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.