I don’t know if you’ve all seen this snippet from the TV show Louie, but it has done the rounds of the fatosphere quite a bit over the past few days. Just in case you haven’t seen it, or want to refresh your memory, here it is again.
I’m not a watcher of Louie, and I have mixed feelings about Louis CK, and his show as a vehicle for social politics, but I want to move away from that aspect just now. That’s a conversation for another time.
This clip has garnered a lot of criticism within fat activism circles. Some of it is valid criticism, some of it I disagree with because I think it is viewed through a lens of privilege and internalised misogyny as well. I’m going to do more than one post about it, so please hang in there ok, and we’ll hit the issues up one by one.
But for me, well, I connected with it very deeply. Not only because Sarah Baker gives one hell of a performance, but because she voices a lot of things I feel and think. I have a lot of thoughts on being a fat woman and dating, but I think those are for another time. I will actually have a post on that coming up soon.
What I want us all to focus on here is the statement that seems to have got the most criticism. “It sucks being a fat girl.”
So many people have complained about this, saying that it doesn’t suck to be a fat girl and that her saying it sends a “bad message” to the rest of the world, that it’s “so negative, we can’t see it as a win.”
Well I’m going to be the one to say it as a real life fat woman.
It sucks to be a fat woman.
It really does. But not because of physically being fat. It doesn’t suck having a fat body, that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It sucks to be a fat woman in a world that treats us as second-class citizens.
It sucks to be treated with contempt, derision, ridicule and outright hatred.
It sucks to have a lot of men act like their dick is going to fall off if they are seen with you in public.
It sucks to be sneered and tutted at on public transport as though you don’t have the right to be there.
It sucks to go to the doctor for a cold or a sore toe and be lectured on your weight instead of being given treatment.
It sucks that retailers who know they could make very good money off you refuse to stock reasonable quality, fashionable clothing at a reasonable price because they don’t want to lose their thin customers who wouldn’t be seen dead in the same outfit as a fat woman.
It sucks to have random men scream abuse at you in the street.
It sucks to get hate mail and trolling because you dare to be a visible fat woman.
It sucks that furniture often isn’t made to include your body.
It sucks that you can’t turn on the television or open a magazine without being shamed for your body.
It sucks that strangers take your photo in public without your consent.
It sucks to be a fat woman.
I find the whole idea that we must be positive at all times, and only represent the good things about being fat at all times really damaging. It’s not helping anyone to expect that fat women are always depicted as everything being perfect and rosy. Or that we’re 100% arse kicking, take no prisoners, school every nasty dude that crosses our path at every moment of our lives. Not only does it provide a false sense of “Everything’s fine!” to not fat people, but it doesn’t help we fatties. It doesn’t help we fatties to think that so long as you’ve got good self esteem and don’t hate your body, suddenly the world gets all sunshine and roses. It doesn’t. People told me back in my self hating days that when I learned to build my self esteem and be confident, people wouldn’t be as horrible to me as they were when I hated myself. That’s a blatant lie. It doesn’t go away. It doesn’t get better.
What does change when you find self esteem and confidence is YOU. You get better. Not better as a person – you were already perfectly fine even before you found self esteem and confidence. But better at dealing with the crap. Better at valuing yourself. Better at realising that other people’s crappy behaviour is no reflection on you. Better at self care to deal with other people’s horrible attitudes. Better at advocating for yourself. Better at saying no. Better at shrugging off the haters and living your life anyway.
I also don’t want us to have to deny any vulnerability. You know what, people are shitty to and about fat people, and it’s hurtful and bloody stressful! We’re dealing with a constant level of stress that thin people generally don’t have to think about. Will I physically fit in that furniture? Will people be rude to me for taking up too much space? Is the doctor going to take me give me treatment or are they just going to prescribe a diet? Can I take a walk without someone mooing at me and calling me a fat bitch? Will I be able to find a suitable outfit in my size for a job interview?
But most importantly, the answer to “Being a fat woman sucks.” is not “Well become a thin woman then.” Firstly because there is no proven way to do that and secondly because our bodies are not the problem – our culture is.
