Gabourey Sidibe attended the Golden Globes and was criticized for her body, her dress, and how the dress fit her body. Although she shouldn’t have had to deal with it, her response was brilliant and, if it were possible for me to be more of a fan of her, this would do it:
Obviously I think all of the fat bashing comments about her are complete bullshit. But there is something else that’s been bugging me as well. Before I get into this I know that this blog is controversial and there are many who will disagree with me and that’s totally ok. I want to be clear that people have every right to do the things that I’m about to discuss, I’m not the boss of anyone else’s underpants and I’m not trying to tell anyone else how to live. My goal is, as always, to give people something to consider, whether they agree or disagree.
I’ve never been much of a fatshionista. Several times I’ve dipped my toe in the pool and every time I’ve found the water way too hot. The first time I joined a fat fashion oriented community on a popular blogging site. It was the kind of place where people post an OOTD (Outfit of the Day) and other people give them compliments. I thought it was pretty cool and I was getting up my courage to post my own OOTD when, two days after I joined, I got an e-mail from someone in the community who knew me from the blog (and seriously misjudged my personality) inviting me to join a secret community that was created to make fun of people in the original community for their fashion choices. To be crystal clear, this cruel community was made up of fat women who were members of the original community. I thought about publishing the information in the first community, but I didn’t want to be responsible for the kind of hurt it could cause. Maybe I should have done it, I still don’t know. I do know that I found it, and still find it, disgusting.
I’ve seen fashion used as a weapon over and over again to make some fat women feel better about themselves by putting other fat women down for what they wear, or making general statements that seem both pretentious and over-stepping (“Why anyone would leave the house in sweat pants, I will never know” - in what seems to me to be exactly the same way I have seen being thin used as a weapon to make those thin women feel better about themselves at the expense of fat women.) That’s not to say that everyone involved in fatshion, or every thin woman, has done this – I’m specifically talking about those who do.
I’ve seen so much advice about fashion given by fat people to fat people insisting that we should ALL use fatshion to look as thin and young as possible. Every time I’m told that I need to choose something “flattering to hide my problem areas, and not look too old” or am encouraged to buy something to try to squish my body into a more acceptable shape, I can’t help but feel that it is buying into and reinforcing the social stereotypes that are already used to shame, stigmatize and oppress me every day.
Gabourey Sidibe is one of the very, very, very few fat people who have made any kind of traction in Hollywood. She has publicly had to deal with health concern trolls and fat bashers every step of the way (not to mention the racism that she has to deal with as a Woman of Color in a racist world). I don’t understand why other fat people can’t allow her to dress as she wants without negative comments and offering to be her stylist like she isn’t smart or savvy or fashionable enough to get the job done on her own – like the fact that she is talented and has succeeded despite the bullshit that she has had to deal with means that she owes every fat person their definition of fashionable or she deserves to have her choices picked apart and criticized publicly. Y’all, could we not?
Fat people are told over an over again that our bodies are wrong and that we don’t deserve to have access to affordable clothing that we like to wear. For many fat people fatshion is activism – wearing clothes they love in a world that tells us that the only appropriate use of clothes is to make ourselves seem more invisible and/or closer to the stereotype of beauty, is activism.
If I were Underpants Overlord (and I am fully aware that I am not), people would treat fashion like they should treat health – where we are each allowed to make choices for ourselves, and other people’s choices aren’t our business unless they ask us to make it our businesses. Maybe if we don’t like Gabourey’s dress we could take a pass on wearing it, but respect her choice. (EDIT: Several people have suggested that this situation is different because other people assist her in choices and dressing – her designer, stylist etc. - I don’t actually think that matters, she chose to go out in that dress and I choose to respect that, if she doesn’t like what her staff did then she can say something but I’m not interested in criticizing her look because I don’t think you can criticize her outfit without criticizing her.)
I think it’s fine to comment on the way mainstream media treats fat people, and the clothing choices that exist for fat people. I think it’s fine to comment on fashion trends and how they intersect with sizeism etc. I think that it’s possible to discuss all of these things without criticizing individual choices. And maybe it would be cool if we could let fat people go out into the world wearing clothes they choose without fear of fashion bashing.
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