Fabulously Fat Friday: But What About Your Health???

Fabulously Fat Friday is back! I’m not sure what topics to cover in upcoming weeks, though, so please leave suggestions in the comments.

Here’s a few things this post is not:

  • An explanation of how fat =/= unhealthy. If you haven’t caught up to this point yet, feel free to educate yourself, as there are people who have done a far better job explaining it and gathering the evidence than I could here, here, here, hereand here
  • A defense of my own health and habits backing up the incredibly ableist and misguided good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy. 
  •  An explanation of why diets don’t work, and why you can’t just expect fat people to be able to magically become thin. (See the above links for more on that issue.) 

Okay, so, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s get started. First of all, my health is none of your business. You know nothing about my health from looking at me. You are not my doctor, and unless I invite your opinion, you have no right to say anything about my health. Same goes for any person in your life, fat or thin. Health is personal. This is just how to be a decent human being. This part is not up for discussion. That’s why I’m not talking about my health here: it’s none of your business.

People are people, and they all deserve to be treated decently, no matter what their health. Some people are unhealthy, through no fault of their own, due to disabilities or illnesses or genetics or injuries, and that is not a moral failing. Some people choose other priorities over working out or eating salads, and that is not a moral failing. It’s a personal choice. Some people have too much else going on in their lives, and that is not a moral failing. Some people don’t have access to safe spaces for exercise or to healthy foods, and that is not a moral failing. And we can’t forget mental health: sometimes, focusing on mental health means doing things that might not contribute to physical health, ie spending a day relaxing on the couch with a good book, or eating nachos for breakfast. Sometimes, that’s good for us!

You know what’s not good for our mental health? Shame and hatred. So if you’re really worried about someone’s health, harassing them about their weight is not helping. Quite the opposite. If you care about someone, you care about them as a human being, not just about how they look. Trust that we are grown ass adults who know how to look after ourselves, and unless we have asked for it, we do not want your opinion.

Now, we get to all the fear-mongering rhetoric pushed by the government and the media about “obesity as a public health issue.” (I put all this in quotes because a. I hate the word obesity and b. it’s not a public health issue.) It’s not a health issue, not really, as I pointed out above, so I’m going to focus on something else: even if you believe it is a health issue, how does that justify harassing or hating fat people?

Smoking is a health issue. Food deserts are a health issue. Cancer is a health issue. Depression is a health issue. Does the entire world think it’s okay to be awful and hateful to people suffering from these issues? Does the media make them the butt of jokes, if they’re represented at all? No. So even if you believe this nonsense about fat being a health issue, that does not give you license to be an asshole. It’s clear when we consider it from this angle that it’s not really about concern. It’s about superficial beauty standards, discrimination, and hate.

And it has very real consequences. Doctors like to blame every health issue a fat person faces on their weight, and prescribe weight loss as the first (and sometimes only) treatment, even when, for a thin person, there are other causes to be considered and treatments to be explored. This isn’t just an inconvenience. It doesn’t just hurt our feelings. This kind of fat hate kills people. So if you’re really worried about us and our health, buying into this kind of rhetoric is not helping. Not even a little. It’s killing us. Don’t believe me? Here are some sources:

  • This CNN article comes to a few problematic conclusions that I clearly disagree with, but has good information about the hazards faced by fat people when it comes to getting good medical care, including personal anecdotes.
  • This information from NAAFA gives statistics about the biases of medical professionals.
  • This Slate article is also not without its problems, but it does have some interesting information.

In conclusion: someone else’s health is none of your business, regardless of their weight, and fat shame and discrimination are bigger health issues than fat itself. So if you really care, stop concern-trolling and respect our ability to make our own decisions. Learn some respect for your fellow human beings, regardless of size. Or more simply? Stop being such a dick and mind your own business.

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Fabulously Fat Fridays: Why Posting Pictures Of Myself In Pretty Clothes On The Internet Is Radical

Here’s what I imagine some people might think about my blog: Fat acceptance! Awesome! But….all you’re doing is posting pictures of yourself in pretty clothes on the internet. How is that radical? It’s so shallow. How can fashion possibly be important when it comes to fighting for civil rights for fat people?

Fatshion is a form of activism. It’s not the most radical thing ever, but a fat person proudly posting fashionable pictures of themselves on the internet is definitely radical! It’s a totally valid part of the FA movement. Why, you ask? Well, I’ll give you a few of my reasons.

