Ah, my second favorite F word.
My blog is called danceswithfat. I describe myself as fat on this blog on a regular basis. Let me say a few words about fat.
For me it a reclaiming term. That is to say that it was a word used against me by bullies of every stripe to make me feel bad about myself. My use of the word fat as a self-descriptor is my personal way of saying that those bullies cannot have my lunch money any more.
This is a personal decision for me – I have no desire to convince others to use it. I honestly don’t care if anyone else uses it to describe themselves. I do. That being said, my feeling about reclaiming terms is that I can’t use a term unless I am willing to have others outside of my community use that term. The caveat to that is that they must use the term with the same connotation and intent.
So if you want to call me fat – meaning that I have a lot of adipose tissue, I’m fine with that. Just like you could say that I have long hair because I have a lot of hair. If you want to call me fat in a way that is derisive- trying to make me feel bad and asserting assumptions that by my size you can tell my health, fitness, or anything about me other than my size, then you and I are going to have a problem. And buddy, you might as well stop eyeing my lunch money because there’s no way you’re getting it.
When I’m meeting someone in a coffee shop for a business meeting and I tell them to look for the “short, fat, brunette with her hair up in a bun” they will often say “Oh, don’t call yourself fat”. Not even once has someone said “Oh, don’t call yourself brunette”.
In our culture, fat has become shorthand for any number of negative descriptors including: unhealthy, lazy, unattractive, unfit, un-athletic etc. People dread the idea of appearing fat and go to incredibly lengths of discomfort (from being wrapped in essentially plastic wrap and heated to being encased in so many restrictive undergarments that you can feel like some sort of shallow breathing sausage) in an effort for their bodies to appear to be a different size or shape… or just to look a little less fat. I weigh 284 pounds and they make swimsuits in my size that say “Look 10 pounds slimmer!” Really? What precisely could I be trying to accomplish by looking 274lbs instead of 284lbs? But despite the fact that trying to get into one feels like an audition for Cirque du Soleil (I had to see what the hype was about), the woman in the fat girl store said that they can’t keep them on the shelves. Of course people have every right to do whatever they want with their bodies and I have absolutely no issue with those choices, I’m just suggesting that we examine a culture in which making your body appear smaller can reasonably be considered a higher priority than say, breathing.
For me “fat” is a neutral descriptor. In truth, it doesn’t accurately describe my predominant body composition since percentage-wise I’m not comprised mostly of fat, but since I’m squishy and lumpy on the outside “fat” seems to fit me.
I don’t think that “fat” is a negative descriptor any more than I think “brunette” is negative. I also don’t think that “fat” is positive. When I say that I’m part of the fat pride movement, I don’t mean that I’m proud to be fat anymore than I’m proud to be a brunette. I mean that I am proud to be a successful woman with high self-esteem in a world where I get 386,170 negative messages about my body a year. I’m proud to live fully outside the cultural standard of beauty and yet be sure of my beauty and sexiness, even in a world where Psychology Today prints an article that asserts: “To understand what it takes to be beautiful, we need to be very clear about what being beautiful means—being sexually appealing to men.” I’m proud to have made the conscious decision not to diet because my vast research shows that it’s a scientifically unhealthy choice. I’m proud to be able to say “no” to all of the things that the $60,000,000,000 dollar a year diet industry tries to sell me with absolutely no proof of efficacy. I’m proud of this blog and incredibly grateful for every person who has ever said it had a positive impact on them.
Those are things to celebrate – those of thing of which I am very proud.
As for being fat?
I am fat. And that is that.