“Why the obsession with fatness?”
I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been asked that question. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been labelled obsessed, sensitive, angry, paranoid, fixated, hung-up, pissed… you name it. It seems that if one wears ones fatness as their identity, and/or speaks up on the injustice of our society’s treatment of fat people, then one must be “obsessed with fatness”. We’re told to “get over it”. To stop talking about it, nobody wants to hear about this stuff. Stop identifying as fat and then people won’t treat you so badly. People use euphamisms to try to soften the sound of their criticisms of fat activists. They say things like “You must be proud of being large, if you call yourself THAT” (rarely will they use the word Fat, even though I use it as my screen name). As though there is something shameful about being proud of who you are, and your body, if you are a, well… large person.
I loathe being called large, big, hefty, fluffy, chunky. These are weasel words that are designed to shame the word FAT.
We’re not allowed to have fat as part of our identity, yet at every turn, we are reminded that we are fat. Every day, we see and hear hundreds of negative messages about weight in the world around us, from the news story about the “obesity epidemic”, magazine covers about some celebrity’s latest weight loss or gain, advertising for weight loss products or diet foods, to public service announcements about living a “healthy lifestyle” which always imply that healthy = thin. Then if those messages aren’t enough, fat people are told they can’t have clothes as nice as everyone else (lest we be “promoting obesity”), must pay for two seats on many airlines, shouldn’t take up too much space on public transport, should cover our bodies to hide our fatness and are not allowed health care unless it is focused on our weight. When we go to the doctor, no matter what it is for, most of us are told to lose weight, or asked what we are “doing about our weight”, or lectured on the perils of obesity. Then on top of that, we are shamed and bullied by the arseholes of the public. We are yelled at, photographed, body-checked, have things thrown at us, are lectured by our families, friends and workmates, are spat at, are called fat bitches/cunts/fucks, are filmed without our consent by news crews to use as headless fatties on stories about how we are the scourge of the nation, fat children are bullied at school and singled out by the schools as being “unhealthy”, we are called liars if we say we eat healthy, and are called gluttonous/pigs/greedy if we eat anything that is deemed “unhealthy”. If we don’t exercise, we’re told we’re lazy and deserve to die, if we do, we’re bullied while we go about it. If we want to have children, we’re told we are too fat and it would be cruel to inflict us on our own offspring, and now it seems if we wish to not have children, we’re told we’re too fat to have an abortion or birth control. And over and over again we hear messages about how we, as representatives of “the obesity epidemic”, should be eradicated, cured, prevented, fixed, solved, removed.
All of that comes at us every day of our lives, over and over and over and yet we’re not to own our own fatness as part of our identity? We’re not allowed to identify as fat?
The thing is, we ARE fat. There is no escaping that fact for us. But we have a choice, we can buy into the cultural norm of the fatty claiming mea culpa, and never referring to themselves as what they actually are, never using the word fat, except in a whisper or to beat ourselves up, always speaking in euphemisms – large, chubby, big, hefty, plus-sized, thick. Or, we can claim our fatness as it is – OUR fatness. Our bodies, our lives, our experiences, our needs, our perspectives.
When someone says “Why are you so obsessed with fatness?” answer them “Because that is who I am and owning my identity isn’t obsession.”
When someone says “You sound like you’re proud to be fat.” answer them “Yes I am. I’m proud to be a fab fat person who doesn’t let your fat hating culture rule my life.”
Fat hatred is not OUR culture, it is the culture we’re opting out of. We don’t identify with it any more. Our identity is fat positive.