Let me start by saying this piece is about fat, big bold beautiful fatty FAT. The term “fat” makes a lot of people uncomfortable because for too long it has carried stigmas about health, cleanliness, physical fitness, and character flaws like bad hygiene, laziness, over-eating, insecurity and low self-esteem. Those who appreciate fat prefer terms like “thick” or “big” because of the weight of stigmas around the word FAT. But fat is not an identity, it is a physical characteristic (like curly hair or long toes) and because of that fact, I prefer to use the term fat. The identity of fat (as previously mentioned) is one created out of prejudice. That’s not the kind of fat that I’m going to talk about, push out of your mind all the fat stereotypes and let me tell you about the REAL world of fat from the perspective of an ACTUAL fat woman.
I am a 22 year old fat black biracial woman; I have thunder thighs and cellulite, a stomach, flabby arms, a big ‘ol butt (say wah!?), a slight double chin, pretty feet, full breasts, smooth skin and a graceful gait. I have been encouraged to believe that my fat body is unattractive, that I should hide it every chance that I get. This message has been sold to me under the guise for concern about my health and by the media, the beauty industry, the diet industry, and society. I have been told that I shouldn’t wear bright colors or short dresses. I have been discouraged from wearing bathing suits in public by people who snicker or take pictures of me. The fact that I am so proud of my body makes people uncomfortable, they do not wish to SEE me and that is always made abundantly clear. But if I decided to see myself through the eyes of society, I would become someone that I am not. Besides, I have come to realize that my fat is beautiful. My fat is sexy. The way I throw my weight around makes some men drool and there is NOTHING wrong with my fat. My fat was meant to be seen, flaunted, touched, kissed, my fat looks good naked or underneath a man. I will not apologize for being alive, fat and in your face.
Well intentioned people will tell a fat person that it’s great to love your body but “you really should lose some weight”. As if the bodies of other people were there for policing as long as they seemed to genuinely care. There is a problem with that though, telling someone what you think they should do with their body, assumes that they don’t know (that they are stupid) or that they are dissatisfied with their health or size. It is perfectly possible to be fat, fit and healthy; in fact it is scientifically PROVEN (see Health At Every Size Research). So the health aspect of telling a fat person they shouldn’t be fat is entirely based on assumptions that they do not eat healthily or exercise…. There are plenty of thin people who do neither and are extremely unhealthy but there is something about fat that makes people get dominant and superior. Having said that, I do not entertain concern trolls. When it comes to my body, I AM AN EXPERT; my health is between me and MY doctor. So what does that leave us with? The constructs of beauty and attractiveness. When you strip down ideas about the health of fat people, all you have left is what you think of the way they look.
Beauty and attractiveness are two highly subjective things. What I find to be beautiful & sublime, another might find ugly. This holds true for every individual yet through the media we are taught to believe that there is a “standard” of beauty; that beauty is objective. This is a big problem because of the weight our society puts on physical beauty. We have been taught that if it’s good enough for the television, if they don’t sell a pill to fix it, then it is perfect. That is a lie of course but thousands of people accept this as true. Another component of this lie is the societal belief that women are symbols of status and power for men. We are taught that the most important job of a woman is to look good; beauty is what makes a woman worthy. So when you have a woman who doesn’t meet idealized standards of beauty she is seen as having less value than those who do. This creates a problem for fat women, especially in their romantic lives. “Thin is in” means fat is out, so what happens to all of the sexy, hunky, nerdy, professional, thuggish men who find fat to be attractive? They are caught in a catch 22 of sorts. That is, being attracted to fat women but being ashamed of that attraction because of the stigma that comes with fat. Other men will look at them and think they are weaker, less powerful because the woman on their arm is devalued in our society. Fat women do not make very good “trophies”. The stigma that comes with being fat (laziness, overeating, insecurity, bad hygiene etc.) will be attached to the man who dates a fat girl. The solution unfortunately has been for men to objectify and use fat women. Instead of pursuing relationships with fat women, men use them to gratify their sexual needs. They love our awesome curves, our jiggle, our bounce but they wouldn’t be caught dead with us. As a womanist/feminist I get a little bit aggressive when I’m referring to these types of men, I usually call them “slaves to white patriarchal standards of beauty” because these are men who put society’s standards before their own standards. They will put what their friends think about how a woman looks before their own preference and frankly it’s sad. And as a fat woman dealing constantly with men like this, it is extremely dehumanizing to realize that someone would find you as beautiful as you find yourself but be ashamed to express that outside of sex. The conditions for this behavior were created by these idealized & sexist standards of beauty. There are other standards of beauty like standards that declare black skin to be unattractive, that are even more sinister and harmful. These standards are built on white supremacy yet they are pervasive; just as the standards of beauty’s size are pervasive. As individuals we must start acting on our own attraction, our own idea of beauty because when we don’t, we allow other people to dictate subjective parts of our identities! And that is the truth, straight from a fat girl’s lips.
Fat women internalize messages about their inferiority every day, and to be a fat woman who is also black means you have to work hard to fight racial messages about your skin as well as those about your body. But that fight for self-actualization and efficacy is a worthy one and as a feminist and fat activist I make that fight a public one in order to empower women like me. I’ve said all of this to give you a little peek into my mind and hopefully to challenge some assumptions and even behaviors. Whether you are fat or thin, black or white you must always challenge stigma and prejudice, not only for yourself but for the sake of others as well.