my major goals for 2020 is to start captioning my Instagram post for the vision-impaired.

Occasionally, you might see an Instagram influencer you love writing photo descriptions in brackets [like this] below their main post captions. (@bodyposipanda does an amazing job at this!) You may not understand just how much the visual experience of Instagram contributes to the use of your platform until it’s taken away. But the sight-impaired aren’t able to see that inspirational quote or well-lit photo you’ve taken. The only way they have to find out about these parts of your post are through the caption text you’ve written. Including so-called “descriptive text” of the image helps enhance the experience for followers who may be visually impaired!

Meanwhile, if you happen to be a YouTuber or someone who posts frequent video content to their blog or social media, you may be facing the opposite problem: alienating the hearing-impaired. The hearing-impaired rely on captions to be uploaded along with your videos (especially if your video content tends to consist of you sitting and talking to a camera, with no illustrated examples of what you’re talking about). So, whenever you can, caption your own videos by uploading a SRT file (click here for a tutorial) along with your raw footage, or crowdsource your able-bodied audience for transcribing videos into captions for the hearing-impaired.

Feeling ambitious? You can also crowdsource your audience for translations, to make your content more accessible outside your home country! Here’s what YouTube has to say about translating your video content on their site.

Featured Products

Most lifestyle bloggers who fit into sizes 0-14 don’t think about what sizes a brand carries before posting a link to an article of clothing on that brand’s site. But in doing so, what you may not realize is that you could be alienating your fat followers. (I use the word “fat” non-pejoratively, but in accordance with the fat acceptance movement.)

In case you haven’t heard of fat acceptance, it’s a lot like body positivity and Health at Every Size (HAES) — but with a social justice-oriented twist. Basically, fat acceptance encourages us to accept that people in larger bodies exist, and to embrace them the same way we embrace people in smaller ones.

Yet when we post products that fat folx can’t purchase, well, that’s pretty much the opposite of fat acceptance. A lot of bloggers, including myself, are guilty of this — and it’s easy to be, when so few fashion brands carry sizes larger than 14 or 16.

So, what’s a girl to do when she loves fashion, but doesn’t want to alienate her fat followers? Here are some fat-friendly brands you can check out that offer inclusive sizing for people in all bodies:

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