I saw a t-shirt that said “F*ck Flattering” and it got me thinking. We all know that if beauty was a mountain the summit would be nearly unattainable. Our stereotype of beauty is incredibly narrow and often involves digital assistance and so the idea of “flattering” generally means dressing so that we look closer to that stereotype. Fat women are told early and often that beauty is not attainable for us, but we are still encouraged to always try for “flattering” – to look thinner than we are, more of an hourglass – bigger boobs, smaller waist, dark colors that hide our rolls, shot with “Fat Girl Angles” with the camera positioned high and our necks positioned strategically to hide our double chins. Ye Olde Fat Girl Clothing Store sells pants with something called “Tighter Tummy Technology” that promises to smash our stomachs into some different and inexplicably “better” shape. Photographers guarantee that they will make us look “10 years younger and 10 pounds lighter”.
I’ve heard a fashion commenter criticize a fat actress who wore a beautiful light colored dress saying that she “doesn’t like to see big girls in anything but black or navy” because it’s “just not flattering.” I’ve heard a fat actress admonish fat women to wear shapewear to “put our curves where they should be”. As a dancer I’ve been encouraged to prioritize a stomach that appears to be roll free over breathing. I have heard fat women say that they “don’t want to see bare fat [insert body part]” as if the solution to that wasn’t just for them to look away. When I was photographed for a magazine and said that I didn’t want the pictures to be re-touched the editor said “But don’t you want to look your best?” When I said that my best does not include digital retouching she said, completely perplexed “I don’t understand.”
They’ll never allow us to reach the summit you see, but they want us to keep climbing anyway.
Look, you get to dress how you want for whatever reason you choose. You can pick clothes because you like them, because you think they will gain you social approval, because they highlight your shape, because they disguise your shape, because your significant other likes them, because your mom hates them, because you think they are flattering, because you think they are unflattering, or for any other reason. It’s your body and they are your clothes and you are the boss of your underpants and also the boss of your regular pants.
We do have the option to stand at the base of the mountain of beauty, throw off our jacket, and give flattering the finger with our arm fat waving unrestricted in our tank tops, our breasts comfortable in a bra that neither lifts nor separates, our skirt showing every roll of our stomachs, and our leggings showing every dimple of cellulite on our thighs. That is a completely and totally valid option and those who do not like it are welcome to practice the ancient art of looking at something else or, you know, getting the hell over themselves. We get to choose how we dress our bodies and why, and we do not owe the world flattering.
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I do size acceptance activism full time. A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.
The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post. Thanks for reading! ~Ragen