I will admit that I get annoyed when a size 2 friend complains that she has to get out her (size 4) “fat jeans” because she’s bloated or whatever. It’s not that I don’t want her to feel her feelings, it’s that I know that all of my jeans are “fat jeans” and that the difference is that if an airline loses her luggage she can find “fat jeans” in her size at any women’s clothing store and I cannot.
That’s where I came from when several blog readers asked me to read Daisy’s Piece for XOJane “I‘m Fat and I’m Not OK With It” [Trigger warning for every possible reason including fat shaming, eating disorder talk, and a metric assload of negative body talk.] Daisy doesn’t name her size but she does include pictures and she looks to me like she would be considered thin by most people, which she admits in the first paragraph.
The subtitle is “I don’t want to accept my body and I’m not ashamed to admit it.” To which my initial response was “um, ok.” I want to be clear that my goal is that everyone has the option to love the body they have now – I’m not trying to compel them to. And unless I missed it there isn’t a big cultural push telling women that they should love their bodies and not try to lose weight. If you want to hate your body that’s entirely your right and you’ll be supported by most of the dominant culture. But just like allowing gay people to marry doesn’t compel straight people to marry same-sex partners, other people choosing to love their bodies does not force others to love theirs. You are not the Beastie Boys, you don’t have to fight for your right to self-loathe.
When I first read through the piece my initial reaction was a bunch of anger. So I took a breath, and made an attempt to separate things that I thought were really inappropriate from things where I was projecting. Like when she says “For me, admitting I feel fat is admitting I’m weak. It’s admitting there’s something about myself I don’t like, but that I’ve allowed to happen anyway.” When I first read that, I assumed it meant that she thinks all fat people are weak but upon reading it while doing lamaze breathing I realized that she is only speaking for herself and she didn’t say anything about anyone else. I don’t agree with what she’s saying, but she is within the underpants rule. There are a lot of statements like that in the article. I realize that while I think I know what she thinks of fat people based on this article, that’s me guessing, inferring and assuming. While I’m in no way guessing about her situation, I know that when I had an eating disorder I hated my own body but had no problem with other people’s, so from my individual anecdotal experience it’s possible.
Then I read this line from the article “That being said, there are probably some of you who are OK with your weight, but maybe shouldn’t be. ” Blow the whistle, ring the bell, we have a clear underpants rule violation. How dare she try to tell other people that they shouldn’t be ok with their weight? Inappropriate and out of line and there’s no excuse for it.
She also says “I’m writing it because it’s how I feel and because I think it’s OK to want to improve one’s body. I’m writing it because I think xoJane underrepresents that point of view in an admittedly noble attempt to make us all feel equal and beautiful.”
Here’s where I think it goes off the rails a bit. xoJane is one of the few places in the media that isn’t shoving weight loss=improvement, thin=beautiful down everyone’s throat. I find I’m really annoyed that Daisy decided to make it her job to bring this perspective to one of very few spaces that come from a different point of view, especially when she could easily spend her time in one of the thousands upon thousands of places online, in print and in real life that support women spending a ton of time, energy, and money hating themselves and their bodies.
She mentions “I know; I’m privileged to have the option to feel fat while swimming in a pool in Napa. I get it.” But I would argue that she really doesn’t get it. She gets that coming from a wealthy family gives her privilege but she doesn’t get the fact that “feeling fat” without actually meeting the social definition of fat belies the tremendous amount of thin privilege she has. To be clear, I understand that in a world where the diet and beauty industries spend millions in advertising to convince us that we’ll never be enough and we are bombarded with images that are utterly unattainable, it’s very difficult for anyone of any size to escape unscathed. That said, I think the veritable definition of thin privilege is writing an article about how you feel “fat” and hate your body because you think you are 12-17 pounds overweight, while you tell other people that “maybe they shouldn’t” be okay with their weight and complain about the inconvenience of having to write your article without fat shaming.
I also think that there is a degree of insensitivity to the article – It’s a bit like saying “I only have $10,000 left in my bank account, I’m so poor!” in front of a homeless person. You may feel that way and you are allowed to say it, but I think it’s a monumentally insensitive thing to do. I think that this article is especially insensitive since she admits that she wrote the piece in part because xoJane just doesn’t have enough articles about self-loathing. So yeah, thanks for that Daisy.
I am an unrepentant Will Smith fan from the Fresh Prince days, and there is a song of his called “Lost and Found” that comes to mind here:
Lost is when you hide behind the freedom of speech
While sure you’re free to do it
But what it mean to do it
Did you mean to do it
Did you need to do it
Did you take time to think about the seeds you ruined?
Thin women who “feel” fat are allowed to feel that way, and to talk about that, but I would ask – is it necessary? What are you hoping to gain? Why do you feel the need to retell the story that is saturateingly common in our culture? Knowing that it adds to the crushing weight of oppression, stigma, and suffering that fat people live under every day, how important is it, really, for you to call them your fat jeans?
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