by Nadia Nadeem, Guest Writer
[Image description: On a white background in blue print, the graphic reads, “Fat is not a bad word. It is not synonymous with ugly, lazy, unattractive, disgusting, or unhealthy. It’s just another adjective to describe how you look. Stop putting stigma on fat. Fat means fat. Nothing more. Nothing less.” The sign is pinned, with a yellow push pin at each corner, to a grey textured background.]
Have you ever read something interesting, uplifting, or out of the ordinary on your Facebook feed? Have you then read the comments and been reduced to shaking your head, narrowing your eyes at the screen, completely confused?
I once found a picture the Cosmopolitan Magazine page had posted to their Facebook timeline. It featured supermodel Robyn Lawley, wearing a bikini during a photography shoot. The caption read as follows:
“Plus-size supermodel Robyn Lawley is BEYOND in
this sexy swim shoot for Cosmo Australia.”
To me, the post was completely normal. The picture of the woman was also completely normal, considering that she is a supermodel. So, what was the root of my confusion?
Ah, yes. You HAVE been paying attention. It was the comments.
Kindly take your ideas of “plus size” and shove them up your ass sideways.
Every man on the planet who has had to reassure his perfectly healthy and proportioned woman she’s not fat
because assholes like you perpetuate this idea in her head that she’s “plus size.”
It makes me sad for our young girls that this beautiful, healthy-looking woman is considered “plus” sized.
It’s no wonder there are so many school aged girls with eating disorders…
Countless others rushed to the defense of Robyn, the woman who was being so “wrongfully labeled” as “plus sized.”
This is where I began generating a list:
1. Assumption that, if a woman is labeled as “plus sized,” it’s derogatory and an extreme insult.
BEING PLUS SIZED IS NOT A BAD THING. However, it’s understandable why we think this way. The media we consume conditions us. I’m not saying media is assigned all blame. The issue lies in the fact that we assume a few things:
a) Women like to be considered thin or healthy. Thin and healthy are often interchangeable. A slim woman is more likely to be considered healthy than a heavier woman.
b) Women look down upon being very thin. Being a very thin model is nasty and “distorts society’s idea of beauty.”
c) Being called fat is HORRIBLE. It is AWFUL. As a woman, you have literally lived your whole life in crippling fear of becoming fat. You love the gym. You strive to eat really healthy meals. You adore fitspo. You
are “curvy”, “big boned”, “big bootied” and “voluptuous”. You are definitely NOT FAT.
2. Fat is a bad word.
It becomes a little clearer. Plus-sized is fat, and ultimately, being fat means you’re unhealthy and/or undesirable. When this line of thought is presented to a person enough times, the words “plus-sized” automatically trigger the ungrounded assumption that the speaker has
just called the individual in question unhealthy and/or undesirable.
Have you ever heard a woman remark “I’m so fat”, only to be met with a chorus of “of course you aren’ts”? It’s almost automatic to console someone for being told, or for thinking, they are fat. On the other hand, it’s common to hear “you’ve gotten so thin!” used as a compliment. It’s only logical, because if fatness is the enemy, thinness is the ally.
We fear a word so much that its utterance can shatter self-esteem. Being called fat is traumatizing, and when used by others, is said to inflict emotional damage. A three-letter word carries so much cultural significance that we spend our entire lives running from it.
The saying “you aren’t fat, you’re curvy” doesn’t help that much because it can still carry the idea that fat is a separate entity. Using “curvy” and “bigger” instead perpetuates the idea that fat is bad. It’s a band-aid solution for a deep-set insecurity (and it certainly doesn’t do me any favours, personally).
3. Beauty doesn’t encompass fatness.
Beauty isn’t a “you’re not ugly, it’s society who’s ugly” situation. It’s a mindset. Sure, I can blame the media for feeding us ideas of beauty, but we are also obsessed with it. The obsession runs so deep that we forget that a person is composed of other things, too.Physical appearances are fixation points.
For a lot of fat women, the only compliment we can hope to receive is on our “pretty faces” or ample breasts and behinds. This reduces us to a few socially acceptable qualities. The rest of the self is almost disregarded.
Often what you hear is “she isn’t skinny, but she’s really smart.” It’s like people truly believe a woman can only be the magazine definition of physically beautiful or intelligent. There is this strange idea where a woman can’t be both (it’s a really stupid idea).
4. You can’t be fat and wear certain clothes.
I live in tight jeans and leggings. Many of my shirts hug every inch of my torso. I wear what I want when I want. It’s my body and I can dress is however I damn well please. If you try and tell me certain clothes weren’t designed for my body shape I WILL disregard your existence
and walk away from you.
More Radical Reads: The Gender Nonconformity of My Fatness
5. Fit is the new skinny.
Women should be toned. Boniness is no longer in style—rippling muscles are. You should go on runs and consume three pounds of raw veggies with every meal. You should work out every day. Healthy is good, and everything else is bad.
This is replacing one standard with another. It simply shifts the point on the spectrum that we consider acceptable. It doesn’t fix anything. Looking down on someone who doesn’t follow your idea of a “fit lifestyle” is in no way better.
Lifestyles are choices, and one lifestyle is NOT better than another. People should exercise only if they want to. Additionally, being a regularly active person does not make you superior to anyone else. You have not magically become an authority on all things health related as a result. Do you. Let others handle their own business.
(This point is very general because I could write an entire essay on it alone. Maybe I will. Stay tuned, folks.)
We reinforce strange expectations by validating certain bodies but not others. You are expected to have an hourglass figure, complete with an even bust-to-hip ratio. Your legs should be long and thin, your arms the same. You should be tall, but not taller than all of the boys. Your weight should be optimal. It’s as if nature has made a mistake we have to correct.
More Radical Reads: Fatphobia101: Six Tools To Dismantle Weight Stigma
The biggest lie you have ever been told is that physically larger women are incapable of being comfortable with their bodies. If I know any happy people, they are those who are at peace with all aspects of themselves—not just the physical. Comfort is found within, a blissful state of being; it’s also easier than hating yourself for what you’re not.
I am not ashamed to reclaim the word fat, and boldly state that I fit the definition of a fat woman. I just as boldly state that there is no shame in my plus-sizedness. If you have a problem with how comfortable I am in my own skin, I am indifferent.
We shouldn’t be offended by a word as simple as fat. Words are not defining points. When you take the sting away, all you’re left with is three letters that hold little actual meaning. A positive mindset about bodies is where the radical shift begins.
Good fattitude, good life.
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[Headline image: The photograph shows six large women of different races side by side. Each is wearing fabric around their bodies that is striped with blue, orange, pink, and yellow.]
Nadia Nadeem is an independent writer. She attends McMaster University, where she studies Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour. She is an advocate for body positivity and self-love.
When asked why she submitted this piece to The Body is Not an Apology, Nadia wrote: “I feel there is a lot of shame associated with body types that differ from the norm. With reference to fatness, the language used to describe larger bodies is typically negative. I wrote this piece to examine the word ‘fat,’ and to come to the realization that it is just a word. It does not have the power to define one’s character.”
This piece was originally posted at nadianadeeem and is reprinted here by permission.