This piece first appeared on the author’s blog under the title “4 Problems with the Trauma-Leads-to-Fatness Narrative” and is reprinted here by permission.
I’ve seen the fatness-as-a-product-of-trauma conversation pop up about five times in my feed this week. Though I have no desire to belittle the truly stultifying realities and effects of trauma (sexual and otherwise), I would like to offer the following four additional frameworks to consider as this conversation is happening.
1. The More Marginalized a Woman Becomes, the Greater Her Risk of Sexual Assault Becomes
The idea that someone can “protect” themselves from male attention or sexual assault through being fat patently denies the, I think, fairly conclusive work that feminists of colors (particularly feminist indigenous studies) have done to show that the more marginalized a woman gets the more at risk she is of experiencing assault. Because as women become more marginalized, they become more easily deniable witnesses and become more dehumanized – conditions that facilitate violence.
2. Fat Women Are Actually Sexually Desirable & Have Lots of Sex
The idea that fatness is universally undesirable is also patently false and a delusion of fatphobia. There’s also pretty good evidence that fat women have sex at similar rates to their thin counterparts, but are less likely to have meaningful romantic relationships than their thin counterparts because of stigma.
3. Emotional Eating & Fatness Are Not the Same Thing
I’m troubled by the conflation of “emotional eating” and being fat. Those are *two separate things.* Typically “emotional eating” only becomes visible when the person is fat. The eating behavior of fat people is always scrutinized fair more harshly than the eating behavior of thin people. There are many thin people who would be considered “over eaters” or “emotional eaters” but their eating behavior is rendered invisible through fatphobia, and fat people’s eating behavior is already always rendered hyper-visible through fatphobic confirmation bias.
4. Fatness Is Not Deviation or Failure
The notion that fatness is already always deviant or unnatural – or requiring explanation or apology – is deeply pathologizing and stigmatizing. Fat is a standalone identity and existence – not a deviation or failure to be thin.
I want to conclude by saying that I do not wish to belittle or question the lived experiences of people who have experienced trauma. Nor do I want to dictate how people experience the period following trauma, but I think many times people make sense of trauma using pre-existing/pre-fabricated cultural frameworks that are frequently deeply bigoted – which I feel exacerbates the experience of trauma. My intention and hope is, rather, to trouble the analysis/framework that seeks to pathologize the body of the traumatized. In so doing, I hope to reduce the ripple effects of trauma through de-stigmatizing body diversity.
[Featured Image: A photo of a face. The person is wearing sunglasses with rainbow frames. They have three fingers covering their mouth with multi-colored finger nails and pink hair. Source: pexels.com]