  • Fat people are not supposed to look nice. Fat is supposed to be a synonym for lazy slob. By showing our stylish selves on the internet, we are busting up stereotypes all over the place. I have several readers who run straight-sized fashion blogs, who aren’t into FA or anything, and I hope that I’m showing them a different perspective from the one they see in fashion magazines! We’re showing that fat people are normal and happy and sometimes, we’re into fashion. We’re not waiting to buy that perfect dress when we lose 10 pounds (or 100 pounds); we are rocking the hell out of it right now!
  • Fat people are supposed to be ashamed and invisible. We don’t see images of happily displayed fat bodies in the mainstream media. We don’t have much positive representation on television, in movies, on magazine pages. We have to literally retrain our brains to see fat as fabulous. We have to seek out our own positive representation. We have to create our own positive representation. Fatshion bloggers are doing just that! I know reading other fatshion blogs & then creating my own has helped me a lot in my own personal body acceptance journey, and I’m sure that’s true for others, too.
  • Fat people like fashion, too! We are building a community here of fat babes who are into fashion, and it’s awesome. We are basically sharing an interest that has a mainstream community that excludes us, so we’re creating our own community. We’re supporting each other, we’re giving each other style inspiration and shopping tips, and when the rest of the world sucks, we know there are other fabulous fashionable fatties out there. It’s not just about breaking stereotypes or hoping we can change someone’s outlook for the better; it’s about the positive impact within this community. I know every day I have a positive interaction with another awesome fat chick on the internet, that’s a happy day! Also, fashion is harder for fat people just because of a lack of resources; this internet community helps us to share the resources we find with other awesome fatties.

We can’t stop at fashion, though. This is valid and it’s important, but we have to keep the politics of it in mind, too. I know that some fat fashion bloggers wish they could just be seen as fashion bloggers who happen to be fat. Sure, in an ideal world, it wouldn’t matter. Fashion would be fashion, regardless of size. But we don’t live in that world. That much is clear when you look at the extremely limited fashionable clothing out there for fat people. Even if you don’t want it to be, what you are doing as a fat person putting these pictures out there for the world to see is political. Making the world face your existence as a fat person instead of hiding away in your lazy, unfashionable corner of the world is important, and it’s radical, even if it shouldn’t be.

A lot of this really applies to other non-normative bodies as well. If you’re thin, white, able-bodied, cisgendered, and traditionally beautiful, fashion is not really political. I mean, it’s still fun, it’s still creative, it’s still awesome. But you’re free to pursue style without the same kind of judgements. You have positive representation of stylish people who look like you available all over the place. For the rest of us? Not so much. Our fashion makes a statement because we aren’t supposed to be willing and able to look fabulous and express ourselves this way. We’re suppose to be doing whatever we can to make ourselves less noticeable. In a lot of people’s eyes, there’s no way we’ll ever be “normal,” so the best we can do is cry about it and try to be invisible.

Well, screw that, I say. Make yourself noticeable. Create positive representation. Fuck societal ideals of beauty. Just being fabulously fat in a public way is inherently radical. Embrace it!

Fabulously Fat Fridays: Fat & Feminism, or Why Intersectionality Matters

Right from the start, beginning with the title of this blog, I identify myself as a fat feminist.  Mostly, this blog is about fat, so some of you might be wondering: why is fat a feminist issue? I was going to tackle the issue of why fat fashion blogging is activism, but in honor of International Women’s Day, you get this instead! (Next week, though, we’ll talk about fatshion’s place in fat acceptance activism.)

One huge part of the answer lies in the theory of intersectionality, which, according to Wikipedia, is “the study of intersections between different groups of minorities; specifically, the study of the interactions of multiple systems of oppression or discrimination. […] Intersectionality holds that the classical conceptualizations of oppression within society, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and religion- or belief-based bigotry, do not act independently of one another; instead, these forms of oppression interrelate, creating a system of oppression that reflects the “intersection” of multiple forms of discrimination.”

Now, I’m no expert, but to explain in simple terms what this means to me, nobody is just one thing. Feminists fight against oppression of women, but that can’t be all we’re fighting against. If we’re truly fighting against the oppression of all women (as we should be), we are also fighting against the oppression of all people. Why? Because many women aren’t white, so we have to fight against racism in order to fight for them. Because many women are disabled, so we have to fight against ableism in order to fight for them. Because many women are poor, queer, trans*, or fat, and in order to fight for them, we have to fight against all of their oppressions (and by extension, as said oppressions apply to everyone, including men and people outside the gender binary, of course). When people say they aren’t feminists because they believe in equality for everyone, I just figure they have a different definition of feminism than I do. By my definition, a real feminist has to fight for equality for everyone.

So guess what, fat-hating feminists? You suck. You are failing at being a feminist. If you aren’t helping me to fight against thin privilege and oppression of fat people, you aren’t fighting for me.

