Sunday, 19 July 2015

Unpopular Opinion: Not Everyone Gets to Identify as Fat

Me: LEGIT fat (size 22, 2013)
I stumbled upon this article today, written by yet another "fat" woman. If you look at the accompanying picture, it's pretty obvious she's around a size 12 or 14, which, statistically, is average, and at best chubby. Not fat. Even though, yes, every woman over a size 6 (and some below that size) is, at some point in her life, probably called fat (often, she's calling herself that). While there is nothing wrong with being fat, it's ridiculous that this happens. When did society get so hyperbolic?

I'm gonna say it again, and piss some people off: not everyone gets to self-identify as fat. If you can shop in a regular clothing store, and you're below a size 14, you're not "plus" sized. Some might even argue that "plus" denotes anything above a size 18, which is still generally available in the "regular" section of most clothing stores. I get that society defines "plus" as anything size 10 or larger, but this is utter bullshit, and a shift that's been fuelled by fat hatred, stigma, and the fashion industry. The most popular "plus-sized" models are not actually plus-sized. They're generally sized between 8 and 12. At some point this became synonymous with "plus", which later became synonymous with "fat". But there is a difference.



Indeed, fat-hatred and stigma affect everyone in society, women in particular. We fear fat. Getting it, being it, eating it, being called it. But fearing fat, and being called fat on occasion, isn't the same as BEING fat, and dealing with the consequences of that. If you're a size 12, 14, or even 16, you don't have to deal with anything even remotely resembling the shit that larger women have to deal with, or in the amounts we experience it. Some of which include: receiving shitty health care and treatment from doctors and nurses; knowing there is literally a war on your body, and that governments, and society, would rather you did not exist as you are; constant messages that you are ugly, undesirable, worthless; people assuming you're stupid, lazy, incapable; never, ever seeing yourself represented positively in media or popular culture; being considered unattractive, having a hard time accessing romantic relationships, and dealing with people who DO consider you attractive - and want to date you - being mocked and ridiculed for it; constantly dealing with concern trolls, family, random strangers, even people on dating sites telling you to "get healthy", or whatever. And these are just a few small examples. The stigma is wide and varied, and it gets worse the larger you are. Degrading and abusing women who look like me is not only socially acceptable, it's often considered a public service.

When I see articles like this, and the comments accompanying it, all I see is people patting themselves on the back for being so "open minded" that they are "accepting" of "fat" women who wear a size 12. THAT IS NOT FAT, nor is it "plus-sized". You are not special, and you don't get a cookie. This does nothing to promote acceptance of actual fat women, and in fact probably harms us. If you want a realistic example (with a STRONG trigger warning) of the bullshit fat women have to deal with online, go to Tess Holliday's Facebook page, click on literally anything she's posted, and look at the comments. Or google kick-ass blogger Ragen Chastain. That's how ACTUALLY fat women are treated online. The fact that they, and me, and people of our size, who have only ourselves and a small handful of role models to look to for acceptance, can love ourselves despite this, is a wonderful accomplishment.

I don't give a shit what the "fat acceptance" folks say. If you're a "small fat", or chubby, you deal with a lot of bullshit and hatred, but it is NOT THE SAME, and as such, you don't "get" it - at least not on the same level. Pretending that you do, and watching the supportive comments roll in, leaves people with the impression that fat stigma isn't a huge problem. Me having an issue with this doesn't mean I hate women smaller than me. I absolutely do not. I don't even hate women who assume the label, but I do have a problem with it, and the sort of "acceptance" this breeds.

This doesn't mean I go around the internet and tell people how to identify, but I do state my objections to someone who doesn't understand my struggles (I'm a size 22/24) speaking for me and people like me, and to someone who's literally the size of Marilyn Monroe calling herself "fat" in my presence. If you're a "fat" size 10 or 12, what the hell does that make me, who is literally twice your size? This whole "we're both fat" business - even though one of us enjoys relative normalcy, and the other gets moo'd at from moving cars and pays three times as much for clothing - is hella problematic. And the argument that "I get called fat by douchebros, so I'm reclaiming that and self-identifying" means that, by that logic, I'm a brainwashed terrorist-loving Muslim dyke race-traitor, none of which is true (except for maybe the race-traitor part), though I'm often called such. However, it would be completely offensive and wrong for me to write articles outlining dykes' or Muslim folks' realities and struggles, and I think that's pretty obvious. It's something I just do not experience, and with my privilege, is something I have no business being an authority on.

Sure, you CAN call yourself fat if you're a bit chubby. Rachel Dolezal calls herself Black, and she has a lot of support (including from Black folks). It doesn't make her Black though, and when she needs to, she can access her white privilege, just like you can access the privilege of being average sized. But sure, you can call yourself whatever you want. I, however, can and will call that bullshit.

4 comments:

  1. This was an amazing article. While I do not identify as fat, it is a word that is thrown around with tolerance that is not associated with other negative stereotypes. Having someone throw that particular epithet at you is as bad as being called a c*nt, but no one wants to challenge this in the media.

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    1. Just to clarify, I have no issue with the word fat, or being called fat. I am fat. I have an issue with folks who are NOT fat speaking as if they are, and acting as though their experiences are indicative of what actually fat people have to deal with :D

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  2. I hate when people call themselves fat!!!! People can't be fat, they can have fat a better term is that people can be overweight.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your opinion! This needed to be said. While I agree some “plus size models” have no businesses being labeled as fat, I don’t agree that different variations of fat women can’t identify because they’re not “fat enough”. Sure, we face different challenges and there are definitely different “levels,” if you will, of how fat someone is. But I don’t see this as “who’s most oppressed” contest. “You’re not as fat as me so you can’t identify as fat.”
    I’m fat, use to be skinny, and I can tell how differently I’m treated and how I’m not considered beautiful or wanted because of my weight. You’d probably consider me chubby. My point is, we can’t really judge someone by how they identify bc we don’t know their struggles. Just my two cents though. We can agree to disagree. However, It’s refreshing to see someone talk about this “plus size model” nonsense. ��

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