That clip is so refreshing. I personally love Louie CK’s comedy, but get it isn’t for everyone. But to see on tv a fat woman finally allowed to call out the inequity with society is so nice. I was just bitching about this the other day – fat women are generally either depicted one of two ways in tv/movies – a) the comedic relief, or b) as if nothing is different between being a fat woman or a thin woman and men still act exactly the same towards either – it is a bunch of lies. You see it all the time, the thin pretty chick with the fat bloke, and that is socially okay, but as soon as it is reversed, everyone jumps on the band wagon of bashing the chick – especially other women. Great piece – from a fellow fat Brisbane woman.
I agree lyssacelestriacampbell – I’m so over fat women either being the butt of a joke or a complete ignorance of the realities of being a fat woman.
And howdy neighbour!
Reblogged this on Spreemieze and commented:
“It sucks that retailers who know they could make very good money off you refuse to stock reasonable quality, fashionable clothing at a reasonable price because they don’t want to lose their thin customers who wouldn’t be seen dead in the same outfit as a fat woman.”
It also sucks that when I do find something in my size and price range it’s almost always a thin woman’s clothes, sized up. So I have breast pockets right over my rack o’doom and armholes that pinch, but if I get the next bigger size the hemline will be closer to my knees than my hips.
Clothes designers: You can’t just multiply all measurements by the same decimal. You need to adjust the actual design.
Or alternatively, they tweak the design but think we’re all 7 feet tall and need armholes that would fit our waists.
It sucks that people who desire to help and/or harvest money from fat women never seem to think of first asking fat women what they want.
Well said. Thank you.
Thanks for this column. I’ve been following the various commentaries with interest, and they all have points to make. But what you’ve said rings very true for me.
Society’s view of fat women has stolen certain joys from my life. Pretending that it hasn’t doesn’t help me. I won’t give up trying to find those joys, but sometimes I just want acknowledgement that yes, it’s hard, and yes, it sucks, and no, it doesn’t get better. And that’s ok, in a way. It is what it is. Some people have better lives than mine. Some have much much worse. But society hates fat women, and that’s the water I have to swim through every day, dammit.
So, yes. Thanks.
O.C. that sentence… it’s so perfect:
“But society hates fat women, and that’s the water I have to swim through every day, dammit.”
This is exactly what I wrote a couple of days ago on my FB page in response to this clip. Thank you so much for targeting some of the issues that revolve around the issue “it sucks to be a fat girl.” I don’t think that many people understand that it’s not only a self body image problem, but it has to do with the way our culture perceives and treats us. Thank you for your voice.
Exactly Emma. As much as we love our fat bodies, find self esteem and confidence and refuse to accept a reduced life, it doesn’t change the fact that we are still hated and treated like shit.
You’re bloody right. It’s the culture that sucks big time. Capitalists are investing in human emotions and projections to gain more and more and more money by controlling the minds of the masses. They are the ones who create wants (i.e. slim body, beautiful face, whiter skin, brand consciousness) just for the sake of profits. The result is a very sick society that values shallow aesthetics and discriminates those who don’t fit with the trends they created.
A – freaking – men!
Yup. That’s where feminism comes in to heal the sickness and reclaim our bodies and value.
I haven’t seen the show and I hand’t seen the clip until just now, but I have to say I LOVED that scene.
This is a woman who clearly does have excellent self-esteem, who does value herself, and who knows just how damn great she is. What she wants to know is why nobody else sees it just because she’s fat. And you know what? That fucking sucks. That’s why it sucks to be a fat girl.
And I don’t think we do ourselves or anyone else a favor when we sweep that truth under the rug. We wouldn’t need FA or any variation thereof if this wasn’t the truth of our lives. We fucking rock. But in order to be allowed to fucking rock, we are told we must be at least this thin.
If our lives were all sunshine and roses without thorns, this blog and all the other blogs about fat justice wouldn’t fucking exist. We need these blogs because the stupid way the world is set up right now means that yes, being a fat girl sucks.