The other part of the answer, at least for me? That’s this idea that we, as women, have to look a certain way in order to be valuable. And fat discrimination is all about looks, if you’re going to play the health card now, go educate yourself and get back to me when you’ve been disabused of that seriously faulty notion. (Also, my health is none of your business, and go screw yourself for good measure.) So if we’re all on the same page now, women are discriminated against for being fat in many ways, but one of those ways is the same way that women are discriminated against for not meeting traditional beauty standards, be it in voluntary (not wearing makeup, not shaving body hair) or involuntary (simply not looking traditionally beautiful) ways, and that’s fucked up.  People (mostly women, in my opinion, though this does effect men to a lesser extent) who aren’t “pretty” are passed over for promotions or job offers. They are thought of as sloppy and lazy and bad people. How often is ugliness or fatness used as a shortcut for evil in fiction? Very often is the answer. Women are taught that we “owe” the world some kind of beauty, and we don’t. We don’t owe anyone anything. I want to look pretty, but I recognize that it’s a desire that is tied up in a lot of screwed-up patriarchal ideas, and I’m trying to reclaim it by looking “pretty” but in a traditionally un-pretty (fat) body. If you want to fight against traditional expectations for women to look pretty, you have to realize that fat bodies are a big (no pun intended) part of that fight. As a fat woman, I am supposed to try harder. What’s “low maintenance” on a thin, traditionally beautiful woman is seen as “sloppy” or “lazy” on a fat woman. That’s not okay, and it’s yet another way in which the ideals and expectations of the patriarchy leave women fighting and judging each other instead of the system that oppresses us all.

So, in conclusion: good feminists fight fat discrimination, too! (And ableism and racism and homophobia and all the other things I’m forgetting right now because there are too many to list.) We fight for people, for humanity, against oppressive systems that hurt us all. Even though there are a lot of people out there who call themselves feminists and don’t agree with this, I don’t identify myself with them. There are a lot of good feminists out there, though, and that’s who I’m aligning myself with.

Introducing Fabulously Fat Fridays: Taking Up Space In A World Designed For Thin People

This post was sparked by a discussion in the comments of my previous post about fat identities and thin privilege at different sizes

Since last Friday’s post led to a couple of very interesting discussions in the comments, I’ve decided that I want to make a point to focus more on fat issues beyond fashion (although they may sometimes include fashion; right now I’m working on another post about why fatshion is important in the FA movement), and so I’m going to be devoting Fridays to these discussions. I’m calling it “Fabulously Fat Fridays,” and I’m going to be tackling whatever fat issues I deem important (or that anyone else wants to hear my take on; feel free to leave suggestions in the comments). I hope that you’ll enjoy reading my posts, and that they’ll spark some discussion. Without further ado, here is the first official post in the series!

Fat people physically take up more space than thin people. That’s pretty much scientific fact. However, in our society, fat people, especially women, are so often made to feel ashamed about that fact. We are made to feel like we don’t have a right to take up space, be it physical or metaphorical space (by which I mean representation in the media, mostly). Here, I’m going to talk about the physical space we take up.

We live in a world designed for thin people. Thin bodies are kept in mind when designing seats in theaters or on airplanes, chairs in classrooms, booths in restaurants, aisles in buses, and so on. The list is endless. Look around you, and it’s clear that the world isn’t designed for bodies over a certain size. Those of us over that size are constantly shamed, inconvenienced, and sometimes denied access to or charged extra for the privilege of inhabiting spaces designed for thin people. Fat activism, in my mind, means not standing for that anymore. It means fighting for our right to be treated with basic human dignity, which doesn’t just mean being tolerated in a world designed for thin people. It means having what thin people have access to all the time: spaces and accommodations designed with us in mind. As illustrated above, we aren’t just fighting for equality; we are fighting for justice. Not everyone needs the same accommodations but the outcome should be the same for everyone.

(This argument also applies to a lot of disabled people, so while I’m speaking specifically about fat people here, I recognize that the challenges described are often faced by anyone with a body outside of the norms accepted by our society.)

The quintessential example, the question brought up time and time again, is airplane seats, so I’ll use this to illustrate my point. This is where a lot of FA writers would talk about tall people or strong perfumes or some other sort of person you could have to sit next to that would be an inconvenience, or maybe about how fat isn’t always a fat person’s fault. I’m not trying to criticize anyone in particular, but that’s a line of thinking that I’m uncomfortable with. Not that any of it’s untrue, but that’s making excuses, and beside the point. The point is this: we are fighting for the right of everyone, no matter what their size, to take up space and exist in a world designed to fit their bodies. With that in mind, everyone on an airplane, fat or thin, is paying the airline for transportation from point A to point B, and that should be provided, at the same cost, regardless of one’s size, because anything else is discrimination. End of story. No excuses necessary.

So, let’s say you get this far, and you agree with me in principle, but you’re not sure what the practical solution is. We can’t possibly have fat-accommodating seats in every restaurant, airplane, and theater at the same cost, can we? Yes. Yes, we can, and yes, we have to. I mean, ideally every space would be designed to fit larger bodies than they are now because there are so many people who don’t fit in these spaces as they are, but even if we don’t do that, having a few larger seats is totally doable. For example, public buses in my city all have 3-4 wider seats in the front of the bus. They aren’t just used by fat people, because there aren’t 3-4 people large enough to need a wider seat on the bus at all times, but when there are people who need that accommodation, it’s there, and no one has to be shamed or humiliated or inconvenienced for taking advantage of it. And if you’re thinking that if we add a “fat section” to every public place, people would be shamed for sitting there, well, that’s possible. But that’s no reason not to accommodate fat bodies, and every reason to stand up and say “fuck you” to a culture of fat shaming that says we don’t have a right to take up space.