(Image: “Fat Positive Manatee” meme)
So, I know that of the handful of readers I’ve acquired so far in this blog, some of you followed me here from fat-positive spaces, and some of you are just into fashion. For those not acquainted with the fat acceptance movement, I’m glad that good style transcends size, but I thought I’d post a bit of a primer about fat here, with some links for further reading if you want. I’m going to put this in a Q&A format, and please, even if you’re just here for the great outfits, take a look!
Q: Why are you calling yourself “fat”? Isn’t that an insult?
A: Fat is a neutral descriptor! If it’s not offensive to call me brunette or medium-height or whatever, why should it be offensive for me to describe myself as fat? I am, after all! It’s true that there are a lot of people who think this word is an insult, but we’re trying to reclaim it as the neutral word it really is. Fat’s no better or worse than thin, and if we let that word have power as an insult, we’re implicitly agreeing that being fat is a bad thing. It’s a much better word than, say, “overweight,” which is often thought to be more PC–but that implies there’s some weight that we’re not supposed to be over! And I haaaaaate the word “obese,” which is a gross-sounding medical term. And using descriptors like “curvy” or “plus size” are just euphemisms, saying that when you mean “fat” is just a cop-out.
Q: Okay, okay. But isn’t fat unhealthy?
A: The only thing you can tell by looking at a fat person is that they are fat. That’s it. End of story. You can’t tell their health, you can’t tell what they eat or how much they exercise or any of that. There are healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people. In fact, a lot of the studies that show correlations (not causations!) with fat and diseases are sponsored by weight loss companies! Dieting is a huge industry, and an unhealthy one at that. (If it worked, the industry would be out of business as people permanently got thin!) There’s a lot of pressure for research to show the outcomes they want. No one in the mainstream media would pay any attention to studies that showed fat is not the same as unhealthy. But in fact, those studies do exist, as do studies that say the real unhealthy thing about fat is the body shame and subsequent low self esteem. So stop body shaming, it’s good for everyone’s health!
Q: So it’s okay to be fat and healthy, then, right?
A: Of course. But it’s ALSO okay to be fat and unhealthy, either by coincidence or by lifestyle choice. Health is not a moral imperative! Being fat is equally valid if you run 3 miles a day and eat loads of veggies, or if you hang out on the couch and eat donuts, or if you are unhealthy through totally non fat related reasons and just happen to be fat on top of that. Health shaming is just as bad as body shaming, especially when it goes along with ableism.
Q: Why does fat need an acceptance movement?
A: Um, hello, take a look at our society! Fat people are shamed all the time, by family and friends and random strangers on the street. Fat people are not accommodated by public transportation, by mainstream clothing stores, by seating availability in public places…the list is endless! Fat people are discriminated against by employers and healthcare providers, in ways that can actually be life-threatening.
Q: If it’s so bad to be fat in our society, why don’t you just lose weight?
A: I shouldn’t have to! People should be accepted as they are. Additionally, dieting is dangerous. Dieting encourages behaviors for fat people that would be called an eating disorder in thin people. And it doesn’t even work! Sure, you might lose some weight initially, but you’ll put it back on before long. 95% of diets fail in the long term, and yo-yo dieting can have disastrous consequences for your health. Worse than fat!
Q: I see. I want to find out more about this whole fat acceptance thing. Where should I start?
A: These are some of my favorite blogs dealing with fat acceptance:
Shapely Prose (this is no longer an active blog, but the archive is worth reading.)
This Is Thin Privilege (thin people PLEASE READ THIS ONE)
This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course, so I encourage you to look around on your own! There are also books on the subject, if you’re really interested.
Q: Fat & feminism. How do they go together?
A: This is the subject of another post entirely, but I want to take this opportunity to include this quote that might shed some light on the issue:
“Women who are fat are said to have ‘let themselves go.’ The very phrase connotes a loosening of restraints. Women in our society are bound. In generations past, the constriction was accomplished by corsets and girdles…. Women today are bound by fears, by oppression, and by stereotypes that depict large women as ungainly, unfeminine, and unworthy of appreciation…. Above all, women must control themselves, must be careful, for to relax might lead to the worst possible consequence: being fat.” (“Letting Ourselves Go: Making Room for the Fat Body in Feminist Scholarship,” by Cecilia Hartley)
Thanks for reading!
(Note: this information comes from all kinds of reading on the subject, and if I’ve inadvertently internalized and plagiarized something specific, I’m sorry!)