And if that seven minutes of Discomfort Theater actually made even one person – fat or thin – think about how wrong that is, then I say more power to Louis CK.
Also? I would totally cast Sarah Baker in any damn part she wants to play. She is fabulous. But if being a fat girl sucks, being a fat actress sucks fifty times worse. Because people don’t give you roles to play unless they are only about being fat… and how to stop being fat. That must be one strong lady to deal with the fat hate not only in everyday life, but also the fat hate in the acting world. And I bet she enjoyed the chance to say out loud that while being a fat girl sucks, it’s not because fat sucks. It’s because people are so damn afraid of the fat, (which won’t hurt them) that they don’t even see the fat girl.
WORD Twistie! I am so glad someone else got the same thing I did from this clip. I’ve got another blog post coming up that delves deeper into the negative responses to it, so I won’t go too much further into that here.
And you’re bang on – if being a fat woman didn’t suck, the fatosphere wouldn’t exist.
And how good is Sarah Baker?? She gave a BLISTERING performance in that scene.
This so much. I was determined to be an actor all through childhood and did a lot of work/study, but I gave up because I couldn’t handle the constant rejection and typecasting.
Thanks for this article Kath – I loved the clip (even if, like you, I’m aware that Louis C.K. is not the comedic saviour some make him out to be) and this post.
AMEN! I completely agree with you and, as a fellow fat woman, I applaud you! Society refuses to accept us as equals and encourages the misguided opinion that “if you’re fat, you’re lazy or sub-human or defective.”
That clip is so on target. Any LLL (large lovely lady) can get laid, but to get someone to just hold hands walking down the street is difficult if not impossible. There are some who are ashamed of being seen with someone like me…because of my size (300 lb, 5’2″), because of my loud laugh, because of my sometimes raunchy sense of humor. It does suck being “a fat girl” because people will tell you how pretty you are and that you’d be a knock out IF ONLY!!!! One talks about being lonely, and people say the one has so much going for them, why do they want someone. We ask “if I have so much going for me, why aren’t people interested in spending time alone with me?”
I think this could be said about anything that people are against (that doesn’t impact or hurt anyone else). Like it doesn’t suck to be a woman, it sucks to be a woman in a society that devalues women.
Society gets very uncomfortable when people point out that it’s not the way you are that sucks, it’s the way you are treated. My life is a mix of privilege (white, reasonably educated, bright, access to computers and internet, cis, hetro etc.) and problems (unemployed, under qualified for current job climate) and what should be neutrals (female, fat, acne, back problems) however the things that should be neutral actually have a greater impact than most people would like to admit.
Interviewers don’t want to admit that they don’t want to employ me for a job I am fully competent to do because I’m fat, they don’t have to since I’m long term unemployed – but if that is such a deal breaker why was I asked to come to an interview?
If I were better at the games people play to get on in life I might not be in the same place, but I played the hand I was dealt with the abilities I had/have and I’ve not lost, but I’m not exactly winning either.
The reason people don’t want to believe that it’s not a meritocracy is they have a sneaking suspicion that if they examine their life they’ll see where they didn’t really earn everything all by themselves – if they are in a great position or they’ll see where they could have done better – if they are in a poor position.
I know where I screwed up which left me with a half decent hand but no idea what to do with it, I also know where I did things right and improved my had but was too late to have a serious impact on how things would go.
Strangely none of this is to do with my weight as society is pushed to believe except in how other people treat me. My back problems might be considerably lessened if the first doctor I went to hadn’t told me losing weight would cure my pain (he never once examined me) and that I should feel like crap when I wake up ’cause I’m fat. When I finally got a second opinion on the second one it turns out I had a sinus infection (I also saw a physiotherapist who helped me understand why I have back pain (need to strengthen the core muscles). None of the treatments I have been advised on currently include weight loss as a goal but I’m in more pain and sicker than I would have been if the first doctor hadn’t just made assumptions.
