Wednesday, 2 February 2011

I'm fat.

Here's a great excerpt by Kate Harding on why "You're not fat!" drives me up the wall. I am, and everyone's constant denial of the painfully obvious is not only insulting to my intelligence but also part of the reason the word is loaded with so much shame. I'm fat, and that's part of who I am, and I refuse to be so ashamed of it I can't even say it. I'm also a brunette. I'm also a woman. These are some of the things that make me who I am.

"Fat" is not the worst thing that can happen to anyone.

Full article here:

"For much of my adult life, I've worn plus sizes, struggled to fit into airplane seats and been clinically obese according to the body mass index (BMI) charts that determine everything from the price of my insurance premiums to whether doctors will hand me a Weight Watchers brochure when I see them about an ear infection. I once asked a doctor for help with excruciating knee pain following a spill down some stairs, and the only prescription she offered was "Lose weight." (Oh, OK. But since I'm probably not going to lose enough to reduce pressure on my joints in the next 10 minutes, and my knee hurts RIGHT NOW, do you think maybe you could MAKE WITH THE PAINKILLERS, BITCH?)

Thin women don't tell their fat friends "You're not fat" because they're confused about the dictionary definition of the word, or their eyes are broken, or they were raised on planets where size 24 is the average for women. They don't say it because it's the truth. They say it because fat does not mean just fat in this culture. It can also mean any or all of the following:

Socially inept
Just plain icky

So when they say "You're not fat," what they really mean is "You're not a dozen nasty things I associate with the word fat." The size of your body is not what's in question; a tape measure or a mirror could solve that dispute. What's in question is your goodness, your lovability, your intelligence, your kindness, your attractiveness. And your friends, not surprisingly, are inclined to believe you get high marks in all those categories. Ergo, you couldn't possibly be fat.

But I am. I am cute and healthy and pleasant-smelling (usually) and ambitious and smart and lovable and fun and stylish and friendly and outgoing and categorically not icky. And I am fat -- just like I'm also short, also American, also blonde (with a little chemical assistance). It is just one &%$@ing word that describes me, out of hundreds that could. Those three little letters do not actually cancel out all of my good qualities.

Thin friends aren't the only ones who insist that I really do magically appear skinny everywhere except in doctors' offices, on the street with strangers, on airplanes, in dressing rooms, and in my own mirror. Since my blog about body image and fat politics has developed a strong readership and I've become more visible in the fat-acceptance community, I'm getting it from the other side now, too: According to some people bigger than me, I'm not fat enough.

What do you know about size-based discrimination? You're not fat!

What do you know about how hard it is to find clothes that fit? You're not fat!

What do you know about trying to find a partner in a culture where fat is almost universally considered unattractive? You're not fat!

One more time for those who missed it: Yeah, actually, I am fat. Granted, I am not fat enough to have suffered truly vicious discrimination from medical professionals, employers or landlords. I'm not fat enough to have been asked to buy two seats on a plane; I've never had fast-food containers chucked at my head while I was out for a walk; and I don't have any trouble getting around or taking care of myself. I am incredibly grateful for all of that and conscious of my relative privilege, but it still doesn't make me not fat. It only makes me less fat than some, just as I'm fatter than others. It makes me kinda small for a fat person. If I were thinner than the average American woman, I might call myself "kinda big for a thin person" instead. But I'm not. I am, as it turns out, fat.

It's OK to say it out loud. It's also OK to point out that I'm not that fat, so I've never personally been the victim of the worst fat hatred our culture has to offer -- that's the plain truth. But telling me I'm not fat is a bloody lie.

Let me tell you why I'm so bulldoggy about hanging on to that word and refusing to let go:
Because I have taken shit for my size -- the kind of shit my thin friends rarely observe and can't quite imagine -- and that's an ineradicable part of my history. Telling me I'm not fat doesn't make those wounds disappear.

Because fat should mean only having more adipose tissue than the average person, but it doesn't. And every time you ignore what's in front of your face to tell me I'm not fat because you can't bring yourself to put me in that nasty, ugly category, you're buying in to the idea that real fat people are all sorts of nasty, ugly things I'm not. Bull. I am a real fat person, and very few real fat people live up to the worst stereotypes wielded against us.

But mostly, I want to be called fat because it's the simple truth. I am not overweight, which suggests there's some objectively ideal weight for me that's less than I weigh now, when I exercise regularly and eat as much food as my body needs. That makes no sense at all. I'm definitely not thin, which is what everyone seems to be implying when they tell me I'm not fat; I take up space, I'm curvy as a mountain road, and I've spent more money at plus size clothes stores in the last six months than the people who sew their clothes probably make in a year.

I'm fat. You wouldn't think that simple fact would be so confusing."

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