I also made things worse by not using tools that would make things easier for me because I was worried what people would say, I now have a wheeled shopping bag and it’s my new favourite thing ever (for the moment) I can do my shopping, get a decent amount and get it home and put away using less effort than it would have taken to get 1/3 the amount home before (just in the door, not put away).
I should have gotten one months ago, but I was afraid of what people would say because I’m not the age range wheeled shopping bags are marketed to and I knew people would stare and comment and I hate that. I don’t expect people to like me, but they can at least be polite about it if they don’t know me.
Sorry for the long comment and thank you for being out there.
Your honesty resonates and I look forward to reading more of your reflections on the episode/responses.
Great analysis, Kath. Thank you.
Great post, as always Kath. I really agree with everything you said here. The clip was hard for me to watch, b/c I’ve had those experiences too.
My biggest, all-consuming frustration w/ this clip isn’t even about the clip itself. It was with the immediate rash of “think pieces” within more mainstream media who seemed to suddenly discover that fat women are people, with normal people feelings.
And when you’re consistently made the butt of jokes and treated as not-sexual or sexually disgusting, and on and on… all the indignities that we all face, every day. To have someone suddenly say- Fat women are people too, as I’ve just discovered today…
It made me so angry. And I don’t know if that’s even a helpful or reasonable response, b/c that’s what we want, right? For people to “discover” our humanity. But why do they have to discover it? Why are we automatically subhuman, until they write a think piece and then forget about us again the next week.
I don’t know. I have such mixed feelings about it. I hope you write more about this, since there’s so much to unpack.
I know what you mean Ali. I felt a lot of frustration too. I think partly because so many other fat people have brought these things up, but have been ignored. Finally we get someone who they listen to a bit, and they act as though they’ve never heard it before. Except they probably have heard these complaints before but they chose not to listen. It’s frustrating to be in a position that in order to be taken seriously the scenario and the individual have to be palatable enough to those who are keeping us down.
Kath – you are right on here! It SUCKS!!!! Of course, we’re out there trying to make it better, but that doesn’t change the suckiness that is out there for us as things currently stand. I admit, although I try not to, I do sometimes dwell on what it might be like to wake up in the morning knowing that I will “fit in” and not be looked upon with contempt and disgust by a lot of people. I then whip myself back into line – but, there are times…. Thanks for all that you do to help us exist in this sometimes cruel world!
Kath, for me this is one of the most awesome posts you’ve written. Being a fat woman in todays world can be HARD and sometimes it sucks. Its even harder when you are denied love and affection because you don’t fit society’s preferred body shape but told you could have that IF you lost weight!! I have struggled with my weight since I was 14. I have 2 younger sisters who are both size 10 and for my entire life I have felt like an outcast NOT because of any inherent lack of self esteem or big character flaw on my part but BECAUSE I have been conditioned since a young age to feel that way because I am “bigger “than them. This message came from my family ( teasing me about my body, sending me to Jenny Craig , putting me on crazy diets of boiled egg and grapefruit) as well as strangers. Even when I was a size 12 (from my late teens to mid 20’s when I used to binge/purge/starve) to maintain it I was told I was still BIG so no matter what I was never going to “fit in”. Now in my middle age, I feel as though I am becoming comfortable in my skin and for that I have to say a big thankyou to people like you Kath. The reality of being a fat woman needs to be talked about. Fat women DO get rejected by men because of their fatness and I would say it is the lived experience of the majority of fat women and it sucks. I have been with my loving partner for 4 years and I STILL have moments where I ask myself if he would prefer me to be slim. Thanks for doing your eloquent part in encouraging thinking and discussion about this ugly truth.
BOOM. brb, sharing with every person I know.
“Can I take a walk without someone mooing at me and calling me a fat bitch?”
Focusing on this line alone, it reminds me of Adam Goodes being called an ape and me having bottles thrown at me while cycling by passing motorists.
Would anyone agree if I said modern Australian culture harbours a distinct culture of fear? As in the tall-poppy-cutting style fear of anyone who is living a harmlessly different lifestyle, either within or beyond their control? (Yes, harmlessly different. There is Julian Knight and Snowtown different, which are not harmless.)